The Political Constitution of 1899, also known as the Malolos Constitution was the basic law of the First Philippine Republic. It was also the first republican constitution among Asian countries. It was drafted by the committee headed by Felipe Calderon, Cayetano Arellano, and representatives of the Filipino people. The framework of the constitution was based from the constitutions of Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Belgium, and France. Malolos, a city of the provice of Bulacan, was the capital of the Filipino revolutionary government.
To read the full text of the 1899 Malolos Constitution, please see this link.
The Malolos Constitution was the fruit of the proclamation of Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite on 12 June 1898. The efforts in twenty years of revolution by Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Antonio Luna and all other unsung heroes to free the country from the centuries of slavery from the Spanish and the American government.
A Filipino government was first established in the form of a dictatorship led by Emilio Aguinaldo.On 24 May 1898, he proclaimed that the government is under his responsibility until the Philippines is completely conquered and be able to form a constitutional convention and to elect a president and a cabinet in whose favor he will resign the authority.
After one month, the dictatorial government became a revolutionary government headed by Emilio Aguinaldo as its president. The revolutionary government aimed to make the Philippines fully independent and make other countries including Spain and America acknowledge its freedom. The Philippines shall then be prepared to establish a real republic. Based on the international law, the Filipino government was a class of ‘’de facto government’’.
The president opened a session aimed to write their vote about the immortal book of Filipino Constitution, as the supreme and overall expression of national will. The congress was composed of Pedro Paterno as president, Benito Legarda as vice president, and Gregorio Araneta and Pablo Ocampo as secretaries. They temporarily adopted the Spanish cortes and modified it. There were eight committees created including the committee that drafted the constitution.
The committee was composed of the following:
- Hipolito Magsalin
- Basilio Teadoro
- Jose Albert
- Joaquin Gonzalez
- Gregorio Araneta
- Pablo Ocampo
- Aguedo Velarde
- Higinio Benitez
- Tomas del Rosario
- Jose Alejandrino
- Alberto Barretto
- Jose Ma. De la Vina
- Jose Luna
- Antonio Luna
- Mariano Abella
- Juan Manday
- Felipe Calderon
- Arsenio Cruz Herrera
- Felipe Buencamino
On 15 September 1898, a revolutionary congress was convened at Malolos, a market town located thirty-two kilometers north of Manila, for the purpose of drawing up a constitution for the new republic.
Drafting of Malolos Constitution
The Malolos Congress created the committee on 17 September 1898, based on the Revolutionary Government Congress at Barasoain, Malolos. Calderon and Cayetano were assisted by the committee to create the first draft of the constitution.
Calderon raised the argument about the state religion versus the idea that the church and the state shall be separated led by the faction of Tomas del Rosario. The first election tied while Pablo Tecson as the last voter casted in favor of having freedom of worship. Thus, the powers of the governement and the church were separated.
Apolinario Mabini helped in revising the constitution before submitting the final draft to Emilio Aguinaldo. The constitution was needed to establish a democratic and constitutional government. A republican government was created. Its three main branches were the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary department. The group who will handle the branches were specified. The executive powers were given to the President of the Republic and his cabinet. Judicial powers were to be exercised by the Supreme and lower courts that must be created by the law.
The copy of the political constitution of Malolos in 1899 was written in Spanish. The parts of the constitution were divided into 93 articles and fourteen titles. There were additional 8 articles including the transitory provisions and the final additional article.
Transitory articles covered the existing extraordinary situations appended. The additional article was provided for the restoration of the Filipino state, which meant that the properties belonging to the religious corporations in the Philippines will be confiscated.
Inspirations of the Constitution
The patriotic ratification discussed and adopted the constitution. The testimonies showed that the committee who drafted the constitution came up with three plans such as the modification of Paterno’s Autonomy Project, the explanation of Mabini’s True Decalogue and his Constitutional Program with Calderon.
Felipe G. Calderon did not take the full authorship of the Malolos Constitution. He acknowledged the influence and basis of different political papers such as Cartilla, Sanggunian-Hukuman (Charter and code of laws and morales of the Katipunan) by Emilio Jacinto on 1896, the Provisional Constitution of Biak-na-Bato on 1897, Revolutionary Constitution of Cuba by Isabelo Artacho, Constitutional Progam of the Philippine Republic of 1898 by Apolinario Mabini, the Provisional Constitution of Mariano Ponce on 1898, Spanish constitution, and the Autonomy Project of Paterno on 1898.
Branches of Powers
The legislative branch of the government is different from the structure of the present government. The Malolos Constitution structured a unicameral body called Assembly of Representatives. The constitution stated that the elected member of the assembly has four years of term. A member is expected to be the representative of the area who voted for him or her. Representatives must assemble annually for at least three months. Only the president and the member of the assembly can present bills.
Accoding to the constitution, the bill must not become a law without being passed by the assembly. A bill must at least, be approved by one fourth of the total number of the representatives. The constitution also enabled the legislative branch to select its own offices and given the right of censure and interpellation, and the right of impeaching the president, the cabinet members, the chief justice of the supreme court, and the solicitor general. Specific powers were given to the seven permanent commissions elected by the assembly to sit during the intervals of sessions of the assembly.
The executive power was given to the President of the Republic of the Philippines. The president is defined as the elected officer of the constituent assemble consisting of the members of the assembly of representatives and special representatives. The president will serve the republic for four years without the vice president. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and its constituent assembly were given the power to select a new president.
Here are some of the powers vested to the president under the circumstances of Malolos Constitution:
- Initiation of laws
- The veto power
- Command the army and navy
- The right to dissolve an assembly
- Send message to the legislature
- Appoint secretaries of the government
- Grant pardons
- Control over diplomaitc and commercial reletions with other states
The executive department has the Council of the Government including the President and the seven secretaries. The government joined them generally but were responsible to act as an individual department. The cabinet must present an annual budget for the government and its country.
The seven secretaries of the president are the following:
- Secretary of Foreign Affairs
- Secretary of Interior
- Secretary of Finance
- Secretary of War and Navy
- Secretary of Public Instruction
- Secretary of Public Communications and Works
- Secretary of Agriculture Industry and Commerce
The Supreme Courts of Justice and the other courts created by the law were vested the judicial powers. There are special laws governing the membership and membership to the organizations of the courts. The Chief Justice and the Solicitor General were choosen by the National Assembly, the President of the Republic and the Secretaries of the government. According to the constitution, the power bestowed upon the courts were absolutely independent of the Legislative and Executive departments. Courts were given powers to apply the laws in civil and criminal cases that took place in the country.
Powers of other assemblies
The organization of the provincial and municipal assemblies were under the governing principles of the following:
- The government and direction of the interests of the several provinces and municipalities
- Popular and direct elections
- Intervention by the central government of the national assembly in cases where provinces or municipalities exceeded in their powers
The local government was under the basis of the most ample decentralization and administrative autonomy. The amendments to the constitution must come from the assembly of representatives while the power of adoptation resided in the constituents assembly.
The constitutional program prevailed and was presented to the congress on 8 October 1898. The printed copies of the first draft were distributed in the congress and was discussed per article from 25 October to 29 November.
The document was approved by the congress on 29 November 1898. Modeled on the constitutions of France, Belgium, and Latin American countries, it was promulgated at Malolos on 21 January 1899. Two days later, Aguinaldo was inaugurated as president. Aguinaldo ordered to keep the constitution exercised and executed with all of its parts in the sovereignty to the Filipino People. Aguinaldo sent the copy of the constitution to General Otis. Due to the on-going war, the Malolos Constitution was never really enforced.
There were absolutely unique and outstanding features to mention about the Malolos Constitution. These are:
- The presence of a permanent commission
- Ministerial responsibility
- Central intervention of the local administration
- The taking of the properties from the religious orders
- The dominance of the legislative power
- "Historical Perspective of Constitutional Making”.Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.(Accessed 11 November 2014).
- Malcolm, George."The Malolos COnstitution”.JSTOR.(Accessed 11 November 2014).
- “The Malolos Constitution and the Treaty of Paris”.U.S. Library of Congress.(Accessed 11 November 2014).
- “The Philippine Revolutionary Government”.PHILIPPINE HISTORY.(Accessed 11 November 2014).