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A Constitution, according to Justice Malcolm, is "the written instrument enacted by direct action of the people by which the fundamental powers of the government are established, limited and defined, and by which those powers are distributed among several departments for their safe and useful exercise for the benefit of the body politic."

The Constitution Knowledge Database provides for the list of constitutions promulgated in the Philippines from the promulgation of the Constituciong Halal sa Biak-na-Bato to the ratification of the present Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, including articles related to the framing and approval of the Philippine Constitution.


The Philippine Constitution

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines (In Filipino: Ang Konstitusyon ng Republika ng Pilipinas), ratified on February 2, 1987, is the fourth fundamental law to govern the Philippines since it became independent on July 4, 1946. First, the 1935 Constitution, which became fully operational after the Inauguration of the Third Philippine Republic. Second, the 1973 Constitution, which was promulgated during Martial Law and became fully operational only after the lifting of Martial Law in 1981. Third, the 1986 Provisional "Freedom" Constitution, which was promulgated on March 25 by President Corazon C. Aquino after the successful People Power Revolution in 1986.

Importance of the Study

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines provides that "(1) All educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the curricula."

As the basic and fundamental law of the land, the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines is the sole instrument that affects the very core of Filipino nationhood, for “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” In this light, it is imperative that every Filipino, regardless of status and profession, should learn the foundation and operation of his government in order to guarantee a successful Philippine Republic.

History of Philippine Constitutions

  • The 1897 Constitution of Biak-na-Bato, or Constituciong Halal sa Biak-na-Bato, promulgated by the Philippine Revolutionary Government on November 1, 1897, is the provisionary Constitution of the Philippine Republic during the Revolution against Spain. It provides that the Supreme Council, vested with the supreme power of government, shall conduct foreign relations, war, the interior, and the treasury.
  • The 1899 Political Constitution of the Republic, known as the Malolos Constitution, was approved by President Emilio Aguinaldo on January 21, 1899 and served as the Constitution of the First Philippine Republic. It provides for a parliamentary form of government, but the President, and not a Prime Minister, acts as the head of government. Legislative power is exercised by the Assembly of Representatives of the Nation, and judicial power is lodge in a Supreme Court.
  • The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines, ratified on May 17, 1935, establishes the Commonwealth of the Philippines, defining its powers, composition and organization as it function as the Government of the Philippine Islands. It is based on the principle of separation of powers among the three branches of government. Executive power is vested in the President and shall serve for a single-six year term. Legislative power is vested in a unicameral National Assembly, and judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court. It also provides that upon proclamation of Philippine Independence, the Commonwealth of the Philippines shall be known as the Republic of the Philippines.
  1. The 1939 Amendment -- The amendments liberalized all laws and made few changes on the economic provisions of the Tydings-Mcduffie Law.
  2. The 1940 Amendments -- The amendments, by virtue of Resolution No. 73, provide for the establishment of a bicameral Congress, composed of a Senate and a House of Representatives, and limits the term of office of the President to four years, but may continue to serve for a maximum of eight years. The amendment also provides for the creation of a Commission on Elections.
  3. The 1947 Amendment -- known as the Parity Amendment, gave Americans equal rights with Filipinos in the exploitation of Philippine Natural resources.
  • The 1943 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, or the Constitution of the Second Philippine Republic, was ratified by the general assembly of the KALIBAPI. It is based on the system of separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and the judiciary. It served as a temporary constitution, for it stipulated that one year after the end of the World War II, it shall be replaced by a new constitution.
  • The 1973 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, or Ang Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas, ratified by the Citizens Assemblies on January 17, 1973, provides for a shift from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary system. The President serves as a symbolic head of State, executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister with the assistance of the Cabinet, and legislative power is vested in a unicameral National Assembly. In 1976, the National Assembly was replaced by the Batasang Pambansa, by virtue of PD 1033 issued by President Ferdinand Marcos.
  • The 1973 Constitution as amended (amended in 1981 and 1984) provides for a semi-parliamentary form of government, where the President, no longer acts as a symbolic head, but acts as the head of state and the chief executive. The Office of the President has been restored to its original status under the 1935 Constitution. Legislative power is vested in a unicameral Batasang Pambansa. The Prime Minister, who is subordinated to the President, acts as the Head of the Cabinet.
  • The 1986 Provisional Constitution, popularly known as the Freedom Constitution, promulgated by President Corazon C. Aquino on March 25, 1986, was a provisional constitution after a successful People Power Revolution. Under the Freedom Constitution, executive and legislative powers are exercised by the President, and shall continue to exercise legislative powers until a legislature is elected and convened under a new Constitution. Furthermore, the President is mandated to convene a Constitutional Commission tasked to draft a new charter.

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