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Thursday , April 26, 2018

Seares: Will word ‘love’ stay in Constitution?

“For the first time in our constitution-making in this country, the word ‘love’ is enshrined in our fundamental law. Love is important if peace is to be restored in our native land, for without love there can be no peace.”
-- Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, president of the Constitutional Commission of 1986, in her closing remarks, Oct. 15, 1986

FORMER Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. laments the current move to amend the 1987 Constitution. The eminent Cebuano jurist sees it as (1) unnecessary and (2) disastrous.

Davide believes “imperfections” of the law may be corrected by ordinary legislation. Refusal or inability to implement by existing provisions is “massive,” he says. Besides, people who clamor for amending the Constitution probably still don’t understand it.

As to doom-saying, Davide speaks not of disaster, as in nature’s wrath: say, typhoon Ruping of 1990 or Yolanda of 2013, if one could even compare failure of government with unleashed earth fury. Davide talks about it in epic, biblical proportion: the “the hell, brimstone and fire” metaphor that’s no longer tortured by church preachers.

‘All systems go’

Davide raised a timely concern.

In the past few weeks, President Duterte’s government has been pushing “all systems go” buttons in its program to change governments. Bills have been filed in both Senate and House to convene Congress into a constituent assembly and discuss proposals to amend the Constitution.

A “consultative committee” consisting of not more than 25 persons, created by Executive Order #10 dated Dec. 7, 2016, still has to be staffed and convened.

Looks like it won’t be, if they follow Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s schedule for a plebiscite to ratify the new document this May. The committee will be merely recommendatory anyway, said Duterte last Friday, resource persons may be individually heard by Congress.

‘Best in the world’

Davide in fact was talking before the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes when he repeated his warning about the shift to federalism being “a fatal plunge” and “a leap into hell.”

The ex-chief justice called the 1987 Constitution “the best in the world.” A bit self-serving: he helped write it. Yet anyone who disagrees with that would’ve tough work refuting the claim that it is the only Constitution that is “pro-God, pro-Filipino, pro-poor, pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-human rights, pro-environment, among many others...”

Fighting, wishing

Since the Duterte government is bent on revising the 31-year-old Constitution, options of those who defend it may be limited to fighting, or wishing, for:

[] A constitutional convention, or even a constitutional commission, to do the surgery, not “a bunch of butchers” who could mangle it beyond recognition;

[] Less hurried deliberation, more thinking-out in dealing with potentially destructive provisions;

[] Exclusion of provisions that clearly serve the interest of members of Congress who approve the same amendments, especially on extension of term and removal of term limits. and

[] Retention of the good provisions in the present Constitution.

Expect the worst and hope for the best. Maybe the “butchers” may decide to keep, among other good things in the present version, the word “love” in the preamble. I bet they’ll keep it. Small concession, in exchange for much longer, harder grip on power.


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