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Constitution of the Philippines

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October 15, 1986

February 2, 1987

Constitution of the Philippines

Legislative Archives of the House of Representatives, Quezon City

Constitutional Commission of 1986

46 of the 50 commissioners

National constitution to replace Presidential Proclamation No. 3

The Constitution of the Philippines (Filipino: Saligang Batas ng Pilipinas) is the constitution or supreme law of the Republic of the Philippines. Its final draft was completed by the Constitutional Commission on October 12, 1986 and was ratified by a nationwide plebiscite on February 2, 1987.


Three other constitutions have effectively governed the country in its history: the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution, the 1973 Constitution, and the 1986 Freedom Constitution. The earliest constitution establishing a "Philippine Republic," the 1899 Malolos Constitution, was never fully implemented throughout the Philippines and did not establish a state that was internationally recognized, due in great part to the impending American occupation during its adoption.


Ruling by decree during the early part of her tenure and as a president installed via the People Power Revolution, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation No. 3 on March 25, 1986 which abrogated many of the provisions of the then 1973 Constitution adopted during the Marcos regime including the unicameral legislature (the Batasang Pambansa), the office of Prime Minister, and provisions which gave the President legislative powers. Often called the "Freedom Constitution," this constitution was only intended as a temporary constitution to ensure the freedom of the people and the return to democratic rule. A constitutional assembly was soon called to draft a new constitution for the country.

The Constitutional Commission was composed of fifty members appointed by Aquino from varied backgrounds including several former members of the House of Representatives, former justices of the Supreme Court, a Roman Catholic bishop, and political activists against the Marcos regime. The Commission elected Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, as its president. Several issues were of particular contention during the Commission's sessions, including the form of government to adopt, the abolition of the death penalty, the retention of the U.S. bases in Clark and Subic, and the integration of economic policies into the constitution. Lino Brocka, a film director and political activist who was member of the Commission, walked out before the constitution's completion, and two other delegates dissented from the final draft. The Commission finished the final draft on October 12, 1986 and presented it to Aquino on October 15. The constitution was ratified by a nationwide plebiscite on February 2, 1987.

Structure and contents

The Constitution contains a preamble and eighteen self-contained articles with a section numbering that resets for every article.


The preamble introduces the constitution and the source of sovereignty, the people. It follows the pattern in past constitutions, including an appeal to God. The preamble reads:

We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.

Article 1. National Territory

The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial, and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.

Article 2. Declaration of Principles and State Policies

Article 2 lays out the basic social and political creed of the Philippines, particularly the implementation of the constitution and sets forth the objectives of the government. Some essential provisions are:

  • The Philippines is a democratic republic
  • Renunciation of war as a form of national policy
  • Supremacy of civilian over military authority
  • Separation of church and state
  • Pursuit of an independent foreign policy
  • Abrogation of nuclear weaponry
  • Family as the basic unit of the state
  • Role of youth and women in nation-building
  • Autonomy of local governments
  • Equal opportunity for public services and the prohibition of political dynasties
  • Article 3. Bill of Rights

    Article 3 enumerates specific protections against the abuse of state power, most of which are similar to the provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Some essential provisions are:

  • a right to due process and equal protection of law
  • a right against searches and seizures without a warrant issued by a judge
  • a right to privacy
  • The right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition
  • The free exercise of religion
  • a right of abode and the right to travel
  • a right to information on matters of public concern
  • a right to form associations
  • a right of free access to courts
  • the right to remain silent and to have competent legal counsel
  • a right to bail and against excessive bail conditions
  • a right to habeas corpus
  • the right to a speedy trial
  • the right against self-incrimination
  • the right to political beliefs and aspirations
  • a prohibition against cruel, degrading, or inhuman punishment
  • protection against imprisonment for debt
  • the right against double jeopardy
  • prohibition of ex post facto laws and bills of attainder.
  • Similar to U.S. jurisprudence and other common law jurisdictions, the scope and limitations of these rights have largely been determined by the Supreme Court through case law.

    Article 4. Citizenship

    Article 4 defines the citizenship of Filipinos. It enumerates two kinds of citizens: natural-born citizens and naturalized citizens. Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect Philippine citizenship. The Philippines follows a jus sanguinis system where citizenship is mainly acquired through a blood relationship with Filipino citizens.

    Natural-born citizenship forms an important part of the political system as only natural-born Filipinos are eligible to hold high offices, including all elective offices beginning with a representative in the House of Representatives up to the President.

    Article 5. Suffrage

    Article 5 provides for the qualification to vote and for a system of the secrecy of the ballot and absentee voting, and mandates a procedure for the disabled and illiterate to vote.

    Article 6. Legislative Department

    Article 6 provides for a bicameral legislature called the Congress composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. It vests upon Congress, among others, the power of investigation and inquiry in aid of legislation, the power to declare the existence of a state of war, the power of the purse, the power of taxation, and the power of eminent domain.

    Article 7. Executive Department

    Article 7 provides for a presidential form of government where the executive power is vested on the President. It provides for the qualification, terms of office, election, and power and functions of the President. It also provides for a Vice President and for the presidential line of succession.

    Article 8. Judicial Department

    Article 8 vests the judicial power upon the Supreme Court and other lower courts as may be established by law (by Congress). While the power to appoint justices and judges still reside with the President, the President may only appoint nominees pre-selected by the Judicial and Bar Council, a body composed of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of Justice, the Chairs of the Senate and House Committees on Justice, and representatives from the legal profession.

    Article 9. Constitutional Commissions

    Article 9 establishes three constitutional commissions: the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit.

    Article 10. Local Government

    Article 10 pursues for local autonomy and mandates Congress to enact a law for the local government, now currently the Local Government Code.

    Article 11. Accountability of Public Officers

    Article 11 establishes the Office of the Ombudsman which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting government officials. It also vests upon the Congress the power to impeach the President, the Vice President, members of the Supreme Court, and the Ombudsman.

    Article 12. National Economy and Patrimony

    Article 12 sets a framework for an economy that is effective controlled by Filipinos. These include requirements that at least sixty percent of corporations be owned by Filipinos.

  • Article XIII – Social Justice and Human Rights
  • Article XIV – Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports
  • Article XV – The Family
  • Article XVI – General Provisions
  • Article XVII – Amendments or Revisions
  • Article XVIII – Transitory Provisions
  • The Constitution also contains several other provisions enumerating various state policies including, i.e., the affirmation of labor "as a primary social economic force" (Section 14, Article II); the equal protection of "the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception" (Section 12, Article II); the "Filipino family as the foundation of the nation" (Article XV, Section 1); the recognition of Filipino as "the national language of the Philippines" (Section 6, Article XIV), and even a requirement that "all educational institutions shall undertake regular sports activities throughout the country in cooperation with athletic clubs and other sectors." (Section 19.1, Article XIV) Whether these provisions may, by themselves, be the source of enforceable rights without accompanying legislation has been the subject of considerable debate in the legal sphere and within the Supreme Court. The Court, for example, has ruled that a provision requiring that the State "guarantee equal access to opportunities to public service" could not be enforced without accompanying legislation, and thus could not bar the disallowance of so-called "nuisance candidates" in presidential elections. But in another case, the Court held that a provision requiring that the State "protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology" did not require implementing legislation to become the source of operative rights.

    The 1897 Constitution of Biak-na-Bato

    The Katipunan's revolution led to the Tejeros Convention where, at San Francisco de Malabón, Cavite, on March 22, 1897, the first presidential and vice presidential elections in Philippine history were held—although only Katipuneros (viz., members of the Katipunan) were able to take part, and not the general populace. A later meeting of the revolutionary government established there, held on November 1, 1897 at Biak-na-Bato in the town of San Miguel de Mayumo in Bulacán, established the Republic of Biak-na-Bato. The republic had a constitution drafted by Isabelo Artacho and Félix Ferrer and based on the first Cuban Constitution. It is known as the "Constitución Provisional de la República de Filipinas", and was originally written in and promulgated in the Spanish and Tagalog languages.

    The Malolos Constitution was the first republican constitution in Asia. It declared that sovereignty resides exclusively in the people, stated basic civil rights, separated the church and state, and called for the creation of an Assembly of Representatives to act as the legislative body. It also called for a parliamentary republic as the form of government. The president was elected for a term of four years by a majority of the Assembly. It was titled "Constitución política", and was written in Spanish following the declaration of independence from Spain, proclaimed on January 20, 1899, and was enacted and ratified by the Malolos Congress, a Congress held in Malolos, Bulacan.

    The Preamble reads:

    (We, the Representatives of the Filipino people, lawfully convened in order to establish justice, provide for common defence, promote the general welfare, and insure the benefits of liberty, imploring the aid of the Sovereign Legislator of the Universe for the attainment of these ends, have voted, decreed, and sanctioned the following)

    Acts of the United States Congress

    The Philippines was a United States Territory from December 10, 1898 to March 24, 1934 and therefore under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of the United States. Two acts of the United States Congress passed during this period can be considered Philippine constitutions in that those acts defined the fundamental political principles and established the structure, procedures, powers and duties of the Philippine government.

    Philippine Organic Act of 1902

    The Philippine Organic Act of 1902, sometimes known as the "Philippine Bill of 1902", was the first organic law for the Philippine Islands enacted by the United States Congress. It provided for the creation of a popularly elected Philippine Assembly, and specified that legislative power would be vested in a bicameral legislature composed of the Philippine Commission (upper house) and the Philippine Assembly (lower house). Its key provisions included a bill of rights for the Filipinos and the appointment of two non-voting Filipino Resident Commissioner of the Philippines to represent the Philippines in the United States House of Representatives.

    Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916

    The Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916, sometimes known as "Jones Law", modified the structure of the Philippine government by removing the Philippine Commission as the legislative upper house and replacing it with a Senate elected by Filipino voters, creating the Philippines' first fully elected national legislature. This act also explicitly stated that it was and had always been the purpose of the people of the United States to end their sovereignty over the Philippine Islands and to recognise Philippine independence as soon as a stable government can be established therein.

    Tydings–McDuffie Act (1934)

    Though not a constitution itself, the Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934 provided authority and defined mechanisms for the establishment of a formal constitution via a constitutional convention.

    The 1935 Constitution

    The 1935 Constitution was written in 1934, approved and adopted by the Commonwealth of the Philippines (1935–1946) and later used by the Third Republic (1946–1972). It was written with an eye to meeting the approval of the United States Government as well, so as to ensure that the U.S. would live up to its promise to grant the Philippines independence and not have a premise to hold onto its possession on the grounds that it was too politically immature and hence unready for full, real independence.

    The Preamble reads:

    The original 1935 Constitution provided for unicameral National Assembly and the President was elected to a six-year term without re-election. It was amended in 1940 to have a bicameral Congress composed of a Senate and House of Representatives, as well the creation of an independent electoral commission. The Constitution now granted the President a four-year term with a maximum of two consecutive terms in office.

    A Constitutional Convention was held in 1971 to rewrite the 1935 Constitution. The convention was stained with manifest bribery and corruption. Possibly the most controversial issue was removing the presidential term limit so that Ferdinand E. Marcos could seek election for a third term, which many felt was the true reason for which the convention was called. In any case, the 1935 Constitution was suspended in 1972 with Marcos' proclamation of martial law, the rampant corruption of the constitutional process providing him with one of his major premises for doing so.

    The 1943 Constitution

    The 1943 Constitution was drafted by a committee appointed by the Philippine Executive Commission, the body established by the Japanese to administer the Philippines in lieu of the Commonwealth of the Philippines which had established a government-in-exile. In mid-1942 Japanese Premier Hideki Tōjō had promised the Filipinos "the honor of independence" which meant that the commission would be supplanted by a formal republic.

    The Preparatory Committee for Philippine Independence tasked with drafting a new constitution was composed in large part, of members of the prewar National Assembly and of individuals with experience as delegates to the convention that had drafted the 1935 Constitution. Their draft for the republic to be established under the Japanese Occupation, however, would be limited in duration, provide for indirect, instead of direct, legislative elections, and an even stronger executive branch.

    Upon approval of the draft by the Committee, the new charter was ratified in 1943 by an assembly of appointed, provincial representatives of the Kalibapi, the organization established by the Japanese to supplant all previous political parties. Upon ratification by the Kalibapi assembly, the Second Republic was formally proclaimed (1943–1945). José P. Laurel was appointed as President by the National Assembly and inaugurated into office in October 1943. Laurel was highly regarded by the Japanese for having openly criticised the US for the way they ran the Philippines, and because he had a degree from Tokyo International University.

    The 1943 Constitution remained in force in Japanese-controlled areas of the Philippines, but was never recognized as legitimate or binding by the governments of the United States or of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and guerrilla organizations loyal to them. In late 1944, President Laurel declared a state of war existed with the United States and the British Empire and proclaimed martial law, essentially ruling by decree. His government in turn went into exile in December 1944, first to Taiwan and then Japan. After the announcement of Japan's surrender, Laurel formally dissolved the Second Republic.

    The Preamble reads:

    The 1943 Constitution provided strong executive powers. The Legislature consisted of a unicameral National Assembly and only those considered to be anti-US could stand for election, although in practice most legislators were appointed rather than elected.

    Until the 1960s, the Second Republic and its officers, were not viewed as a legitimate Philippine government or as having any standing, with the exception of the Supreme Court, whose decisions, limited to reviews of criminal and commercial cases as part of a policy of discretion by Chief Justice José Yulo continued to be part of the official records. This was made easier by the Commonwealth government-in-exile never constituting a Supreme Court, and the formal vacancy in the position of Chief Justice for the Commonwealth with the execution of José Abad Santos by the Japanese). It was only during the Macapagal administration that a partial political rehabilitation of the Japanese-era republic took place, with the official recognition of Laurel as a former president and the addition of his cabinet and other officials to the roster of past government officials. However, the 1943 Constitution was not taught in schools, and the laws of the 1943-44 National Assembly never recognized as valid or relevant.

    The 1973 Constitution

    The 1973 Constitution, promulgated after Marcos' declaration of martial law, was supposed to introduce a parliamentary-style government. Legislative power was vested in a unicameral National Assembly whose members were elected for six-year terms. The President was ideally elected as the symbolic and purely ceremonial head of state chosen from amongst the Members of the National Assembly for a six-year term and could be re-elected to an unlimited number of terms. Upon election, the President ceased to be a Member of the National Assembly. During his term, the President was not allowed to be a member of a political party or hold any other office.

    Executive power was meant to be exercised by the Prime Minister who was also elected from amongst the sitting Assemblymen. The Prime Minister was to be the head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. This constitution was subsequently amended four times (arguably five, depending on how one considers Proclamation № 3 of 1986, see below).

    From 16–17 October 1976, a majority of barangay voters (also called "Citizen Assemblies") approved that martial law should be continued and ratified the amendments to the Constitution proposed by President Marcos.

    The 1976 amendments were:

  • an Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP) substituting for the Interim National Assembly;
  • the President would also become the Prime Minister and he would continue to exercise legislative powers until such time as martial law was lifted.
  • The Sixth Amendment authorized the President to legislate on his own on an "emergency" basis:

    Whenever in the judgement of the President there exists a grave emergency or a threat or imminence thereof, or whenever the Interim Batasang Pambansa or the regular National Assembly fails or is unable to act adequately on any matter for any reason that in his judgment requires immediate action, he may, in order to meet the exigency, issue the necessary decrees, orders or letters of instructions, which shall form part of the law of the land.

    The 1973 Constitution was further amended in 1980 and 1981. In the 1980 amendment, the retirement age of the members of the judiciary was extended to 70 years. In the 1981 amendments, the false parliamentary system was formally modified into a French-style semi-presidential system:

  • executive power was restored to the President;
  • direct election of the President was restored;
  • an Executive Committee composed of the Prime Minister and not more than 14 members was created to "assist the President in the exercise of his powers and functions and in the performance of his duties as he may prescribe;" and the Prime Minister was a mere head of the Cabinet.
  • Further, the amendments instituted electoral reforms and provided that a natural born citizen of the Philippines who has lost his citizenship may be a transferee of private land for use by him as his residence.
  • The last amendments in 1984 abolished the Executive Committee and restored the position of Vice-President (which did not exist in the original, unamended 1973 Constitution).

    While the 1973 Constitution ideally provided for a true parliamentary system, in practise, Marcos had made use of subterfuge and manipulation in order to keep executive powers for himself, rather than devolving these to the Assembly and the cabinet headed by the Prime Minister. The end result was that the final form of the 1973 Constitution – after all amendments and subtle manipulations – was merely the abolition of the Senate and a series of cosmetic rewordings. The old American-derived terminology was replaced by names more associated with parliamentary government: for example, the House of Representatives became known as the "Batasang Pambansâ" (National Assembly), Departments became "Ministries", and their cabinet secretaries became known as "cabinet ministers", with the President's assistant – the Executive Secretary – now being styled the "Prime Minister". Marcos' purported parliamentary system in practise functioned as an authoritaritan presidential system, with all real power concentrated in the hands of the President but with the premise that such was now constitutional.

    The 1986 Freedom Constitution

    Immediately following the 1986 People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Proclamation № 3 as a provisional constitution. It adopted certain provisions from the 1973 Constitution while abolishing others. It granted the President broad powers to reorganise government and remove officials, as well as mandating the president to appoint a commission to draft a new, more formal Constitution. This document, described above, supplanted the "Freedom Constitution" upon its ratification in 1987.


    Constitution of the Philippines Wikipedia