It’s been said that the 1987 constitution is one of the longest constitutions in the world. While it’s not easy to quantify that, given that many constitutions are not actually originally written in English and some countries like the UK and Australia have their “constitutions” written not as a single document in itself but of several documents, it is at least the longest written constitution of the country with over 40,000 words.
Despite what we may feel about long documents, if it contains so much vital information, there’s nothing to complain about it. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the 1987 constitution as much of it is filled so much overbearing filler that is only there for the document count and not for the added insight. While such language is found in many places in the 1987 constitution, it is in Article II where they are more apparent.
A Declaration of Fluff
Article II is titled “Declaration of Principles and State Poliicies” in which it intends to spell out the guiding principles and policies that the Philippines espouses for its citizens and the world to know. While it is right to make such declarations, it seems whoever them gotten ahead of themselves and turned the constitution into literary porn. Not that porn you’re thinking of but the porn of using overbearing fluff.
Unfortunately, there is no strict editor who is part of at least the staff who were preparing the 1987 constitution so the framers got away with too much nonsense. Here are the Konstitusyon Project, we are going to correct that oversight as we transform ourselves into merciless editors who will get into the bottom of this madness. So let’s break down this whole Article:
SECTION 1. The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.
Isn’t “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” the idea of a democratic and republican state anyway? That line is unnecessary crap.
SECTION 2. The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.
Trying to say too many ideas here when it should be content to a single idea, two at the most. Maybe this should be broken down further.
SECTION 3. Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.
Again, too many ideas expressed here. “The Armed Forces…” part should actually be transferred to a separate place outside this article, preferably on an Article (or Title) that deals with national defense, something we’ll get to in a future post.
SECTION 4. The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people. The Government may call upon the people to defend the State and, in the fulfillment thereof, all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal military or civil service.
Two disparate ideas that shouldn’t be together, nor should even be here. Firstly, in the strictest sense, the line “The prime duty…” sentence. perhaps should not be listed as a policy as it reads more like a textbook. Then there’s the sentence regarding Government may call upon the people to defend the State, which would fit more in a separate article about a possible “Bill of Duties”. More on that in the future.
SECTION 5. The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and the promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.
What the hell is this? Honestly, this is all overbearing fluff that would be expressed already in succeeding articles on human rights, security, and social policies. Delete this.
SECTION 6. The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.
SECTION 7. The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.
SECTION 8. The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.
Might need some rewriting, but I’m fine with these sections.
SECTION 9. The State shall promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty through policies that provide adequate social services, promote full employment, a rising standard of living, and an improved quality of life for all. blah, blah, blah…
Okay I’ll stop right here because from Section 9 up to Section 28 is just, again, overbearing fluff which are actually made redundant since they are going to be expressed more fully in the sections on human rights, social policies, arts and culture, etc. Delete.
The Core Principles and Policies
With all those changes proposed, how will the new Declaration of Principles and State Policies will look like?
Firstly, in our Konstitusyon, they will be given a new name: “Core Principles and Policies.”
Secondly, instead of listing each principle and policy in separate sections, it would be more prudent to put them together in one section. And it will look like this:
Section xx. As an independent state, the Philippines is guided by the following core principles and policies:
a) It is a democratic and republican state.
b) It believes in the principle of unity in diversity.
c) It upholds the concepts of equality, justice, and freedom as defined in this Constitution.
d) It considers civilian authority as supreme over the military.
e) It is a secular state that adheres to the inviolable separation of church and State.
f) It abides by the generally accepted principles of international law.
g) It pursues an independent foreign policy based upon the country’s sovereignty and interests and a pursuit of amity and cooperation with all countries.
h) It safeguards its commitment towards peace and freedom from weapons of mass destruction in its territory.
i) It shall not be sued without its consent.
Now, let’s break down the elements of the Konstitusyon’s Core Principles and Policies section:
- Item a) is the more succinct version of section 1.
- Item b) is a new one added here to emphasize the idea of “unity in diversity” that the people must take to heart considering the form of government the Konstitusyon aims to establish (that’s a big hint right there)
- Item c) is basically a one line summary of the policies enumerated in Section 9 to 28
- Item d) is section 3 reworded and without the different idea attached.
- Item e) is a reworded section 6
- Item f) is taken partially from section 2 and made it into its own idea
- Item g) is taken partially from section 2 and from section 7, fused together into a more cohesive statement.
- Item h) is taken partially from section 2 and from section 8, fused together into a more cohesive statement
- Item I) is taken actually from Article XVI, Section 3 of the 1987 constitution, which is being transposed here as it reads more as an actual policy.
As a result, the Konstitusyon’s “Core Principles and Policies” expresses the State’s principles and policies in a more clear and concise manner in which even a layperson will appreciate easily, unlike the one we are stuck with now. May this serve as an inspiration for what an actual readable constitution should be like.