In the previous post, I discussed the serious faults of the present 1987 Philippine Constitution. And to be honest, that is just scratching the surface. As we go along, we will be doing a deep dive on the constitution line by line and show why it is such an ill-written document that has given rise to the many problems we are facing today as a country.
But in order for us to do this deep dive, it is important first for us to learn and understand what a good constitution is all about. The truth is, sadly, many of us don’t even have a clue as to what one even looks like.
Sure, college students today study the present constitution and there are proposals that high school students have a subject on the constitution but such teachings don’t give us a bigger picture of how constitutions in other countries, especially the exemplary ones. Thus, we have no idea that there are ideas and policies in our constitution today that many do not know are actually outdated, detrimental to progress, among other faults.
Mind you that what I wrote is about a “good” and not a perfect constitution that some might be espousing for because, simply, there is no perfect constitution. That should NOT, however, prevent us to always strive to make something good, as with everything else that we do in life.
So what makes a good constitution? The website politicalsciencenotes.com shares a number of qualities, four of which I will be sharing here:
- Clarity: Every clause or sentence in the constitution should be written in a clear and simple language that every literate person understands. That means no legalese language that only those who study law get to appreciate.
- Brevity: The constitution should be straight to the point, so to speak. No long-winding and beating around the bush statements and just contain the important ideas.
- Comprehensiveness: The constitution should be all-encompassing in its provisions that it sets the important foundations or policies in place such as government structure, citizen’s rights, etc.
- Flexibility: A constitution is supposed to be an “evolving” document, one that can be changed or improved on as needed by the times. A good constitution is one that makes it easy to make meaningful changes when needed while making it difficult for trivial proposals to go through.
But having gone through a number of constitutions in the course of my research, I discovered a few more qualities that makes for a good constitution. So allow me to add some of my own in this list:
- Neither restrictive nor all-encompassing. While the constitution as mentioned above is supposed to be comprehensive, it is not supposed to be a strict rulebook that tells you the exact process on how to do things. A good constitution understands that not only conditions change over time but that different conditions are present in each part of the State. As such, the constitution is one that lays the process but provides enough room to make adjustments or changes along the way so that such process is better implemented. If such details are needed, there is legislation that can do just that.
- Takes cue from the best constitutional examples: The fact is, the present constitution borrows a lot from the United States constitution to the point we copied some provisions that are more applicable to the US than to the Philippines. There are many constitutions that contain very sound provisions that are applicable to the Philippine setting. We do not have to copy them outright but we can study and implement the policies and provisions that would be applicable to the country.
- Considers the past and the present realities of the country: A good constitution takes into account our history as a State and learn the lessons that we can draw from as strive to establish a better system for the country. At the same time, one must be aware of the present in order to create a system that not only addresses the present problems but also takes inspiration from and builds upon what we presently have.
These criteria are by no means authoritative and disagreements are welcome. Nevertheless, I found these criteria to be helpful in critiquing the present Philippine constitution. And believe me, our constitution fails in most of these criteria.