Press Release
January 27, 2021

Transcript of Sen. Francis N. Tolentino's opening statement
Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Laws

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you for allowing us to have an opening statement. I indeed prepared an opening statement and I'd like to thank the committee for allowing the public hearing of our resolution and the resolution filed by Sen. Lacson yesterday. This is my opening statement which I prepared.

"We, the sovereign Filipino people" - the Preamble of the 1987 Constitution starts with these five words. As a vision for the succeeding provisions of the fundamental law of our land, this phrase "we, the sovereign Filipino people" does not only put forth the direction for our Constitution, it also affirms our identity as a citizenry.

Historically, and we all know this, we have had six (6) Constitutions since the Proclamation of Independence on 12 June 1898. We continue to flourish as a nation with a strong tradition of constitutional government. The Malolos Constitution, the first Philippine Constitution, is, in fact, the first republican constitution in Asia.1

This morning, again, I'd like to reiterate my thanks, we convene as a committee to hear all the resolutions filed for Charter Change, albeit virtually and during a time of public health crisis, to exercise our constitutionally mandated power and discuss resolutions on possibly introducing amendments to our Constitution. The resulting document, if ever, after the conclusion of this exacting process, will determine how the powers of sovereignty will be exercised.

Yet, in so doing, we have to be cognizant of the fact that the Constitution is not just a body of rules and maxims. Every principle, section, and article in the Constitution is animated by the sovereign will of the people. This principle is perfectly resonated in our Constitution's Declaration of Principles, "sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them."2 That sovereignty resides in the Filipino people is best exemplified in providing the people a system of initiatives and referenda in the Constitution,3 whereby they can share in some aspects of direct democracy.

It is likewise the sovereign will of the people that Congress is given the authority to propose any amendment to or revision to the 1987 Constitution.4 The powers of government have been delegated to the Members of Congress by the people, who possess original sovereignty. The Congress is therefore the nexus between the Filipino people and their aspirations, and we will not, I hope we'll not fail them.

We cannot fail the 109 Million Filipinos seeking economic progress. Naiiwan na po tayo, hindi lamang sa buong Asya kundi sa ASEAN, especially in this time of global health crisis. It is in this light that this representation, together with Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, seeks to introduce amendments that will ensure that our economy is free from external control yet responsive to the current needs of the people and adaptive to the global landscape.

Time and again, the Framers have exemplified that the Constitution is not about the current administration, a specific group or class, or personal political agenda. It is about the 109 million Filipinos in whom sovereignty resides. It is about the Filipino people whose democratic values and ideals we should represent and take into account. In amending the Constitution, we have to be mindful of the inalienability of the Filipinos' sovereignty lest we fail to fulfill our sworn duty to the Filipino citizenry.

It is a great responsibility indeed just to convene this committee hearing to tackle proposed changes, or even the mode, or even the voting that would bring systemic safeguards to the present Constitution. However, amending the Constitution is not a task that should be taken lightly. We all know that. It is one, if not the most, challenging and solemn duties of Congress. We will be crafting if ever not just a document containing the fundamental law, but a document that embodies the rule of law and represents the sovereign will of the Filipino people.

When the 1987 Constitution provided that any amendment to or revision of the Constitution proposed by Congress or a constitutional convention "shall be valid only when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite," it is a recognition that it is the people who will ultimately decide the fate of our Constitution. And it is a humbling reminder to to all of us, in Congress, and even the resource persons which I respect all present here, that when we exercise our constitutional power to sit as an assembly, if ever that happens to propose amendments to or revisions of the Constitution, we only do so because the power has been delegated to us by the Filipino people.

Allow me to quote, Mr. Chairman, several passages in the speech of James Wilson to the Pennsylvania Convention centuries ago in 1787. "The truth is, that, in our governments, the supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power remains in the people. As our constitutions are superior to our legislatures; so the people are superior to our constitutions. Indeed the superiority, in this last instance, is much greater; for the people possess, over our constitutions, control in act, as well as in right. The consequence is, that the people may change the constitutions whenever and however they please. This is a right, of which no positive institution can ever deprive them." True power resides in the people, and the people are the fountain of all power.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, dear colleagues, for allowing me to make an opening statement.


2 Section 1, Article II, 1987 Constitution.
3 Section 32, Article VI, 1987 Constitution.
4 Section 1, Article XVII, 1987 Constitution.

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