Issue of September 10, 2017
Mt. Province

69th Courier Anniversary Issue
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Red flag on the executive exercising legislative powers

At the inception of the 1972 Martial Law, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos exercised both the executive and legislative power. When local and international pressures demanded that he lift Martial Law, Marcos devised a remedy by which even after Martial Law was lifted, he would continue to exercise legislative powers together with his executive power.

In order to achieve that, Marcos proposed to amend his own constitution and added the infamous Amendment No. 6, which allowed him to exercise law-making powers even after Martial Law was supposedly lifted and even when a legislative body was convened and operating.

Together with my father, we questioned before the Supreme Court the attempt of Marcos to amend the Constitution. This resulted in the case of Sanidad vs. Comelec. Predictably the Martial Law Supreme Court rejected our suit and allowed Marcos to propose amendments to his constitution.

The only Supreme Court justices who dissented and sided with us were: Justices Claudio Teehankee and Cecilia Munoz Palma. History would vindicate them and their anti-Martial Law stance. And they would rise to judicial immortality, revered, honored, and remembered to the present day. One can hardly remember the names of the justices who sided with Marcos. They have been consigned to the dust bin of history.

After Marcos was granted legislative powers by Amendment No. 6, he was not shy in exercising the same. In one day alone, that is June 11, 1978, using his legislative powers, he issued 160 presidential decrees! During the entire six years that the interim Batasang Pambansa existed, Marcos enacted 1,306 laws, while the legislature only produced 871.

We recall this Martial Law experience because there is now also an attempt to amend the present Constitution in the guise of establishing a federal system.

What has largely been unnoticed is a transitory provision, which states: Sec. 6. Upon the ratification of this Constitution, the present Congress shall be dissolved and the incumbent President shall exercise legislative powers until the first Federal Congress is convened.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? President Duterte will have legislative powers. That is what he actually means when he says that a “revolutionary government” is good.

The first election for members of the Federal Congress is supposed to be on May 2019. But is there a guarantee that it would really be so? And there is a difference between electing members of congress and actually convening congress. An interim National Assembly of Marcos existed, but was not convened.

Under the proposed federal constitution, the President who shall have the sole legislative power after the said constitution is ratified, must issue a decree or law calling for elections, appropriating funds for it, and provide for the details and mechanics for the establishment of the elected arm of the federal government.

He must thereafter also convene the legislature. Will he do all of that or would it not be better for him to be the sole executive and the sole and only legislator?

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