The History and Evolution of the Philippine Constitution

The constitution is the most important part in organizing a state. It contains not only the national territory, but more importantly, it states the set of rules and principles which serve as the fundamental law of the land.

Among the guidelines which are set by the constitution are the matters of: form and duties of the government; the distribution of powers of the branches of the government; and the basic rights of the citizens of the state.

The Philippine Constitution has been rewritten seven times starting from the Biak-na-Bato Constitution to the 1987 Constitution. The political evolution and every significant event in the Philippine history resulted a change in the constitution.

The first Philippine constitution is the Biyak-na-Bato Constitution that was enacted in
1897. It outlined the revolutionary objectives of independence from Spain.

Two years later, the president decreed the creation of the Malolos Constitution. A new central government was set up with executive, legislative and judiciary branches. It governed the First Philippine Republic proclaimed in the Barasoain Church in the same year.

Due to the turbulent times of the early governments, the first two constitution were not fully enforced. What is considered the first Philippine Constitution to be fully enforced was drafted by the virtue of the Tydings-McDuffie Law in 1934 during the Commonwealth Period. It was enforced from 1935 - 1943.

During World War II, a short lived constitution (The 1943 Constitution) was sponsored by the Japanese invaders within their own program of Japanization.

When the political independence was granted by the United States in 1946, the constitution was revised and was enforced from 1946 to 1973.

Eventually considered inadequate against the changing needs of Filipinos, the 1935 Constitution was replaced with a new one ratified in 1973. The 1973 Constitution was approved for ratification two months after the imposition of the martial law on November 29, 1972.

When Ferdinand E. Marcos was ousted in 1986, the new government led by Corazon C. Aquino promulgated what is now know as the Freedom Constitution. This 1987 Constitution restored the presidential form of government.

To date, the 1987 Constitution still stands, although some sectors have started to lobby for change in certain provisions as well as the change of the whole constitution.