Surgical Amendment, Not Possible – Laywers

August 13, 2008 – 6:16 p.m.

A group of lawyers slammed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s proposal for a ‘surgical amendment’ of the Constitution, saying that the proposed constituent assembly can overhaul the entire Constitution at its discretion.

In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said, “Arroyo’s deception is further exposed by the fact that federalism cannot be achieved by the mere amendment of one or two provisions.” The NUPL said that the change from a unitary system to a federal form of government requires amendments in at least eight articles of the Constitution.

The group maintained that Arroyo’s proposed mode of constituent assembly provides no constitutional restriction to revise, not merely amend one or two provisions in the Constitution. Should both Houses pass a joint resolution constituting itself as a ‘constituent assembly’ to amend a specific provision, there is no stopping the Constituent Assembly from enlarging its mandate and amending other provisions, said NUPL.

“Congress, as a Constituent Assembly, assumes a different constitutional entity and function and cannot, therefore, be bound by a legislative act (such as a joint resolution) since it is empowered by the Constitution to amend not a mere law but the Constitution itself,” it added.

The NUPL deemed that Arroyo does not actually aim for the shift to federalism but for the deletion of that portion in Article VII, Section 4 which states that “The president shall not be eligible for any reelection”.

The group said, “It is, therefore, clear that Arroyo is merely riding on the issues of federalism and peace in Mindanao to push for charter change which is ultimately aimed at prolonging her stay in power and eliminating the protectionist economic provisions in the Constitution. In fact, she can stay beyond 2010 via the ‘surgical amendment’ of deleting the term limit on the presidency in Article VII, Sec. 4.”

The NUPL urged senators who support federalism, especially Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, not to support the renewed call for charter change and allow their advocacy to be used as a stepping stone for the ‘perpetuation of one of the most brutal and corrupt administration in Philippine history.’ (

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