From Fr. Joaquin Bernas’ Inquirer column ‘Sounding Board’
On Charter change, or Cha-cha (January 2011)
Year after year since 1987 this has been the major obstacle to change. Why so? The text says: “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members; or (2) a constitutional convention …. The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention.”
The provision is one formulated for a unicameral legislative body but it is now meant to work for a bicameral Congress. This was not a tactical product designed by an evil genius. It is merely the result of oversight. But the oversight has spawned major problems.
On a ‘fourth mode’ of Cha-cha (January 2011)
In the past, I have broached the idea of a “fourth mode” of changing the Constitution. The easily recognizable modes are through a constitutional convention, through Congress and through a people’s initiative. What I would call the “fourth mode” is a variation of change through Congress. The variation consists of a departure from the ordinary way Congress might be expected to act as a constituent assembly, that is, by coming together as a joint body. In the fourth mode, both houses of Congress will stay where they are, the Senate in Manila and the House in Quezon City, and formulate their proposal as they do statutes but by three-fourths vote of each entire house. Whatever is approved is then sent to the other house for processing.
On the International Criminal Court (September 2011)
Now that the Philippines has become party to the Rome Statute, what are the chances of the Philippines being able to bring cases to the ICC? The preconditions for the exercise of ICC jurisdiction will make such occasions very rare indeed, if at all. The preconditions are that the alleged crime was committed on the territory of a state party to the statute, that the state of the person accused of the crime is a party to the statute, and finally that the crime is not being investigated or prosecuted by national authorities or that national authorities are unwilling or incapable of genuinely carrying out the investigation or prosecution.
In other words, the jurisdiction of the ICC is complementary. It is not intended to replace national courts. This flows from a recognition of national sovereignty. The aim of those who drafted the statute was to create an independent, fair, impartial and effective court.
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