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A. Nature and concept of a constitution

1. CONCEPT

a. Fundamental law of the land

A constitution is the “fundamental and paramount law of the nation.” (Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS, G.R. No. 122156, 03 February 1997)

b. Body of rules and maxims

A constitution is “[t]hat body of rules and maxims in accordance with which the powers of sovereignty are habitually exercised.” (Cooley, Constitutional Limitations 2nd ed., 1871, pp. 2, 38, cited in Corwin, Edward S., The Constitution as Instrument and as a Symbol, The American Political Science Review, pp. 1071, No. 6, Vol. XXX, December 1936.)

c. System of fundamental laws

A constitution is a system of fundamental laws for the governance and administration of a nation. It is supreme, imperious, absolute and unalterable except by the authority from which it emanates. It has been defined as the fundamental and paramount law of the nation. It prescribes the permanent framework of a system of government, assigns to the different departments their respective powers and duties, and establishes certain fixed principles on which government is founded. The fundamental conception in other words is that it is a supreme law to which all other laws must conform and in accordance with which all private rights must be determined and all public authority administered. (Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS, supra.)

2. DOCTRINE OF CONSTITUTIONAL SUPREMACY

Under the doctrine of constitutional supremacy, if a law or contract violates any norm of the constitution that law or contract whether promulgated by the legislative or by the executive branch or entered into by private persons for private purposes is null and void and without any force and effect. Thus, since the Constitution is the fundamental, paramount and supreme law of the nation, it is deemed written in every statute and contract. (Ibid.)


3. SELF-EXECUTORY v. NON-SELF EXECUTORY

a. Self executory

Unless the provisions clearly express the contrary, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executory. There is no need for legislation to implement these self-executing provisions. (Imbong v. Ochoa, En Banc, G.R. No. 204819, 08 April 2014)

1) Presumption in favor of self-executory

As a general rule, the provisions of the Constitution are considered self-executing, and do not require future legislation for their enforcement. For if they are not treated as self-executing, the mandate of the fundamental law can be easily nullified by the inaction of Congress. However, some provisions have already been categorically declared by this Court as non self-executing. (Tondo Medical Center Employees Association v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 167324, 17 July 2007)

Unless it is expressly provided that a legislative act is necessary to enforce a constitutional mandate, the presumption now is that all provisions of the constitution are self-executing. If the constitutional provisions are treated as requiring legislation instead of self-executing, the legislature would have the power to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law. This can be cataclysmic. That is why the prevailing view is, as it has always been, that – in case of doubt, the Constitution should be considered self-executing rather than non-self-executing… Unless the contrary is clearly intended, the provisions of the Constitution should be considered self-executing, as a contrary rule would give the legislature discretion to determine when, or whether, they shall be effective. These provisions would be subordinated to the will of the lawmaking body, which could make them entirely meaningless by simply refusing to pass the needed implementing statute. (Manila Prince Hotel v. GSIS, En Banc, G.R. No. 122156, 03 February 1997)

b. Non-self executory

1) Specific sections of Article II, XIII, XIV, XV

By its very title, Article II of the Constitution is a “declaration of principles and state policies.” These principles in Article II are not intended to be self-executing principles ready for enforcement through the courts. 23 They are used by the judiciary as aids or as guides in the exercise of its power of judicial review, and by the legislature in its enactment of laws. (Tañada v. Angara, En Banc, G.R. No. 118295, 02 May 1997)

In Tañada v. Angara, the Court specifically set apart the sections found under Article II of the 1987 Constitution as non self-executing and ruled that such broad principles need legislative enactments before they can be implemented: By its very title, Article II of the Constitution is a “declaration of principles and state policies.” … These principles in Article II are not intended to be self-executing principles ready for enforcement through the courts. They are used by the judiciary as aids or as guides in the exercise of its power of judicial review, and by the legislature in its enactment of laws. (Tondo Medical Center Employees Association v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 167324, 17 July 2007)

Sections 11 (Personality Dignity) 12 (Family) and 13 (Role of Youth) of Article II; Section 13 (Social Justice) of Article XIII and Section 2 (Educational Values) of Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution are merely statements of principles and, policies. As such, they are basically not self-executing, meaning a law should be passed by Congress to clearly define and effectuate such principles. (Basco v. PAGCOR, G.R. No. 91649, 14 May 1991)

2) No cause of action

As held in the leading case of Kilosbayan, Incorporated vs. Morato, the principles and state policies enumerated in Article II and some sections of Article XII are not “self-executing provisions, the disregard of which can give rise to a cause of action in the courts. They do not embody judicially enforceable constitutional rights but guidelines for legislation.”

Sections 11 and 14 of Article XIII and Sections 1 and 3 of Article XV, the State accords recognition to the protection of working women and the provision for safe and healthful working conditions; to the adoption of an integrated and comprehensive approach to health; to the Filipino family; and to the right of children to assistance and special protection, including proper care and nutrition are non self-executory as they are mere statements of principles and policies. As such, they are mere directives addressed to the executive and the legislative departments. If unheeded, the remedy will not lie with the courts; but rather, the electorate’s displeasure may be manifested in their votes. (Tondo Medical Center Employees Association v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 167324, 17 July 2007)

In Basco v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, this Court declared that Sections 11, 12, and 13 of Article II; Section 13 of Article XIII; and Section 2 of Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution are not self-executing provisions. In Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance, the Court referred to Section 1 of Article XIII and Section 2 of Article XIV of the Constitution as moral incentives to legislation, not as judicially enforceable rights. These provisions, which merely lay down a general principle, are distinguished from other constitutional provisions as non self-executing and, therefore, cannot give rise to a cause of action in the courts; they do not embody judicially enforceable constitutional rights. (Tondo Medical Center Employees Association v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 167324, 17 July 2007)

3) Exception: Right to a balanced and healthful ecology

Section 15 (and Section 16) of Article II of the Constitution are self-executing and judicially enforceable even in their present form. (J. Feliciano, Concurring Opinion in Oposa v. Factoran, En Banc, G.R. No. 101083, 30 July 1993)

4. EFFECTIVITY

The 1987 Constitution shall take effect immediately upon its ratification by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite held for the purpose and shall supersede all previous Constitutions. (Section 27, Article XVIII, 1987 Constitution)

The 1987 Constitution was ratified in a plebiscite on February 2, 1987. (De Leon v. Esguerra, En Banc, G.R. No. 78059, 31 August 1987)

Next B. Parts of a constitution
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