Fifth or Sixth Republic?

Talk:President of the Philippines – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: has an interesting question, the “Fourth/New Republic Problem.”

In January, 1973, realizing that a plebiscite to ratify the 1973 Constitution might fail, President Marcos seized on the novel idea of summoning impromptu barrio meetings to ratify the new constitution via a viva voce vote. This led to a legal issue presented to the Supreme Court. Basically, the Supreme Court was asked to determine the validity of the ratification: if the old (1935) constitution said amendments or a new constitution could only be ratified by means of a national plebiscite (with secret ballot), could the novelty known as the people’s assemblies be considered a valid means of ratification? The Supreme Court said that the new constitution was in force, and thus, the point moot and academic. A landmark in judicial cowardice.

If governments are determined by constitution, then the Third Republic came to an end with the “ratification” of the 1973 Constitution. Those who deny the validity of the ratification still face the problem of much of the government ceasing to have a legal mandate as of December 30, 1973, when Marcos’s second term under the 1935 Constitution expired. After getting his constitution ratified, Marcos also held several referendums to answer any and all politically inconvenient questions. The electorate, he could therefore claim, thereby extended his term indefinitely, extended his emergency powers indefinitely, and approved his rationale for imposing martial law: to suppress insurrection, rebellion, and -this was not mentioned as a valid reason in the 1935 Constitution- to reform Philippine society.

Among the provisions of the 1973 Constitution was the convening of an interim Batasang Pambansa or National Assembly. This was done in 1978, together with farcical elections. After tinkering with his constitution some more, in 1981 Marcos called for national elections and was “elected” once more, inaugurating himself with pomp and circumstance not seen since the Commonwealth inauguration of 1935. That is why, in The Philippine Presidency Project, we place Marcos in legal limbo, so to speak, from 1973-1981 and date the Fourth Republic to 1981, when, officially, at least, the period of national emergency proclaimed in September, 1972, officially ended. It was in that year that Marcos could claim a definite electoral mandate, and his national assembly ceased being interim.

The question on Wikepedia, however, raises a valid point, and has official guidance. The National Historical Institute says the Fourth Republic began with the ratification of the 1973 Constitution. This raises the problem, then, of what to consider the “New” Republic of 1981. Based on the NHI’s logic, it would remain the Fourth, because the same constitution (albeit much-amended) still held sway.

Then of course, this brings up another problem. In 1986, after proclaiming a revolutionary government, Pres. Aquino promulgated a “Freedom Constitution” to cover things until a Constitutional Commission could come up with a constitution (our present 1987 charter). Now, generally, the present Republic is considered the Fifth. But if the Freedom Constitution was valid, or at least, de facto, then it would count as a republic in the same way that the de facto 1943 Constitution during the Japanese Occupation is listed as a bonafide constitution (it was, at best, an ad hoc dead end). Which would make the brief Freedom Constitution Republic the Fifth, and our present, 1987 Constitutional Republic, the Sixth!

The problem is solved by resorting to the following arguments: the 1973 Constitution did create a new republic, which, however, didn’t get solemnly inaugurated until 1981, hence, the Fourth Republic dates only to that year; the 1986 Freedom Constitution was a charter by decree, and thus never ratified, either by a national assembly or representatives of the people, unlike the 1898, 1935, 1943, 1973 and 1987 charters, and so, it was all transitional until the present, fifth, republic could be ushered in.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

5 thoughts on “Fifth or Sixth Republic?

  1. Pray tell who composed the cowardly Supreme Court at that time. Wasn’t Cecilia Munoz Palma included in that cowardly coop?

  2. Remember that the notorious decision was a close one. Cecilia Munoz Palma voted against the recognition of the Constitution as a fait accompli.

  3. It was I who wrote that article on Wikipedia Talk. For my website, I was trying to establish the “what is” between 1972-1981 although finally after a semi-satisfactory answer from elsewhere I decided just to call 1972-1981 as the “martial law period” with Marcos’ second term lasting until 1981 (de facto).

    However, it is good to finally see a proper answer to this question I asked so long ago……!

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