Bernal, A “constitution” that says it really can’t be changed

smurf nazis
Back in the day, if you didn’t like the dictatorship’s constitution and got too assertive about it, they might have turned smurf nazis loose on you. The “Pifufos” were Mercedes-Benz water cannon trucks, whose reign of terror ended in the US bombardment of the Panama Defense Forces headquarters in El Chorrillo where they were parked, during the 1989 invasion. Also destroyed in that bombardment were the nearby homes of thousands of people, hundreds of whom died for just being in the way. Surviving all that death and destruction, to this very day, is the dictatorship’s constitution.

Constitutional wounds

by Miguel Antonio Bernal

       It is essential that the constitution be based on ethical principles.

Pablo Lucas Verdú       

The deep constitutional wounds inflicted by the military coup of 1968 still continue to cause damage in all areas of our social formation. For the last 52 years, the pendulum has been fixed on the procedures imposed by the will of the general, which replaced the general will.

Throughout these decades, not only was the militarist constitution imposed. Then “reforms” were also imposed, in 1978, 1983, 1994 and 2004. Each and every one, had the main objective of maintaining unscathed, the trophy of authoritarianism, of autocracy. Old and new actors of partisan political life, and of the so-called “civil society,” began or ended their activities by agreeing to the statute imposed as a constitution. Many, too, took the train of authoritarian constitutionalism along the way and have yet to get off of it.

In 2019, the current government’s attempted to impose, at all costs, a series of constitutional reforms that it wanted. They failed, and then absolutely outside the procedures of constitutionalism typical of our times, chose to identify themselves with the imposed constitution that they once said they didn’t want.

The many constitutional wounds – which are still open and raw – are now sprinkled with salt from the sacks of “the parallels.” Suddenly they remembered the Gaceta Oficial No. 25,176 of Monday, November 15, 2004, which promulgated on its pages 120, 121 and 122, Legislative Act No. 1 of July 27, 2004, which contained the fourth set of reforms to the 1972 militarist constitution.

Said reforms were carried out behind the backs of the population and without any participation of the citizenry. Refrigerated offices of plutocratic lawyers and deputies, served as shelters for those instructed by the government of the then president, Mireya Moscoso, and by Martín Torrijos, for its preparation.

This is how the nefarious MAMI Pact (Martín + Mireya) was produced. It led to the approval by means of paragraph 2 of today’s Article 313, of the unconsulted constitutional reforms of 2004, containing the now-ragged Article 314.

The hasty and desperate inclusion, with constitutional rank, of the absurd and unconstitutional torpor of the so-called “parallel constituent assembly,” as had already occurred when the militarist constitution was imposed in 1972, demolishes all constitutional theory and doctrine as the world understands these things.

I remember what the lawyer Hernán Bonilla G rightly pointed out: “Between June 6, 1983 (GONº 19.826) and November 15, 2004, the expression ‘constitutional reforms’ then included both the formal reforms and the material reforms of the constitution, ascribed such reforms to the competence of the Legislative Assembly. Now as of November 15, 2004, that expression ‘constitutional reforms’ only includes ‘formal reforms’ to the constitution, inherent in its regulations, without altering its essence ascribed to the competence of the National Assembly to improve its wording … “


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