GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

The Philippines government is modeled after the U.S. government. It has a President, Vice President and Congress with a Senate and a House of Representatives. The main difference between the two systems is that the Philippine constitution limits the Presidents to one six year term (he or she can not be reelected for a second term); senators to two consecutive six-year terms and representatives to three three-year terms. There are also separate ballots for the President and Vice President.

Political and judicial institutions in the Philippines are regarded as weak. The functioning of government has been hampered by coup threats, insurgencies, street protests, and impeachment proceedings. To relieve the "chronic gridlock" in the Filipino legislative system, the U.S. national Security Council has suggested that the Philippines switch from a Congressional to a parliamentary system.

Government type: republic. The republican form of government that was developed during the commonwealth period when the Philippines was a possession of the United States. Under the Constitution, the government is divided into executive, legislative, and judicial departments. The separation of powers is based on the theory of checks and balances. The presidency is not as strong as it was under the 1973 constitution. Local governments are subordinated to the national government. Independence: 12 June 1898 (independence proclaimed from Spain); 4 July 1946 (from the US). National holiday: Independence Day, 12 June (1898); note - 12 June 1898 was date of declaration of independence from Spain; 4 July 1946 was date of independence from the US.

In February 1987, the Philippines adopted a new constitution that instituted the presidential-style republican form of democracy, which resembles the U.S. model much more than the European parliamentary system. One key difference between the Philippine and U.S. systems is that the Philippines is a unitary republic, whereas the United States is a federal republic, with significant powers reserved for the states. In the Philippines, by contrast, the national government is not challenged by local authority. The ratification of the 1987 constitution—the fourth in the nation’s history—by national referendum signaled the country’s return to democracy following the autocratic rule of Fernando Marcos (1965–86). Politics in the Philippines is somewhat tumultuous. In February 2006, the president declared a state of emergency after quashing the attempted coup staged by the political opposition. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006]

Filipinos are a freedom-loving people, having waged two peaceful, bloodless revolutions against what were perceived as corrupt regimes. The Philippines is a vibrant democracy, as evidenced by 12 English national newspapers, 7 national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and 2,000 radio stations. [Source: Philippines Department of Tourism]

Administrative divisions: 80 provinces and 39 chartered cities: provinces: Abra, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Aklan, Albay, Antique, Apayao, Aurora, Basilan, Bataan, Batanes, Batangas, Biliran, Benguet, Bohol, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Cagayan, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cavite, Cebu, Compostela, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Dinagat Islands, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, Isabela, Kalinga, Laguna, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, La Union, Leyte, Maguindanao, Marinduque, Masbate, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Mountain Province, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, North Cotabato, Northern Samar, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Quezon, Quirino, Rizal, Romblon, Samar, Sarangani, Siquijor, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Southern Leyte, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Tarlac, Tawi-Tawi, Zambales, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay. Chartered cities: Angeles, Antipolo, Bacolod, Baguio, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Caloocan, Cebu, Cotabato, Dagupan, Davao, General Santos, Iligan, Iloilo, Lapu-Lapu, Las Pinas, Lucena, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Mandaue, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Naga, Navotas, Olongapo, Ormoc, Paranaque, Pasay, Pasig, Puerto Princesa, Quezon, San Juan, Santiago, Tacloban, Taguig, Valenzuela, Zamboanga (2012) [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Flag and Symbols of the Philippines

Flag: The flag of the Philippines has two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a white equilateral triangle based on the hoist side; in the center of the triangle is a yellow sun with eight primary rays (each containing three individual rays), and in each corner of the triangle is a small yellow five-pointed star. Blue stands for peace and justice, red symbolizes courage, the white equal-sided triangle represents equality; the rays recall the first eight provinces that sought independence from Spain, while the stars represent the three major geographical divisions of the country: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao; the design of the flag dates to 1897.

The sun in the flag represents liberty. The flag was carried in the rebellion against Spain in 1896, adopted in 1920 and became the national emblem in 1946. In time of war it is flown upside down with the red band at the top. Flag ceremonies take place once a week at all governmental offices. Schools have a flag ceremony each morning. All traffic stops while the flag is being honored.

National symbols have been emphasized since independence to create a sense of nationhood. The Philippine eagle, the second largest eagle in the world, is the national bird. Doctor Jose Rizal is the national hero. Rizal streets and statues of Rizal are found in most towns and cities. Several municipalities are named for Rizal. The national anthem is sung, a national pledge is recited in Filipino, and the provincial hymn is sung. [Source: everyculture.com]

National anthem: "Lupang Hinirang" (Chosen Land): lyrics/music: Jose PALMA (revised by Felipe Padilla de Leon)/Julian Felipe. The music was adopted 1898, original Spanish lyrics adopted 1899, Filipino (Tagalog) lyrics adopted 1956; although the original lyrics were written in Spanish, later English and Filipino versions were created; today, only the Filipino version is used.

Philippines Democracy

The Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea have relatively free-wheeling democracies. The Philippines government has been described as a corrupt democracy. Candidates are routinely heckled and jeered. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew once said the Philippines needs more discipline and less democracy.

On democracy in the Philippines at time when the government was stymied by street protests and legislatie gridlock, Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, ““Pure democracy" is what some people are calling it — massed, peaceful crowds of outraged citizens rising up, with cheers and chants and thrilling courage, to force an abusive leader from his perch on power. It happened in the Philippines in 1986 with the ouster of Fredinand E. Marcos, when it gained the nickname people power. But popular revolts like this can create new problems of their own. It is a risky thing to break the rules, even in the best of causes. Precedent is powerful, as the Philippines have since discovered, and rule-breaking can be tempting when the democratic process bogs down. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, January 7, 2004 /*/]

“As in the Philippines, a disenfranchised elite may fight back to hold on to influence and wealth. The public, feeling empowered, may seek to repeat its role in overriding the government. The military, which has the final say in any undemocratic shift in power, becomes more dangerous. In the Philippines, the military played a comparable role in forcing Mr. Marcos from office, and the country has remained a jittery place ever since, subject to continuing coup threats, coup rumors and coup attempts. There have also been a "people power 2" and a "people power 3" in the Philippines, both in 2001. One of these forced out an unpopular but democratically elected president, Joseph Estrada, when a Senate impeachment process failed to remove him. /*/

“The democratic system had let them down, Filipinos said, and needed a course correction. Again, it was the generals who had the final word, and Mr. Estrada's successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been dogged by a restive military and by angry supporters of Mr. Estrada. "We've had problems with legitimacy here since Edsa 1," said a political scientist, Alex Magno, speaking by telephone from Manila and using the local name for the uprising in 1986. "Every group thinks it can speak for the people by mounting a mutiny or mounting a riot." /*/

“If democracy is defined simply as an exercise of public will, people power might indeed be called its purest form, like those talent shows in which the winner is determined by a meter registering the volume of applause. It could also be called — as it has been by those on the losing end — mob rule or anarchy or coup. /*/

After Marcos, Little Stability for Philippines

Reporting from Batac. Marcos’s hometown,Alan Sipress wrote in the Washington Post, “Two decades after President Ferdinand Marcos was chased from power, he still draws the faithful and the curious to this farming town in the northernmost Philippines. Displayed in an adobe mausoleum, his lavishly waxed corpse lies in a family tribute, bedecked in military medals and surrounded by faux flowers while Gregorian chants echo softly. The "People Power" movement that forced Marcos into exile ushered in a period of sustained political turmoil — repeated coup attempts, a popular uprising that toppled another president and continuing efforts to impeach the current president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Now, many Filipinos declare East Asia's oldest democracy a failure. [Source: Alan Sipress, Washington Post, February 25, 2006 \+/]

“Without parties that command loyalty from their members, politicians race to the side of popular leaders, then betray them at the sign of weakness. Moreover, ordinary Filipinos have little way to channel their interests through the electoral system. This explains why crowds repeatedly flood into the streets to demand change, as they did in ousting President Joseph Estrada five years ago. Politics are frantic, with civic groups, research institutes and TV talk shows competing in a national shout-fest. But the ballast of a modern political system, a professional civil service, is lacking, and the feeble bureaucracy is easily buffeted by electoral turbulence. \+/

"The lack of political institutions has made Philippine politics less stable than other countries," Felipe Miranda, a pollster and political scientist at the University of the Philippines, told the Washington Post. "Disillusionment has come about because there has been a betrayal of democratic elections. The majority of people would say democracy has largely failed." \+/

The U.S. to Blame for Philippine Government Problems?

Alan Sipress wrote in the Washington Post, “The blame, Philippine analysts say, rests with the country's political system — first put in place by the United States during four decades of colonial rule — and the family dynasties it allowed to cement their power. Today, Philippine democracy is little more than a ruthless contest among rival clans with such names as Aquino, Arroyo and Marcos. Political parties are largely irrelevant, and most Filipinos are relegated to the role of spectators. The cost to the economy has been tremendous. The perpetual political crisis has scared off investment, both domestic and foreign, while national leaders have often been too preoccupied with their own survival to pursue long-term strategies of development. "In theory, it's American-style politics because we have a Xeroxed system," said Imee Marcos, the former president's daughter, a three-term member of Congress who personifies the dynastic system. "But democratic processes don't work the way they're meant to," she added. "It's ties of kinship and blood relations." [Source: Alan Sipress, Washington Post, February 25, 2006 \+/]

“The United States wrested control of the Philippines from Spain in 1898 and soon created a national assembly modeled on the U.S. Congress, with representatives elected from single-member districts. With suffrage initially limited to literate property owners, the new system allowed landed families in each district to monopolize local power. The clans used their access to public money, loans and patronage to consolidate their position. Political office became a family heirloom to be handed down. \+/

“Nor was it only in politics that U.S. colonial rulers sought to reinvent the Philippines in their own image. Hundreds of American educators streamed into the archipelago, setting up the public-school system and establishing English as the language of instruction. In the ensuing decades, Philippine culture has echoed America's. Radio stations long played nothing but American music. Filipinos play basketball instead of soccer, rush home early from work to watch "American Idol" and are passionate about U.S.-style beauty pageants. \+/

“But even as the Philippines came increasingly to resemble the United States, the electoral system failed to deliver American success. Today, about two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives are from dynastic families, according to a recent study by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. \+/

Political Development in the Philippines

In 1912, the American Cornélis De Witt Willcox wrote in “The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon”: “No one will pretend that the Filipinos have had any political training. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, only 350 years ago, they were all uncivilized. Many of them are still semi-savages; others are savages pure and simple. These facts are indisputable. If, then, we turn to history for assistance, we can not find a single instance of any real political evolution in any of the various divisions of the inhabitants of the Archipelago. The exception furnished by the debased Mohammedan sultanates of the great Island of Mindanao is only apparent. The germ of fruitful growth is everywhere missing. Now, the Spaniards assuredly took no steps to teach their new subjects the art and science of government; there was every reason, from their point of view, why they should not teach this art and science. [Source:“The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon” by Cornélis De Witt Willcox, Lieutenant-Colonel U.S. Army, Professor United States Military Academy, 1912 <>]

“On the other hand, our own course has been totally different. We have lost no time in putting political power into the hands of the natives, so that to-day, after fourteen years’ possession, municipal and provincial government are almost wholly native. To crown all, we have given the Filipinos an elective legislature, an Assembly, all the members of which are native. Students of the subject at first hand, impartial observers on the spot, declare freely that we have gone much too fast, and that we have granted a measure of political administration and government beyond the native power of assimilation and digestion. <>

“It is not without significance that it was these same Tagálogs who organized in the past the chief insurrections against the domination of Spain, principally, as is well known, because of the misrule of the friars. It is also a fact that the farther one removes from Manila the feebler becomes the cry for independence. If we consider the condition of the loudest supporters of the movement, we find them all, or nearly all, to be politicians, políticos. Some of these politicians are not Tagálogs—for example, Señor Osmeña, the Speaker of the Assembly, is a Visayan; so that it would perhaps be more accurate to say of the entire propaganda that it is an affair of the politicians, supported chiefly by Tagálogs.

“The Filipino is, on the one hand, hospitable, courageous, fond of music, show, and display; and, on the other, indolent, superstitious, dishonest, and addicted to gambling. One quality, imitativeness, is possibly neutral. It would appear that his virtues do not especially look toward thrift—i.e., economic independence—and that his defects positively look the other way. If the witnesses testifying be challenged on the score of incompetency. The picture may be overdrawn; but it is a Filipino picture, drawn by a Filipino hand. Let us now permit, the native press to speak again on the subject engaging our attention. Thus Vanguardia a bitter anti-American sheet, arraigns its wealthy fellow-countrymen for lack of initiative and fondness of routine. It accuses them of a willingness to invest in city property, to deposit money in banks, “to make loans at usurious rates, in which they take advantage of the urgent and pressing necessities of their countrymen,” but of unwillingness “to engage in agriculture, marine or industrial enterprise”; and says they are “generally lacking in the spirit of progression.” According to another native newspaper, the vice of gambling has infected all classes of society, men and women alike, rich and poor, young and old.” <>

Philippines Constitution

Constitution: There have been several previous constitutions; The latest was ratified under the Aquino government on February 2, 1987, and became effective on February 11, 1987 (2013). The first constitution, based on the United States Constitution, was written in 1935 and amended in 1940 and 1946. When President Marcos declared martial law in 1972, that constitution was replaced by another one providing for a head of state, a prime minister, and a unicameral legislature. Marcos’s constitution declared the that Marcos would remain the President and Prime Minster indefinitely and rule over a rubber-stamp parliament. It gave the president power to dissolve the legislature, appoint the prime minister, and declare himself prime minister. The new constitution was approved in a national referendum in 1987 was similar to the 1935 constitution but included term limitations of Senators, Congressmen and the President. [Sources: everyculture.com, CIA World Factbook, Library of Congress]

The Philippines has a long history of democratic constitutional development. The Malolos Constitution of 1898-99 reflected the aspirations of educated Filipinos to create a polity as enlightened as any in the world. That first constitution was modeled on those of France, Belgium, and some of the South American republics. Powers were divided, but the legislature was supreme. A bill of rights guaranteed individual liberties. The church was separated from the state, but this provision was included only after a long debate and passed only by a single vote. The Malolos Constitution was in effect only briefly; United States troops soon installed a colonial government, which remained in effect until the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935. *

The 1935 constitution, drawn up under the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which created the Philippine Commonwealth, also served as a basis for an independent Philippine government from 1946 until 1973. The framers of the Commonwealth Constitution were not completely free to choose any type of government they wanted, since their work had to be approved by United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt, but as many were legal scholars familiar with American constitutional law, they produced a document strongly modeled on the United States Constitution. In fact, the 1935 constitution differed from the United States document in only two important respects: Government was unitary rather than federal, local governments being subject to general supervision by the president, and the president could declare an emergency and temporarily exercise near-dictatorial power. This latter provision was used by Marcos after September 1972, when he declared martial law. *

The 1935 constitution seemed to serve the nation well. It gave the Philippines twenty-six years of stable, constitutional government during a period when a number of other Asian states were succumbing to military dictatorship or communist revolution. By the late 1960s, however, many Filipinos came to believe that the constitution only provided a democratic political cloak for a profoundly oligarchic society. A constitutional convention was called to rewrite the basic law of the land. *

The delegates selected to rewrite the constitution hoped to retain its democratic essence while deleting parts deemed to be unsuitable relics of the colonial past. They hoped to produce a genuinely Filipino document. But before their work could be completed, Marcos declared martial law and manipulated the constitutional convention to serve his purposes. The 1973 constitution was a deviation from the Philippines' commitment to democratic ideals. Marcos abolished Congress and ruled by presidential decree from September 1972 until 1978, when a parliamentary government with a legislature called the National Assembly replaced the presidential system. But Marcos exercised all the powers of president under the old system plus the powers of prime minister under the new system. When Marcos was driven from office in 1986, the 1973 constitution also was jettisoned. *

Creation of the Philippines Freedom Constitution of 1986

After Aquino came to power, on March 25, 1986, she issued Presidential Proclamation No. 3, which promulgated an interim "Freedom Constitution" that gave Aquino sweeping powers theoretically even greater than those Marcos had enjoyed, although she promised to use her emergency powers only to restore democracy, not to perpetuate herself in power. She claimed that she needed a free hand to restore democracy, revive the economy, gain control of the military, and repatriate some of the national wealth that Marcos and his partners had purloined. Minister of Justice Neptali Gonzales described the Freedom Constitution as "civilian in character, revolutionary in origin, democratic in essence, and transitory in character." The Freedom Constitution was to remain in effect until a new legislature was convened and a constitutional convention could write a new, democratic constitution to be ratified by national plebiscite. The process took sixteen months. *

Although many Filipinos thought delegates to the Constitutional Commission should be elected, Aquino appointed them, saying that the Philippines could not afford the time or expense of an election. On May 25, 1986, she selected forty-four names from hundreds suggested by her cabinet and the public. She appointed respected, prominent citizens and, to be on the safe side, prohibited them from running for office for one year after the constitution's ratification. Delegates had the same profile as those who had drawn up the constitutions of 1898 and 1935: they were wealthy and well educated. They represented a range of political stances: some were leftists and some were ardent nationalists, but moderate conservatives held a majority. There were thirty lawyers, including two former Supreme Court justices. A nun, a priest, and a bishop represented the interests of the Catholic Church. Eight commissioners had also served in the aborted constitutional convention of 1972. Five seats on the fifty-member commission were reserved for Marcos supporters, defined as members of Marcos's New Society Movement, and were filled by former Minister of Labor Blas Ople and four associates. One seat was reserved for the Iglesia ni Kristo (Church of Christ), which, however, declined to participate. One of Aquino's appointees, leftist movie producer Lino Brocka, resigned, so the final number of commissioners was forty-eight. *

The commission divided itself into fourteen committees and began work amidst great public interest, which, however, soon waned. Long, legalistic hearings were sometimes poorly attended. Aquino is known to have intervened to influence only one decision of the commission. She voiced her support of a loophole in the constitution's antinuclear weapons provision that allowed the president to declare that nuclear weapons, if present on United States bases, were "in the national interest."The commissioners quickly abandoned the parliamentary government that Marcos had fancied, and arguments for a unicameral legislature also were given short shrift. Most delegates favored a return to something very much like the 1935 constitution, with numerous symbolic clauses to appease "cause- oriented" groups. The most controversial proposals were those pertaining to the Philippine claim to Sabah, presidential emergency powers, land reform, the rights of labor, the role of foreign investment, and United States military base rights. Special attention focused on proposals to declare Philippine territory a nuclear-free zone. *

Aquino had asked the Constitutional Commission to complete its work within ninety days, by September 2, 1986. Lengthy public hearings (some in the provinces) and contentious floor debates, however, caused this deadline to be missed. The final version of the Constitution, similar to a "draft proposal" drawn up in June by the University of the Philippines Law School, was presented to Aquino on October 15. The commission had approved it by a vote of forty-four to two. *

Aquino scheduled a plebiscite on the new constitution for February 2, 1987. Ratification of the constitution was supported by a loose coalition of centrist parties and by the Catholic Church. The constitution was opposed by both the Communist Party of the Philippines--Marxist Leninist (referred to as the CPP) and the leftist May First Movement (Kilusang Mayo Uno) for three reasons: It was tepid on land reform, it did not absolutely ban nuclear weapons from Philippine territory, and it offered incentives to foreign investors. But the communists were in disarray after their colossal mistake of boycotting the election that overthrew Marcos, and their objections carried little weight. The constitution faced more serious opposition from the right, led by President Aquino's discontented, now ex-defense minister, Juan Ponce Enrile, who reassembled elements of the old Nacionalista Party to campaign for a no vote to protest what he called the "Aquino dictatorship."

Aquino toured the country campaigning for a yes vote, trading heavily on her enormous personal prestige. The referendum was judged by most observers to turn more on Aquino's popularity than on the actual merits of the Constitution, which few people had read. Her slogan was "Yes to Cory, Yes to Country, Yes to Democracy, and Yes to the Constitution." Aquino also showed that she was familiar with traditional Filipino pork-barrel politics, promising voters in Bicol 1,061 new classrooms "as a sign of my gratitude" if they voted yes. *

The plebiscite was fairly conducted and orderly. An overwhelming three-to-one vote approved of the Constitution, confirmed Aquino in office until 1992, and dealt a stunning defeat to her critics. Above all else the victory indicated a vote for stability in the midst of turmoil. There was only one ominous note--a majority of the military voted against the referendum. Aquino proclaimed the new Constitution in effect on February 11, 1987, and made all members of the military swear loyalty to it. *

Articles and Provisions of the Philippines Constitution

The constitution, one of the longest in the world, establishes three separate branches of government called departments: executive, legislative, and judicial. A number of independent commissions are mandated: the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit are continued from the old constitution, and two others, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on Good Government, were formed in reaction to Marcos's abuses. The Commission on Good Government is charged with the task of repossessing ill-gotten wealth acquired during the Marcos regime. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Some ambitious Filipino politicians hoped that the new Constitution would invalidate the 1986 presidential election and require that a new election be held. Their hopes were dashed by the "transitory provisions" in Article 17 of the new constitution that confirmed Aquino in office until June 30, 1992. Other officials first elected under the new constitution also were to serve until 1992. *

Article 3, the bill of rights, contains the same rights found in the United States Constitution (often in identical wording), as well as some additional rights. The exclusionary rule, for example, prohibits illegally gathered evidence from being used at a trial. Other rights include a freedom-of-information clause, the right to form unions, and the requirement that suspects be informed of their right to remain silent. *

The church and state are separated, but Catholic influence can be seen in parts of the Constitution. An article on the family downplays birth control; another clause directs the state to protect the life of the unborn beginning with conception; and still another clause abolishes the death penalty. Church-owned land also is tax-exempt. *

The explosive issue of agrarian reform is treated gingerly. The state is explicitly directed to undertake the redistribution of land to those who till it, but "just compensation" must be paid to present owners, and Congress (expected to be dominated by landowners) is given the power to prescribe limits on the amount of land that can be retained. To resolve the controversial issue of United States military bases, the Constitution requires that any future agreement must be in the form of a treaty that is ratified by two-thirds of the Senate and, if the Congress requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a national referendum. *

Many provisions lend a progressive spirit to the Constitution, but these provisions are symbolic declarations of the framers' hopes and are unenforceable. For example, the state is to make decent housing available to underprivileged citizens. Priority is to be given to the sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children. Wealth and political power are to be diffused for the common good. The state shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service. To be implemented, all of these declarations of intent required legislation. *

Head of Government in the Philippine

The President is the head of state, chief executive, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The president must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, at least forty years of age, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the election. The president is elected to a six year term. He or she can serve a maximum of one term. In elections there are also separate ballots for the president and vice president. Only Congress can officially declare the president and vice president after election votes are counted.

The President lives in Malacanang Palace, a sprawling compound in Manila on a river. It was built for the Spanish govenors and later used by the American governors. The salary of the president in 2000 was only $13,000. In the inauguration ceremony, the President places his or her hand on the Bible and solemly swears to “faithfully and conscientiously perform my duties as President of the Philippines.”

The impeachment process is simialr to that of the United States. To oust a president two thirds of the senate must vote to oust him or her. The impeachment process can begin with the signing of a complaint with by a third of the House of Representatives. During the failed impeachment bids of President Arroyo’, the House of Representatives’ Justice Committee dismiss the complaints on technicalities, in one case by a vote of 42-8.

The vice president , who under the Philippine Constitution need not belong to the same party as the president, may be appointed to the cabinet without legislative confirmation. The vice president has the same term of office as the president and is elected in the same manner. The vice president also may serve as a member of the cabinet. Unlike the president, the vice president may serve two consecutive six-year terms. The president and vice president do not run on the same ticket and may be political opponents. The president and vice president are not elected as a team. Thus, they may be ideologically opposed, or even personal rivals. *

Chief of state: President Benigno Aquino (since 30 June 2010); Vice President Jejomar Binay (since 30 June 2010); note - president is both chief of state and head of government. Head of government: President Benigno Aquino (since 30 June 2010). The last election was on May 10, 2010. The next one will be held in May 2016. The 2010 election results: Benigno Aquino elected president; percent of vote: Benigno Aquino 42.1 percent, Joseph Estrada 26.3 percent, seven others 31.6 percent; Jejomar Binay elected vice president; percent of vote Jejomar Binay 41.6 percent, Manuel Roxas 39.6 percent, six others 18.8 percent. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Executive Branch of the Philippines

Embracing the concept of separation of powers, the constitution provides for a president, who is simultaneously head of government and chief of state, a separately elected vice president, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. The constitution includes legislative and judicial limits on the power of the president. The president cannot abolish Congress, and Congress can override a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority vote. Moreover, the president needs Congressional support in order to implement policies and programs. The Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of presidential decrees. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The executive functions of the government are carried out through the Cabinet of Ministers. The cabinet, which in 2005 consisted of heads of 22 departments and offices, is appointed by the president with the consent of the Commission of Appointments. The Cabinet is lead by secretaries rather than ministers. They earn less than $1,000 a month in 2000.

The president is empowered to control all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices, and to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. Presidential nominations of heads of executive departments and ambassadors are confirmed by a Commission on Appointments, consisting of twelve senators and twelve representatives. The president may grant amnesty (for example, to former communists, Muslim rebels, or military mutineers) with the concurrence of a majority of all the members of Congress and, as chief diplomat, negotiate treaties, which must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. *

The constitution contains many clauses intended to preclude repetition of abuses such as those committed by Marcos. The president's spouse cannot be appointed to any government post (a reaction to Imelda Marcos's immoderate accumulation of titles and powers). The public must be informed if the president becomes seriously ill (a reaction to the belated discovery of numerous kidney-dialysis machines in Marcos's bedroom in Malacañang). The president is prohibited from owning any company that does business with the government. And the armed forces must be recruited proportionately from all provinces and cities as far as is practicable, in order to prevent a future president from repeating Marcos's ploy of padding the officer corps with people from his home province. *

Constitutional safeguards also prevent the president from ruling indefinitely under emergency powers. Martial law may be proclaimed, but only for sixty days. The president must notify Congress of the institution of martial law within forty-eight hours, and Congress can revoke martial law by a simple majority vote. The president may not abolish Congress. The Supreme Court may review and invalidate a presidential proclamation of martial law. Of course, Congress can grant the president emergency powers at any time. *

In 1991 the president's cabinet consisted of the executive secretary (who controlled the flow of paper and visitors reaching the president), the press secretary, the cabinet secretary, and the national security adviser, and the secretaries of the following departments: agrarian reform; agriculture; budget and management; economic planning; education, culture, and sports; environment and natural resources; finance; foreign affairs; health; interior and local governments; justice; labor and employment; national defense; public works and highways; science and technology; social welfare and development; tourism; trade and industry; and transportation and communications. Cabinet members directed a vast bureaucracy--2.6 million Filipinos were on the government payroll in 1988. *

Legislature of the Philippines

Legislature: The Philippines Congress is made up of 287-seat House of Representatives (lower chamber) and a 24-seat Senate (upper chamber). The Senate has a lot of power and has traditionally been dominated by the elite landowning families. Senators can serve two consecutive six-year terms They are chosen through a national rather than local vote and thus are expected to have a national vision and not be tied down by local interests. Elections for 12 Senators are held every three years. The House of Representatives is made up of Congressmen and women elected from districts. They can serve up to three three-year terms and also are often members of the landowning elite.

The bicameral Congress or Kongreso consists of the Senate or Senado (24 seats - one-half elected every three years; members elected at large by popular vote to serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Kapulungan Ng Nga Kinatawan (287 seats - 230 members in one tier representing districts and 57 sectoral party-list members in a second tier representing special minorities elected on the basis of one seat for every 2 percent of the total vote but with each party limited to three seats). A party represented in one tier may not hold seats in the other tier; all House members are elected by popular vote to serve three-year terms. The constitution limits the House of Representatives to 250 members; the number of members allowed was increased, however, through legislation when in April 2009 the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that additional party members could sit in the House of Representatives if they received the required number of votes. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

In 2005 there were 238 members in the House of Representatives, of whom 214 (80 percent) were elected for three-year terms from legislative districts apportioned among the 20 provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the population, on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. The other 24 members (limited by the constitution to 20 percent of the total) were presidential appointees elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations. The House is led by the speaker of the House. The leader of the Senate is the president of the Senate. By means of a two-thirds majority vote, Congress can override presidential vetoes and declare a state of war.

Legislative Branch of the Philippines

The Philippines is unusual among developing countries in having a strong, bicameral legislature. The constitution establishes a 24-seat Senate and a House of Representatives with 200 elected representatives and up to 50 more appointed by the president. Senators are chosen at large, and the twenty-four highest vote-winners nationwide are elected. Senators must be native-born Filipinos at least thirty-five years old. The term of office is six years, and senators cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. [Source: Library of Congress *]

House of Representatives members are elected in single-member districts (200 in 1991), reapportioned within three years of each census. Representatives must be native-born Filipinos and at least twenty-five years of age. Their term of office is three years. They may not serve for more than three consecutive terms. In addition, President Aquino was to be empowered to appoint to the House of Representatives up to twenty-five people from "party lists." This stipulation was intended to provide a kind of proportional representation for small parties unable to win any single-member district seats. However, Congress did not pass the necessary enabling legislation. The president also is allowed to appoint up to twenty-five members from so-called sectoral groups, such as women, labor, farmers, the urban poor, mountain tribes, and other groups not normally well-represented in Congress, "except the religious sector." Making these appointments would have provided an opportunity for Aquino to reward her supporters and influence Congress, but she has left most such positions unfilled. All members of both houses of Congress are required to make a full disclosure of their financial and business interests. *

The constitution authorizes Congress to conduct inquiries, to declare war (by a two-thirds vote of both houses in joint session), and to override a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses. All appropriations bills must originate in the House, but the president is given a line-item veto over them. The Senate ratifies treaties by a two-thirds vote. *

The first free congressional elections in nearly two decades were held on May 11, 1987. The pre-martial law Philippine Congress, famous for logrolling and satisfying individual demands, was shut down by Marcos in 1972. The 1973 constitution created a rubber-stamp parliament, or National Assembly, which only began functioning in 1978 and which was timid in confronting Marcos until some opposition members were elected in May 1984.In the 1987 elections, more than 26 million Filipinos, or 83 percent of eligible voters, cast their ballots at 104,000 polling stations. *

The leader of the Senate— the Senate president— stands next in the line of succession for the presidency after the country's vice president. Generally, the Senate had a reputation as a prestigious body with a truly national outlook, in contrast to the House of Representatives, which had more parochial concerns. The internal operation of Congress has been slowed by inefficiency and a lack of party discipline. Legislation often has been detained in the forty-three House and thirty-six Senate committees staffed with friends and relatives of members of Congress. Indicative of the public frustration with Congress, in 1991 the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and the Makati Business Club formed a group called Congresswatch to monitor the activities of sitting congress members and promote accountability and honesty.

Women in Government in the Philippines

Under the Philippines consitution women are promised the same voting rights as men. Since Marcos was ousted in 1986 the Philippines has had two women presidents: Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But even so women are still not very well represented in Philippine government. In 2001, only 24 of the 216 memers of Congress were women. Arroyo had three women in her cabinet.

Many of the women in Philippine politics—including Aquino, Arroyo, and Imelda Marcos and her daughter—got to where they were riding on the coat tails of their husbands, fathers or other family members.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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