Congress of the Philippines



The Congress of the Philippines (Filipino: Kongreso ng Pilipinas) is the bicameral legislature of the Philippines. It is consisted of the Senate (upper house) and the House of Representatives (lower house),[1] although colloquially, the term "Congress" commonly refers to just the latter.[a]

The Senate is composed of 24 senators[2] half of which are elected every three years. Each senator, therefore, serves a total of six years. The senators are elected by the whole electorate and do not represent any geographical district.

In the ongoing 18th Congress, there are 304 seats in the House of Representatives. The Constitution states that the House "shall be composed of not more than 250 members, unless otherwise fixed by law," and that at least 20% of it shall be sectoral representatives. There are two types of congressmen: the district and the sectoral representatives. At the time of the ratification of the constitution, there were 200 districts, leaving 50 seats for sectoral representatives.

The district congressmen represent a particular congressional district of the country. All provinces in the country are composed of at least one congressional district. Several cities also have their own congressional districts, with some having two or more representatives.[1] From 200 districts in 1987, the number of districts have increased to 243. Every new Congress has seen an increase in the number of districts.

The party-list congressmen represent the minority sectors of the population. This enables these minority groups to be represented in the Congress, when they would otherwise not be represented properly through district representation. Also known as party-list representatives, sectoral congressmen represent labor unions, rights groups, and other organizations.[1] With the increase of districts also means that the seats for party-list representatives increase as well, as the 1:4 ratio has to be respected.

The Constitution provides that Congress shall convene for its regular session every year beginning on the 4th Monday of July. A regular session can last until thirty days before the opening of its next regular session in the succeeding year. The president may, however, call special sessions which are usually held between regular legislative sessions to handle emergencies or urgent matters.[1]

During the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, municipal governments, or Cabildos were established. One such example was the Cabildo in Manila, established in 1571.[3]

When the Philippines was under colonial rule as part of the Spanish East Indies, the colony was not given representation to the Spanish Cortes. It was only in 1809 where the colony was made an integral part of Spain and was given representation in the Cortes. While colonies such as the Philippines were selecting its delegates, substitutes were named so that the Cortes can convene. The substitutes, and first delegates for the Philippines were Pedro Pérez de Tagle and José Manuel Couto. Both had no connections to the colony.[4]

By July 1810, Governor General Manuel González de Aguilar received the instruction to hold an election. As only the Manila Municipal Council qualified to elect a representative, it was tasked to select a delegate. Three of its representatives, the governor-general and the Archbishop of Manila selected Ventura de los Reyes as Manila's delegate to the Cortes. De los Reyes arrived in Cadiz in December 1811.[4]

However, with Napoleon I's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, his brother Joseph Bonaparte was removed from the Spanish throne, and the Cádiz Constitution was replaced by the Cortes on May 24, 1816 with a more conservative constitution that removed Philippine representation on the Cortes, among other things. Restoration of Philippine representation to the Cortes was one of the grievances by the Ilustrados, the educated class during the late 19th century.[2]

The Illustrados' campaign transformed into the Philippine Revolution that aimed to overthrow Spanish rule. Proclaiming independence on June 12, 1898, President Emilio Aguinaldo then ordered the convening of a revolutionary congress at Malolos. The Malolos Congress, among other things, approved the Malolos Constitution. With the approval of the Treaty of Paris, the Spanish ceded the Philippines to the United States. The revolutionaries, attempting to prevent American conquest, launched the Philippine–American War, but were defeated when Aguinaldo was captured in 1901.[2]

When the Philippines was under American colonial rule, the legislative body was the Philippine Commission which existed from 1900 to 1907. The President of the United States appointed the members of the Philippine Commission. Furthermore, two Filipinos served as Resident Commissioners to the House of Representatives of the United States from 1907 to 1935, then only one from 1935 to 1946. The Resident Commissioners had a voice in the House, but did not have voting rights.[2]

The Philippine Bill of 1902 mandated the creation of a bicameral or a two-chamber Philippine Legislature with the Philippine Commission as the Upper House and the Philippine Assembly as the Lower House. This bicameral legislature was inaugurated in 1907. Through the leadership of then Speaker Sergio Osmeña and then-Floor Leader Manuel L. Quezon, the Rules of the 59th United States Congress were substantially adopted as the Rules of the Philippine Legislature.[2]

In 1916, the Jones Law changed the legislative system. The Philippine Commission was abolished, and a new bicameral Philippine Legislature consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate was established.[2]

The legislative system was changed again in 1935. The 1935 Constitution, aside from instituting the Commonwealth which gave the Filipinos more role in government, established a unicameral National Assembly. But in 1940, through an amendment to the 1935 Constitution, a bicameral Congress of the Philippines consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate was created. Those elected in 1941 would not serve until 1945, as World War II erupted. The invading Japanese set up the Second Philippine Republic and convened its own National Assembly. With the Japanese defeat in 1945, the Commonwealth and its Congress was restored. The same setup continued until the Americans granted independence on July 4, 1946.[2]

Upon the inauguration of the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946, Republic Act No. 6 was enacted providing that on the date of the proclamation of the Republic of the Philippines, the existing Congress would be known as the First Congress of the Republic. Successive Congresses were elected until President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 23, 1972. Marcos then ruled by decree.[2]

As early as 1970, Marcos had convened a constitutional convention to revise the 1935 constitution; in 1973, the Constitution was approved. It abolished the bicameral Congress and created a unicameral National Assembly, which would ultimately be known as the Batasang Pambansa in a semi-presidential system of government. The batasan elected a prime minister. The Batasang Pambansa first convened in 1978. [2]

Marcos was overthrown after the 1986 People Power Revolution; President Corazon Aquino then ruled by decree. Later that year she appointed a constitutional commission that drafted a new constitution. The Constitution was approved in a plebiscite the next year; it restored the presidential system of government together with a bicameral Congress of the Philippines. It first convened in 1987.[2]

The winners of the 1941 election first took office in 1945. See 1st Congress of the Commonwealth of the Philippines for details.

In what could be a unique setup, the two houses of Congress meet at different places in Metro Manila, the seat of government: the Senate meets at the GSIS Building, the main office of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) at Pasay, while the House of Representatives sits at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City. The two are around 25 kilometers (16 mi) apart.

Barasoain Church

Ayuntamiento de Manila

Old Legislative Building

The Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan served as a meeting place of unicameral congress of the First Philippine Republic.

After the Americans defeated the First Republic, the US-instituted Philippine Legislature convened at the Ayuntamiento in Intramuros, Manila from 1907 to 1926, when it transferred to the Legislative Building just outside Intramuros. In the Legislative Building, the Senate occupied the upper floors while the House of Representatives used the lower floors.

Destroyed during the Battle of Manila of 1945, the Commonwealth Congress convened at the Old Japanese Schoolhouse at Sampaloc. Congress met at the school auditorium, with the Senate convening on evenings and the House of Representatives meeting every morning. The Senate subsequently moved to the Manila City Hall, with the House staying in the schoolhouse. The two chambers of Congress returned to the reconstructed Legislative Building, now the Congress Building in 1950. In 1973, when President Marcos ruled by decree, Congress was padlocked. Marcos built a new seat of a unicameral parliament at Quezon City, which would eventually be the Batasang Pambansa Complex. The parliament that will eventually be named as the Batasang Pambansa (National Legislature), first met at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in 1978.

With the overthrow of Marcos after the People Power Revolution, the bicameral Congress was restored. The House of Representatives inherited the Batasang Pambansa Complex, while the Senate returned to the Congress Building. In May 1997, the Senate moved to the newly constructed building owned by the GSIS on land reclaimed from Manila Bay at Pasay; the Congress Building was eventually transformed into the National Museum of Fine Arts. The Senate will eventually move into a new building that they would own in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

The powers of the Congress of the Philippines may be classified as:

It consists of the enactment of laws intended as a rule of conduct to govern the relation between individuals (i.e., civil laws, commercial laws, etc.) or between individuals and the state (i.e., criminal law, political law, etc.)[2]

It is essential to the effective exercise of other powers expressly granted to the assembly.

These are the powers which though not expressly given are nevertheless exercised by the Congress as they are necessary for its existence such as:

It has reference to powers which the Constitution expressly and specifically directs to perform or execute.

Powers enjoyed by the Congress classifiable under this category are:

Powers of the Congress that are executive in nature are:

The Congress of the Philippines exercises considerable control and supervision over the administrative branch - e.g.:

Considered as electoral power of the Congress of the Philippines are the Congress' power to:

Constitutionally, each house has judicial powers:

The other powers of Congress mandated by the Constitution are as follows:

In the diagrams below, Congress is divided in blocs, with the colors referring to the political party of the person leading that bloc. The blocs are determined by the vote of the member in speakership or Senate presidential elections.

The Senate is composed of the winners of the 2016 and 2019 Senate elections. The House of Representatives is composed of the winners of the 2019 House of Representatives elections. In both chambers, the majority bloc is composed of members generally supportive of the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, while the minority blocs are those opposed. In the House of Representatives, there is an independent minority bloc, and 4 vacant seats.

In both chambers, membership in committees is determined by the size of the bloc; only members of the majority and minority blocs are given committee memberships. In the Philippines, political parties are liquid, and it is not uncommon to see partymates see themselves on different blocs.

Each chamber is headed by a presiding officer, both elected from their respective membership; in the Senate, it is the Senate President, while in the House of Representatives, it is the Speaker. The Senate also has a Senate president pro tempore, and the House of Representatives has deputy speakers. Each chamber has its own floor leaders.


The vote requirements in the Congress of the Philippines are as follows:

In most cases, such as the approval of bills, only a majority of members present is needed; on some cases such as the election of presiding officers, a majority of all members, including vacant seats, is needed.

In the Philippines, the most common way to illustrate the result in a Senate election is via a tally of candidates in descending order of votes. The twelve candidates with the highest number of votes are elected.

A voter has two votes in the House of Representatives: one vote for a representative elected in the voter's congressional district (first-past-the-post), and one vote for a party in the party-list system (closed list), the so-called sectoral representatives; sectoral representatives shall comprise not more than 20% of the House of Representatives.

To determine the winning parties in the party-list election, a party must surpass the 2% election threshold of the national vote; usually, the party with the largest number of votes wins the maximum three seats, the rest two seats. If the number of seats of the parties that surpassed the 2% threshold is less than 20% of the total seats, the parties that won less than 2% of the vote gets one seat each until the 20% requirement is met.

Notes:

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