Philippine Government

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The political system in the Philippines takes place in an organized framework of a presidential, representative, and democratic republic whereby the president is both the head of state and the head of government within a pluriform multi-party system. This system revolves around three separate and sovereign yet interdependent branches: the legislative branch (the law-making body), the executive branch (the law-enforcing body), and the judicial branch (the law-interpreting body). Executive power is exercised by the government under the leadership of the president. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two-chamber congress -- the Senate (the upper chamber) and the House of Representatives (the lower chamber). Judicial power is vested in the courts with the Supreme Court of the Philippines as the highest judicial body.

National Government of the Philippines

The Republic of the Philippines has a representative democracy modeled after the United States of America's system of government. The 1987 Philippine constitution, adopted during the Corazon Aquino administration, re-established a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary.

Executive branch

The executive branch is headed by the President, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III (party affiliation: Liberal Party) 30 June 2010, who functions as both the head of state and the head of government. The president is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The president is elected by popular vote to a term of 6 years. The president, then, appoints (and may fire) his/her cabinet members whom he/she presides over. The executive seat of government is administered officially from Malacañang Palace - also the official residence of the president - in the capital City of Manila. The President may no longer run for re-election, unless he/she becomes president through constitutional succession and has served for no more than 4 years as president.

The second highest official, Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay(party affiliation: Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan) 30 June 2010, is also elected by popular vote. The vice-president is second in line to succession should the president resign, be impeached or die in office. The vice-president usually, though not always, may be a member of the president's cabinet. If there is a vacancy in the position of Vice President, the President will appoint any member of Congress (usually a party member) as new Vice President. The appointment will be validated by a three-fourths vote of Congress voting separately.

The Executive Departments of the Philippines (also known as the "Cabinet") are the largest component of the national executive branch of the government of the Philippines. There are a total of nineteen executive departments. The departments comprise the largest part of the country's bureaucracy.

The Cabinet secretaries are tasked to advise the President on the different affairs of the state like agriculture, budget, finance, education, social welfare, national defense, foreign affairs and etc.

They are nominated by the President and then presented to the Commission on Appointments, a body of the Congress of the Philippines that confirms all appointments made by the head of state, for confirmation or rejection. If the presidential appointees are approved, they are sworn into office, receive the title "Secretary," and begin to function their duties.

During the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, upon the mandate of the then 1973 Constitution, he changed the departments into ministries from 1978 to the end of his government. Thus, the Department of Education]] became Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.

Legislative branch

The bicameral Philippine legislature, the Congress, consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives; members of both are elected by popular vote. The Senate is elected at large. There are currently 24 senators. Of a possible 250 members of the House of Representatives, 206 are elected from the single-member districts. The remainder of the House seats are designated for sectoral representatives elected at large through a complex "party list" system, hinging on the party receiving at least 2% to 6% of the national vote total. The upper house is located in Pasay City, while the lower house is located in Quezon City. The district and sectoral representatives are elected with a term of three years. They can be reelected but they are no longer eligible to run for the fourth consecutive term. The senators elected with a term of six years. They can be reelected but they are no longer eligible to run for the third consecutive term. The House of Representatives may opt to pass a resolution for a vacancy of a legislative seat that will pave way for a special election. The winner of the special election will serve the unfinished term of the previous district representative and will be considered as one elective term. The same rule applies in the Senate however it will only apply if the seat is vacated before the regular legislative election. This case applies when Senator Teofisto Guingona was appointed as Vice President before the May 2001 election. Senator Gregorio Honasan was in the 13th position in the Senatorial election and he served the unfinished term of Guingona. Honasan is no longer eligible to run for the 2004 elections. The case did not apply in 1998 when Gloria Arroyo was elected as Vice President and in 2004 when Noli de Castro was elected as Vice President.

When Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the Presidency, her LAKAS-CMD party also regained its dominant position in Congress. The party leads the 187 member Sunshine Coalition composed of several major and minor parties. In the Senate, the pro-administration coalition controls 13 of the 24 seats. Members of the Philippine Congress tend to have weak party loyalties and change party affiliation easily. In October 2003, the Sunshine Coalition dissolved over Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's decision to seek election for the presidency which she came into by succeeding Joseph Estrada during the EDSA 2 Revolution of 2001.

Senate President: Juan Ponce Enrile

Speaker of the House of Representatives: Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.

Presidents of the Senate

Speakers of the House of Representatives

Judicial branch

The judiciary branch of the government is headed by the Supreme Court, which has a Chief Justice as its head and 14 Associate Justices, all appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial and Bar Council.

Supreme Court Chief Justice: Renato Corona

Chief Justices of the Supreme Court

Offices of the Ombudsman

The government and all three of its branches are independently monitored by the Offices of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is given the mandate to investigate and prosecute any official/s in government that is allegedly guilty of crimes, especially Graft and Corruption. The Ombudsman leads a team composed of a sheriff and 6 deputies who lead the their respective divisions and/or bureaus.

Political parties and elections

During the American occupation, the Nacionalista Party (more like the Republicans) was the dominant party at the time. This, however, was interrupted by World War II, when during the Japanese occupation, a new party, the Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (KALIBAPI), was formed. It was the only party that was allowed to operate during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

After the war, KALIBAPI was abolished and the Nacionalistas returned to power. However, a new party, the Liberal Party (similar to the Democrats), was formed after some Nacionalistas split from the original party. This de facto two-party system was kept until 1972.

However, when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, he formed his own monolithic party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL, New Society Movement). The traditional parties were sidelined. Worse, most of his political opponents were incarcerated, tortured or even killed. But, a majority of the KBL members were ex-Nacionalistas. In 1978, Marcos called an election to the interim Batasang Pambansa and an opposition party was formed known as LABAN. Among the candidates then were Benigno Aquino, Alex Bongcayao and Ernesto Maceda, to name a few. During that election, only Maceda was elected into office.

In 1984, many opposition parties sprang up. Among them are PDP-LABAN (different from the original LABAN party) of Aquilino Pimentel and UNIDO, or the United Nationalists Democratic Organizations, of Salvador Laurel. The UNIDO would later be an umbrella coalition of opposition against Ferdinand Marcos.

After Marcos was overthrown in the People Power Revolution, other parties appeared, such as Lakas ng Bayan, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino or LDP, and the National Union of Christian Democrats (NUCD) of Senator Raul Manglapus.

In 1992 elections, the LDP was split in half. Fidel V. Ramos formed his own party known as the Partido Lakas ng Tao, which coalesced with the National Union of Christian Democrats. Their union was later known as the Lakas-NUCD, now known as Lakas-Christian and Muslim Democrats. The LDP was bannered by Ramon Mitra. During these elections, the Nacionalista Party was also split into two. The Nacionalistas were led by Salvador Laurel while the splinter group led by Danding Cojuangco was known as the Nationalist People's Coalition or NPC.

In the 1998 elections, three new political parties were formed: the Partido ng Masang Pilipino of Joseph Estrada, the Aksyon Demokratiko (Democratic Action) of Raul Roco, and the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMPI) of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

There are other regional political parties, such as Panaghiusa (precursor of the Osmeñas' BO-PK) and the Mindanao Alliance in Mindanao. However, many of these parties are now defunct.

It is believed that Philippine political parties share one common platform. However, it is also perceived that Philippine political parties are also not based on political platform, but rather on personality. Turncoatism is so widespread that there were moves from lawmakers in the past to make this illegal, since it is believed that switching party allegiances are easy in Philippine politics. The image of turncoatism among politicians also fuels the belief that many Philippine politicians are opportunist, using their political power for personal gain.

Local government/administrative subdivisions

The Philippines is divided into a hierarchy of local government units (LGUs) with the province as the primary unit. As of 2006, there are 80 provinces in the country. Provinces are further subdivided into cities and municipalities, which are in turn, composed of barangays. The barangay is the smallest local government unit. A Philippine province is headed by a Governor. The Provincial Council (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) is composed of the Vice Governor (Presiding Officer) and Provincial Board Members. A Philippine city and municipality is headed by a Mayor. The City Council (Sangguniang Panlungsod) or Municipal Council (Sangguniang Bayan) is composed of the Vice Mayor (Presiding Officer) and City or Municipal Councilors. A barangay is headed by a Barangay Captain who is also the presiding officer of the barangay council. The Barangay Council is composed of kagawads. A similar unit called Youth Council (Sangguniang Kabataan) is headed by a SK Chairperson who had similar rank of a Barangay Captain. The council is composed of SK Members.

The term of office of all local elective officials elected is three (3) years, starting from noon of June 30 of an election year. No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected. Barangay and SK officials are elected to a term of five years starting from noon of the date as prescribed by law. The current barangay organic law sets the date of November 12 2007 as effectivity date. The current barangay and SK officials started terms August 15 2002. The next barangay and SK election will be on October 29 2007.

All provinces are grouped into 17 regions for administrative convenience. Most government offices establish regional offices to serve the constituent provinces. The regions themselves do not possess a separate local government, with the exception of the Muslim Mindanao region, which is autonomous. The Cordillera Administrative Region will become an autonomous region and will receive the setup granted to Muslim Mindanao if voters would approve an organic law that would create a Cordillera Autonomous Region.


As of December 2006 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and others are hoping to amend the constitution to a unicameral, federal, parliamentary system similar to the German constitution. Parliament would be given the power to split the Philippines into “states” with each one having a local legislature responsible for certain functions. Included in the amendments are plans to remove or ease the current ban on foreign ownership of property, land and commercial organizations in the Philippines; to removed term limits; to further restrict who can run for office; and to change slightly but perhaps meaningfully the freedom of speech clause. So far efforts have failed. The Senate has not agreed to meet with the House in a Constituent Assembly (ConAss), though the House may soon try to meet as a ConAss without the Senate. An attempt to use an initiative petition to amend was struck down by the Supreme Court. Any amendments proposed by a ConAss, an initiative petition or the third alternative, a Constitutional Convention (representatives directly elected to amend the Constitution) must be approved by the voters.

International organization participation

The Philippines is a founding and active member of the United Nations since its inception on October 24 1945 and is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Philippines is also a member of the East Asia Summit (EAS)), an active player in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Latin Union and a member of the Group of 24. The country is a major non-NATO ally of the U.S., but also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Memberships: APEC (1989), AsDB (1966), ASEAN, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, ITUC, NAM, OAS (observer), OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNHRC, UNIDO, UNMIK, UNMIL, UNMISET, UNOCI, UNU, UPU, ITUC, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO,

See also



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