Senate of the Philippines

Senate of the Philippines

Infobox Parliament
name = Senate of the Philippines
coa_pic = Senate_Seal.png coa-pic =
session_room =
house_type = Upper house
houses = Senate
leader1_type = Senate President
leader1 = Manuel B. Villar, Jr.
party1 = Nacionalista
election1 = July 24, 2006
leader2_type = Senate President "pro tempore"
leader2 = Jose E. Estrada
party2 = PMP
election2 = July 23, 2007
leader3_type = Senate Majority Leader
leader3 = Francis Pangilinan
party3 = LP
leader4_type = Senate Minority Leader
leader4 = Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.
party4 = PDP-Laban
members = 24 Senators
currently, only 23 Senators
p_groups = Lakas-CMD + KAMPI

election3 = May 14, 2007
election4 = 2004
meeting_place = GSIS Building, Pasay City
website =

The Senate of the Philippines (Filipino: "Senádo ng Pilipínas") is the upper chamber of the bicameral legislature of the Philippines, the Congress of the Philippines. The Philippine Senate is composed of 24 senators who are elected at-large.

Senators serve 6-year terms, with half of the senators elected every 3 years to ensure that the Senate is maintained as a continuous body, though alternating. When the Senate was restored by 1987 Constitution, the 24 senators who were elected in 1987 served until 1992. In 1992 the candidates for the Senate obtaining the 12 highest number of votes served until 1998, while the next 12 served until 1995 only. Thereafter, each senator elected serves the full 6 years.

The Senate is the only body that can authorize the ratification of treaties.

History of the Senate

From 1907-1916, the Philippine Commission headed by the U.S. Governor-General served as the upper chamber of the colonial legislature at the same time exercised executive powers. On August 29, 1916 the United States Congress enacted the "Philippine Autonomy Act" or popularly known as the "Jones Law" which paved the way for the creation of a bicameral Philippine Congress wherein the Senate served as the upper chamber and while the House of Representatives as the lower chamber of it. Then Philippine Resident Commissioner Manuel L. Quezon encouraged Speaker Sergio Osmeña to run for the leadership of the senate, but Osmeña preferred to continue leading the lower house. Quezon then ran for the Senate and became Senate President for the next 19 years (1916-1935). This setup continued until 1935, when the "Philippine Independence Act" or the "Tydings-McDuffie Act" was provided by the U.S. Congress which granted the Filipinos the right to frame their own constitution in preparation for their independence, wherein they established a unicameral National Assembly, effectively abolishing the Senate. Not long after the adoption of the 1935 Constitution several amendments began to be proposed. By 1938, the National Assembly began consideration of these proposals, which included restoring the Senate as the upper chamber of Congress. The amendment of the 1935 Constitution to have a bicameral legislature was approved in 1940 and the first elections for the restored upper house held in November, 1941. The Senate finally convened in 1945 and served as the upper chamber of Congress from thereon until the declaration of martial law of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. which shutdown Congress. The Senate was resurrected in 1987 upon the ratification of the 1987 Constitution.

From 1916 to 1935, the Philippines was divided into 12 Senatorial districts, each district grouped several provinces and each elected 2 senators except for "non-Christian" provinces where the Governor-General of the Philippines appointed the senators for the district, but this was discontinued in 1941 when the Senate was reestablished, wherein all senators were elected on a national basis. The Senate from 1916-1935 had exclusive confirmation rights over executive appointments. As part of the compromises that restored the Senate in 1941, the power of confirming executive appointments has been exercised by a join Commission on Appointments composed of members of both houses. However, the Senate since its restoration and the independence of the Philippines in 1946 has the power to ratify treaties.

In the senate, the officers are the Senate President, Senate President "pro tempore", Majority Floor Leader, Minority Floor Leader and the Senate Secretary.


Article VI, Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that the Senate shall be composed of 24 senators who shall be elected at-large by the qualified voters of the Philippines, as may be provided by law.

The composition of the Senate is smaller in number as compared to the House of Representatives. The members of this chamber are elected at large by the entire electorate. The rationale for this rule intends to make the Senate a training ground for national leaders and possibly a springboard for the presidency.

It follows also that the Senator, having a national rather than only a district constituency, will have a broader outlook of the problems of the country, instead of being restricted by narrow viewpoints and interests. With such perspective, the Senate is likely to be more circumspect, or at least less impulsive, than the House of Representatives.

Senatorial candidates are chosen by the leaders of major political parties or coalitions of parties. The selection process is not transparent and is done in "backrooms" where much political horse-trading occurs. Thus, the absence of regional or proportional representation in the Senate exacerbates a top heavy system of governance, with power centralized in Metro Manila. It has often been suggested that each region of the country should elect its own senator(s) to more properly represent the people. This will have the effect of flattening the power structure. Regional problems and concerns within a national view can be addressed more effectively. A senator's performance, accountability, and electability become meaningful to a more defined and identifiable regional constituency.


The qualifications for membership in the Senate are expressly stated in Section 3, Art. VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as follows:

*No person shall be a Senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, and on the day of the election, is at least 35 years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.

*The age is fixed at 35 and must be possessed on the day of the elections, that is, when the polls are opened and the votes cast, and not on the day of the proclamation of the winners by the board of canvassers.

*With regard to the residence requirement, it was ruled in the case of "Lim v. Pelaez" that it must be the place where one habitually resides and to which he, after absence, has the intention of returning.

*The enumeration laid down by the 1987 Philippine Constitution is exclusive under the Latin principle of "expressio unius est exclusio alterius". This means that Congress cannot anymore add additional qualifications other than those provided by the 1987 Philippine Constitution.


Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “Congress shall convene once every year on the fourth Monday of July for its regular session...”. During this time, the Senate is organized to elect its officers. Specifically, the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides a definite statement, to wit:

The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives its Speaker by a majority vote of all its respective members.

Each House shall choose such other officers as it may deem necessary.

(3) Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings ...

By virtue of these provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Senate adopts its own rules, otherwise known as the “Rules of the Senate.” The Rules of the Senate provide the following officers: a President, a President "pro tempore", a Secretary and a Sergeant-at-Arms.

Following this set of officers, the Senate as an institution can then be grouped into the Senate Proper and the Secretariat. The former belongs exclusively to the members of the Senate as well as its committees, while the latter renders support services to the members of the Senate.


At the core of Congress’ lawmaking, investigative and oversight functions lies the committee system. This is so because much of the business of Congress, it has been well said, is done in the committee. Specific problems, whether local or national in scope, are initially brought to the forum of congressional committees where they are subjected to rigid and thorough discussions.

Congressional hearings and investigations on matters dealing with every field of legislative concern have frequently been conducted by congressional committees.

To a large extent, therefore, the committee system plays a very significant role in the legislative process. Congressional responses and actions vis-a-vis growing national problems and concerns have considerably relied upon the efficiency and effectiveness of the committee structure, system and expertise. As pointed out by Woodrow Wilson regarding the important roles played by different committees of Congress:

::"The House sits, not for serious discussion, but to sanction the conclusions of the Committees as rapidly as possible. It legislates in its committee rooms; not by the deliberation of majorities, but by the resolutions of specially-commissioned minorities; so that it is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, while Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work."

On the other hand, the merits of Nelson W. Polsby’s view with regard to the importance of the committee system can be well considered:

::"Any proposal that weakens the capabilities of congressional committees weakens Congress. Congressional committees are the listening posts of Congress. They accumulate knowledge about the performance of governmental agencies and about the effects of governmental programs and performance on private citizens. They provide incentives to members of Congress to involve themselves in the detailed understanding of governmental functioning. They provide a basis - virtually the only well institutionalized basis in the House of Representatives - for understanding and for influencing public policy."

::"The present committee system in the Senate has by far been the product of strong years of Philippine legislative experience. It draws its strength from the inherent functions it is mandated to perform, i.e., to assist the Congress in coming up with well studied legislative policy enactments. Yet the complexity of problems that our country is currently facing and the growing needs and demands of our people for a more assertive role on the part of Congress cannot but require us to assess the effectiveness as well as the responsiveness of the congressional committee structure and system. In order to survive and meet the challenges, Congress must adjust to external demands and cope with internal stresses. It must be pointed out that social, economic, and political developments generate demands that the legislature pass legislation or take other action to meet constitutional and public expectations concerning the general welfare. The continuing rise of unemployment, poverty, economic depression, scandals, crises and calamities of various kinds, energy problem and accelerating technological innovations, all intensify pressures upon Congress. Political or governmental shifts, aggressive presidential leadership, partisan realignments, and momentous and controversial Supreme Court rulings, among other things, also drive the congressional workload."

However, the effects of external demands create interpersonal stresses within Congress, and in the Senate in particular. For instance, a ballooning workload (external demand) of some committees has caused personal or committee scrambles for jurisdiction (internal stress). Other tensions that may be considered range from the growth in the member-ship of various committees, jurisdictional disputes among several committees, shifts in its personnel, factional disputes and members’ shifting attitudes or norms. Such conflicts surface in recurrent debates over pay, requisites, committee jurisdictions, rules scheduling, and budgetary procedures which necessitate the call for an assessment of the present structure of the Senate Committee System.

Famous Senators

:"See List of Senators of the Philippines".President:
*Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (1992-1998), 14th Philippine president
*Joseph Estrada, 13th Philippine president
*Ferdinand Marcos, 10th Philippine president
*Carlos P. Garcia, 8th Philippine president
*Elpidio Quirino, 6th Philippine president
*Manuel Roxas, 5th Philippine president
*Sergio Osmena, 4th Philippine president
*Jose P. Laurel, 3rd Philippine president
*Manuel L. Quezon, 2nd Philippine president and the first Senate President and who lobbied for a nationally-elected senate established in 1940.

*Benigno Aquino, Jr., Marcos opposition leader and husband of the 11th Philippine President, Corazon Aquino.
*Jose W. Diokno, human rights advocate, nationalist, former Secretary of Justice, and founder of the Free Legal Assistance Group, the Philippines' oldest largest organization of human rights lawyers.
*Benigno Aquino III, son of former Senator and national hero Benigno Aquino, Jr. and former Philippine President Corazon Aquino.
*Raul Manglapus, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and former presidential candidate
*Blas Ople, former Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs
*Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., activist and current Senator
*Cipriano P. Primicias, Sr., statesman, Majority Floor Leader and Member of The Council of State, 1953-1963
*Gil J. Puyat, statesman, Senate President 1967-1972.
*Jovito Salonga, Three-time top elected senator, Marcos opposition leader, former PCGG Chairman.
*Lorenzo Tañada, statesman
*Vicente Sotto, author of The "Sotto Law" (RA 53),the "Press Freedom Law. The acknowledged "Father " of Cebuano journalism,literature and language,Sotto was one of the leading Filipino intellectuals of the early twentieth century.
*Arturo Tolentino, former Philippine vice-president
*Manuel Villar, former House Speaker and current Senate President
*Claro M. Recto, former senator and statesman
*Miriam Defensor Santiago, former presidential candidate and current Senator.
*Antonio Trillanes IV, former Lieutenant Senior Grade of the Philippine Navy who is currently serving jail time in connection with the Oakwood mutiny of 2003.
*Francis Escudero, former Sorsogon Congressman and son of the former Department of Agriculture Secretary and now Rep. Salvador Escudero III.
*Fermin Torralba, prominent Visayan senator & current Senate Secretariat during the Early Philippine Republic.
*Juan Ponce Enrile, former Minister of National Defense under Marcos and is the current oldest sitting senator.
*Luisa Estrada, the first First Lady to win a seat in the Senate, also a wife of a former Senator and President Joseph Estrada.
*Juan Miguel Zubiri, three-term congressman from Bukidnon (elected under questionable circumstances)

ee also

*List of Senators of the Philippines
*Politics of the Philippines
*Floor leaders of the Senate of the Philippines
*President of the Senate of the Philippines
*President pro tempore of the Senate of the Philippines
*Majority leader of the Senate of the Philippines
*Minority leader of the Senate of the Philippines
*Deputy Speakers of the Philippine House of Representatives
*Senatorial districts of the Philippines

External links

* [ Official Website of the Philippine Senate]
* [ Official Philippine Government Portal]

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