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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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