|Type Upper house of the Congress of the Philippines|
Term limits 2 consecutive terms (12 years)
Founded October 16, 1916 (1916-10-16)
Preceded by Second Philippine Commission
President of the Senate of the Philippines Aquilino Pimentel III (PDP-Laban) Since July 25, 2016
President pro tempore Ralph Recto (Liberal) Since February 27, 2017
The Senate of the Philippines (Filipino: Senado ng Pilipinas, also Mataas na Kapulungan ng Pilipinas or "upper chamber") is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the Philippines, the Congress; the House of Representatives is the lower house. The Senate is composed of 24 senators who are elected at-large with the country as one district under plurality-at-large voting.
Senators serve 6-year tenure per terms with a maximum of 2 consecutive terms, with half of the senators elected every three years to ensure that the Senate is maintained as a continuous body, though staggered. When the Senate was restored by the 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. Thereafter, each senator elected serves the full 6 years.
Aside from having its concurrence on every bill in order to be passed for the president's signature to become a law, the Senate is the only body that can concur with treaties, and can try impeachment cases. The Senate Presidency is currently held by Aquilino Pimentel III.
The Senate has its roots in the Philippine Commission of the Insular Government. Under the Philippine Organic Act, from 1907 to 1916, the Philippine Commission headed by the Governor-General of the Philippines served as the upper chamber of the Philippine Legislature, with the Philippine Assembly as the elected lower house. At the same time the governor-general also exercised executive powers.
On August 29, 1916 the United States Congress enacted the Philippine Autonomy Act or popularly known as the "Jones Law", which created of an elected bicameral Philippine Legislature with the Senate served as the upper chamber and while the House of Representatives, the renamed Philippine Assembly, as the lower chamber. The Governor-General stayed on as head of the executive branch of the Insular Government.
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). Senators then were elected via senatorial districts via plurality-at-large voting; each district grouped several provinces and each elected two senators except for "non-Christian" provinces where the Governor-General of the Philippines appointed the senators for the district.
This setup continued until 1935, when the Philippine Independence Act or the "Tydings–McDuffie Act" was passed 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 biennial elections for the restored upper house was held in November 1941. Instead of the old senatorial districts, senators were elected via the entire country serving as an at-large district, although still under plurality-at-large voting, with voters voting up to eight candidates, and the eight candidates with the highest number of votes being elected. While the Senate from 1916 to 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 joint 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 Senate finally convened in 1945 and served as the upper chamber of Congress from thereon until the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, which shut down Congress. The Senate was resurrected in 1987 upon the ratification of the 1987 Constitution. However, instead of eight senators being replaced after every election, it was changed to twelve.
In the Senate, the officers are the Senate President, Senate President pro tempore, Majority Floor Leader, Minority Floor Leader and the Senate Secretary and the Senate Sergeant at Arms who shall be elected by the Senators from among the employees and staff of the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate President, Senate President pro-tempore, the Majority Floor Leader and the Minority Floor Leader shall be elected by the Senators from among themselves.
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 Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) composed of three Supreme Court justices and six senators determines election protests on already-seated senators. There had been three instances where the SET has replaced senators due to election protests, the last of which was in 2011 when the tribunal awarded the protest of Aquilino Pimentel III against Juan Miguel Zubiri.
The qualifications for membership in the Senate are expressly stated in Section 3, Art. VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as follows:
Under the 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 it:
The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives its Speaker by a vote of all its respective members.
Each House shall choose such other officers as it may deem necessary.
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.
The Senate was modeled upon the United States Senate; the two chambers of Congress have roughly equal powers, and every bill or resolution that has to go through both houses needs the consent of both chambers before being passed for the president's signature. Once a bill is defeated in the Senate, it is lost. Once a bill is approved by the Senate on third reading, the bill is passed to the House of Representatives, unless an identical bill has also been passed by the lower house. When a counterpart bill in the lower house is different from the one passed by the Senate, either a bicameral conference committee is created consisting of members from both chambers of Congress to reconcile the differences, or either chamber may instead approve the other chamber's version.
While money bills originate in the House of Representatives, the Senate may still propose or concur with amendments. Only the Senate has the power to approve, via a two-thirds supermajority, or denounce treaties, and the power to try and convict, via a two-thirds supermajority, an impeached official.
The Senate currently meets at the GSIS Building in the Financial Center Area of Bay City in Pasay. Built on land reclaimed from Manila Bay, the Senate shares the complex with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
The Senate previously met at the Old Legislative Building in Manila until May 1997. The Senate occupied the upper floors (the Session Hall now restored to its semi-former glory) while the House of Representatives occupied the lower floors (now occupied by the permanent exhibit of Juan Luna's Spoliarium as the museum's centerpiece), with the National Library at the basement. When the Legislative Building was ruined in World War II, the House of Representatives temporarily met at the Old Japanese Schoolhouse at Lepanto (modern-day S. H. Loyola) Street, while the Senate's temporary headquarters was at the half-ruined Manila City Hall. Congress then returned to the Legislative Building in 1950 upon its reconstruction. When President Ferdinand Marcos dissolved Congress in 1972, he built a new legislative complex in Quezon City. The unicameral parliament known as the Batasang Pambansa eventually met there in 1978. With the restoration of the bicameral legislature in 1987, the House of Representatives inherited the complex at Quezon City, now called the Batasang Pambansa Complex, while the Senate returned to the Congress Building, until the GSIS Building was finished in May 1997. Thus, the country's two houses of Congress meet at different places in Metro Manila.
The Senate would eventually move to Bonifacio Global City in Taguig by 2020. As the Senate is renting GSIS for the office space, it asked the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to present suitable sites for it to move to, with the Senate eyeing the Navy Village property along Lawton Avenue as its favored site.