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THE SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES

I - COMPOSITION

 

24 elected senators.

 

II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM

 

Electoral method : Majority voting with one uninominal national constituency (24 seats).

 

Term of office : six years, renewed by half every three years.

 

No senator may sit for more than two consecutive terms.

 

Last elections : 30 June 2013.

 

Conditions required to stand for election : At least 35 years old, Filipino nationality at birth, resident in the country for at least two years preceding the elections.

 

Ineligibility : Corruption of electors or those in charge of elections, acts of terrorism, exceeding the ceiling set for spending on election campaigns, illegal financial transactions.

 

Incompatibilities : Holders of another office within the government or a department of a governmental organisation, legal advisors that are parties to government contracts.

 

Conditions to stand for office : Stand under a party label or as an independent candidate, submission at least 90 days before the vote to the Electoral Commission.

 

Disputed elections :

 

Disputes arising from senatorial elections fall under the competence of an electoral court which is the sole judge of all disputes related to elections, ballots and senators' competence. The electoral court consists of nine members, three of whom are Supreme Court judges designated by the President of the Supreme Court, and the six others are members of the Senate chosen by proportional representation of the political groups (a similar institution exists for the Chamber of Representatives).

 

III - SESSIONS SYSTEM

 

A - ORDINARY SESSION

 

Parliament is convened for an ordinary session once a year the fourth Monday in July unless a law sets a different date, and continues to sit as long as sessions are planned until 30 days before the next ordinary session opens, except on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

 

B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS

 

The President can convene Parliament for an extraordinary session at any time.

 

IV - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

 

A - LEGISLATIVE POWER

 

1) Legislative initiative  

 

Legislative power is devolved to the Congress of the Philippines, which consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives, except for extensions reserved for the people in terms of initiatives and referenda.

 

Bills submitted by senators can involve any subject that falls under the domain of the law.

 

Legislative proposals have different origins, but most of the time senators develop ideas for legislation themselves.

 

2) Right to amendment

 

Yes.

 

3) Legislative procedure

 

a) Examination procedure

 

Bills are sent to the committee concerned for a first reading (there are 34 committees).

 

If necessary, special committees can be created.

 

The committee proceeds with hearings and consultations. It approves the bill without amendments or proposes modifications. The report of the committee is submitted to the Committee of the Rules which verifies if the procedures have been respected and puts the text on the agenda for a second reading.

 

The author presents their bill. The senators engage in an open debate. Amendments are then submitted by the committee or the senators. There is a vote on the second reading. If the bill is accepted, it is registered for a third reading.

 

If it is adopted after a roll call vote, it is sent to the Chamber of Representatives for discussion.

 

The Chamber of Representatives follows the same procedure with three readings.

 

If the draft is adopted in the same terms as the Senate, the final version is published.

 

If the House of Representatives adopts the tex t with some modifications, a joint committee is convened to discuss the problematic provisions. The committee submits a report containing a joint version, approved by both chambers. No amendment is admissible. The joint committee should fail, the draft bill is abandoned. It can be tabled once again before the two chambers sitting in Congress. If the joint committee modifies substantially the tex t, the assemblies referred to may decide to send it back to the joint committee or to abandon it.

 

b) Promulgation of the law and President's right to veto

 

The President of the Philippines signs the law or vetoes it and sends the law back to the Senate with a message explaining the reason for the veto.

 

If the law originated in the Senate, it re-examines the article(s) subject to the veto. If the article(s) is(are) adopted by a two-thirds majority of all senators the draft is sent back to the Chamber of Representatives which examines it in the same way.

 

The President has 30 days to sign the promulgation. After this deadline, the bill automatically becomes law.

 

The approved copy of the numbered act of the Republic is sent back to the Senate.

 

c) Budgetary Control

 

The Senate examines and deliberates the budget allocation laws that emanate exclusively from the Chamber of Representatives. In compliance with the this, the Senate's Budgetary Committee organises public hearings on the allocations and proposes amendments or approves the bill presented.

 

d) Powers of taxation

 

The power of taxation lies with the legislative branch. It is however restricted by constitutional measures that stipulate that "taxation shall be uniform and fair", and that the "Congress shall develop a system of progressive taxation".

 

B - CONTROLLING POWER

 

1) Investigative power

 

The 1987 Constitution invests the Senate with the power to conduct investigations in favour of legislation in agreement with the duly published procedural rules. The Senate or one of its committees conducts the proceedings on charges of illegal or abnormal activities. It can recommend that the courts take action or can charge the Ombudsman with the power to investigate.

 

2) Powers of surveillance

 

The Congress has the power to monitor the activities, programmes, policies and actions of the Executive branch in order to determine whether the letter of the law is being respected.

 

3) Approval of treaties

 

The Constitution stipulates that "No international treaty or agreement shall be valid without the agreement of two-thirds of the members of the Senate".

 

V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS

 

A - REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION

 

All amendments or revisions to the Constitution can be proposed by :

 

- Congress by a vote by three quarters of its members ;

 

- by constitutional convention.

 

Congress can, by a two-thirds vote of all its members, call a constitutional convention, or, by a majority vote of all its members, submit the question of whether to create the convention to the electorate.

 

B - PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE

 

The President of the Senate is elected for three years.

 

The position is the State's third highest.

 

The President of the Senate is acting President in the absence of the President and Vice President.

 

The President of the Senate jointly holds the presidency of the sessions of Congress with the President of the Chamber.

 

C - The Senate determines its own regulations.

 

The Senate can suspend or expel senators by a two-thirds majority vote. Suspension cannot last longer than 60 days.

 

D - NOMINATIONS

 

In some circumstances, the President's powers of nomination require approval from the Congress and the Nominations Committee, which consists of the President of the Senate, the President of the Commission, 12 senators and 12 members of the Chamber of Representatives.

 

E - JOINT POWERS

 

The Senate is invested with the following functions in conjunction with the Chamber of Representatives :

 

- verification of Presidential elections ;

 

- declaration of the existence of a state of war ;

 

- agreement on amnesties ;

 

- impeachment.