15th Philippine Senate – Same O Same O?

I admit we have all been tied up with the Presidential elections and have neglected to look at what’s looming in the Senatorial races. Will the next Philippine Senate be composed of the same suspects – movie celebrities, tradpols, and dynasts? You know what happens when you have that mixture right? You have endless investigations in aid of legislation, all the fanfare, – and NO LEGISLATION.

What exactly is this political animal called “The Philippine Senate”?

A concise summary is provided by the Philippine E-legal Forum:

The legislative branch, which has the authority to make, alter or repeal laws (see also the definition of “legislative power“), is the Congress. “Congress is vested with the tremendous power of the purse, traditionally recognized in the constitutional provision that ‘no money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.’ It comprehends both the power to generate money by taxation (the power to tax) and the power to spend it (the power to appropriate). The power to appropriate carries with it the power to specify the amount that may be spent and the purpose for which it may be spent.

Under a bicameral system, the Congress is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Senate is composed of twenty-four (24) Senators, who are elected at large by the qualified voters of the Philippines. The term of office of the Senators is six (6) years.

The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is composed of not more than two hundred and fifty (250) members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who are elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities and the Metropolitan Manila area, and those who are elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations. The term of office of members of the House of Representatives, also called “Congressmen,” is three (3) years.

It seems to be public knowledge that the Senate is where you go to bury legislation – as a body, it is the ultimate practitioner of the Filipino practice of “fiscalization”. Beyond the pathetic excuse for public service called “fiscalization”, what else is the Philippine Senate supposed to do? The 1987 Constitution provides the following roles:

Article XI-Legislative Department:

Section 21. The Senate or the House of Representatives or any of its respective committees may conduct inquiries in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure. The rights of persons appearing in, or affected by, such inquiries shall be respected.

Section 23. (1) The Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war.

Section 25. (1) The Congress may not increase the appropriations recommended by the President for the operation of the Government as specified in the budget. The form, content, and manner of preparation of the budget shall be prescribed by law..

Section 27. (1) Every bill passed by the Congress shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President. If he approves the same he shall sign it; otherwise, he shall veto it and return the same with his objections to the House where it originated, which shall enter the objections at large in its Journal and proceed to reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of all the Members of such House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of all the Members of that House, it shall become a law.

Section 28. (1) The rule of taxation shall be uniform and equitable. The Congress shall evolve a progressive system of taxation.

Section 28. (4) No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.

(2) In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof.

Section 24. All appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of the public debt, bills of local application, and private bills, shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments.

The constitutional provisions are quite clear on the power of the purse exercised by the House and Senate. In layman’s terms the power of the purse is

the ability of one group to manipulate and control the actions of another group by withholding funding, or putting stipulations on the use of funds. The power of the purse can be used to save their money and positively (e.g. awarding extra funding to programs that reach certain benchmarks) or negatively (e.g. removing funding for a department or program, effectively eliminating it). The power of the purse is most often utilized by forces within a government that do not have direct executive power but have control over budgets and taxation.

Article VII – The Executive Department contains the sections where Congress exercises the power of the purse on the President

Section 22. The President shall submit to the Congress, within thirty days from the opening of every regular session as the basis of the general appropriations bill, a budget of expenditures and sources of financing, including receipts from existing and proposed revenue measures.

Section 21 of Article 7, also mandates that

Section 21. No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.

Bicameralism and the Philippine Senate

As a bicameral body, the Philippine Senate is the product of a long tradition, which according to Wikipedia dates back to

Ancient Sumer, and later ancient Greece, ancient India, and Rome, recognizable bicameral institutions first arose in medieval Europe where they were associated with separate representation of different estates of the realm. For example, one house would represent the aristocracy, and the other would represent the commoners. The Founding Fathers of the United States also favored a bicameral legislature. The idea was to have the Senate be wealthier, and (apparently) wiser. The Senate was created to be a stabilizing force, elected not by mass electors, but selected by the State legislators. Senators would be more knowledgeable and more deliberate—a sort of republican nobility—and a counter to what Madison saw as the `fickleness and passion’ that could absorb the House. He noted further, “The use of the Senate is to consist in its proceeding with more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” Madison’s argument led the Framers to grant the Senate prerogatives in foreign policy, an area where steadiness, discretion, and caution were deemed especially important”.[1] The Senate was chosen by state legislators, and had to possess a significant amount of property in order to be deemed worthy and sensible enough for the position. In fact, it was not until the year 1913 that the 17th Amendment was passed, which “mandated that Senators would be elected by popular vote rather than chosen by the State legislatures”.[2]

In government, bicameralism (bi + Latin camera, chamber) is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses. Bicameralism is an essential and defining feature of the classical notion of mixed government. Bicameral legislatures tend to require a concurrent majority to pass legislation.

Many bicameral systems are not connected with either federalism or an aristocracy, however. Japan, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Ireland and Romania are examples of bicameral systems existing in unitary states. In countries such as these, the upper house generally exists solely for the purpose of scrutinising and possibly vetoing the decisions of the lower house.

In a few countries, bicameralism involves the juxtaposition of democratic and aristocratic elements.

The best known example is the British House of Lords, which includes a number of hereditary peers. The House of Lords represents a vestige of the aristocratic system which once predominated in British politics, while the other house, the House of Commons, is entirely elected.  (BongV: Oftentimes, the Philippine Senate looks like the chamber of oligarchs with a nationwide base, and the Philippine House of Representatives is a chamber of local oligarchs.)

The Senate Race – SWS Survey of January 2010

I read the results of the SWS Survey on the Senatoriables in Business World.

AN ADMINISTRATION ally and two opposition bets are currently the voters’ top picks among an extensive list of aspirants vying for Senate seats in the upcoming May 10 elections.

A Jan. 21-24 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey done for BusinessWorld, the results of which were released before the offical campaign period starts next week, put re-electionist Ramon B. Revilla Jr. of the administration party Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) on top with the support of 58% of the respondents.

senator tally

Following close behind were Pilar Juliana “Pia” S. Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). Both got a 57% rating.

People’s Reform Party bet Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who came first in the previous BW-SWS Pre-election Survey last Dec. 5-10, slipped to third with five-point drop to 50%.

senator tally

Comprising the lineup of those likely to win Senate seats, the SWS said, are:
• former Senate president Franklin M. Drilon (Liberal Party or LP), 47%;
• Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile ( PMP), 42%;
• former senator Vicente “Tito” C. Sotto III (Nationalist People’s Coalition), 41%
• former senator Ralph G. Recto (LP), 40%;
• Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan), 39%;
• former senator Sergio “Serge” D. Osmena III (independent), 38%;
• Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto “TG” L. Guingona III (LP), 31%;
• businessman Jose P. De Venecia III, son of former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia, Jr. (PMP), 30%;
• and Senator Manuel “Lito” M. Lapid (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), 28%.
With statistical chances of making it were Gwendolyn C. Pimentel-Gana (Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan), the daughter of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. who scored 23%.

after reading through the results of the survey – I had this gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach – that somehow, it will be more of the same.

Click on the image to open the full-size table.

It’s like we get tired of old bozos, we tell them to chill, we put in recycled bozos – thinking they will do new stuff. Old or new – still a bozo, what the eff are Pinoys thinking?

You can already see it – grandstanding, “fiscalization”, “investigation”, pork barrel spending, and NO SIGNIFICANT LEGISLATION – and if there were it’s one that reinforces the pinoy dysfunction – it will be business as usual – damnation for the Filipino nation – and you know what, we, the voters claim absolution about how our expectations are being let down. And we take offense when we are told that when it comes to politics and governance Filipinos behave like idiots?

Of the 12 vacant spots – 6 are practically locked in by the incumbent. Only the remaining 6 are up for grabs. And the ones who are most likely to get it  are the people we replaced once upon a time for nonperformance. And now we are putting them back in and expect that by some miracle these candidates have morphed into peak performers. I dunno, I have a bad feeling about this.

Government of idiots, by idiots, for idiots  – Pinoys get the government they deserve.



  1. Uncle Pinoy · ·

    Great and informative piece, BongV, as always.

    And if I may add, the Senate is apparently hereditary property. Consider:

    Agapito Aquino 1987–1995
    Benigno Aquino, Sr. 1928–1934
    Benigno Aquino, Jr. 1967–1972
    Benigno Aquino III 2007-Present

    Jose Maria P. Arroyo 1919–1928
    Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 1992–1998

    Alan Peter Cayetano 2007–Present
    Pia Cayetano 2004–Present
    Renato L. Cayetano 1998–2003

    Jinggoy Estrada 2004–Present
    Joseph Estrada 1987–1992
    Loi Estrada 2001–2007

    Teofisto Guingona 1920–1925
    Teofisto Guingona, Jr. 1987–1993, 1998–2001

    Jamby Madrigal 2004–Present
    Pacita Madrigal-Gonzales 1955-1961
    Vicente Madrigal 1941-1952

    Claro M. Recto 1931-1935, 1941-1946, 1949-1960
    Ralph Recto 2001-2007

    Ramon Revilla 1992-2004
    Ramon Revilla, Jr. 2004–Present

    Gerardo Roxas 1963-1972
    Mar Roxas 2004–Present

    Vicente Sotto 1946-1950
    Tito Sotto 1992–2004

    Lorenzo Tañada 1947–1971
    Wigberto E. Tañada 1987–1995

  2. Oo nga,

    Btw, the voting at large provision is a change from the original format of two senators from each of the 12 regions (1920s).

  3. Uncle Pinoy · ·

    I’m for the abolition of the Senate. We do not have real political subdivisions (states) to justify the Senate (unlike in the US), nor are our Senators endowed with superior intellect and wisdom to temper a “fickle” lower house. But of all the arguments for unicameralism, the most compelling for me is the savings of Php 5 Billion-plus on senatorial pork barrels and cost of running their staff (and stature). The savings from having a smaller government can be translated to tax cuts for businesses, which in turn create jobs.

    (How’s the weather in Florida? I’ll in Miami on Wednesday and looking forward to a warmer climate.)

  4. Hey Uncle,

    Weather is a-okay. It was in the low 60s this morning and it got to 72 around noon. Absolutely gorgeous. Oh Miami – the de facto capital of South America 🙂 You headed for South Beach?

    Or, we can go back to the previous 2 senators per region voted within the region only. Budgets will be slashed since the constituencies are more limited in size.

  5. Critics of the Senate will bring up the blockage of the envelope during the 2001 trial of Erap. In fact, the word “fiscalize” seems to be the same as “blocking” to me. Probably the Senate more for blocking than passing purposes. Not good.

    If not abolish the Senate (and thus go parliamentary), at least remove the popular vote for them. The two senators per region sounds like a better deal; it may help each region in the Philippines get more representation, instead the government becoming centralized. De-centralization of the government can help improve things, I was told. It’s time the highest offices of the land be removed from the votes of the people, who don’t even know how to use their voting powers properly.

  6. I’m also for Parliamentary.. For one thing, it’ll keep the majority of idiots from voting. Yun nga lang, we’ll have to keep score on who will make-up our Parliamentary system, and how they perform their duties.

  7. Uncle Pinoy · ·

    Disregard my post, below, BongV. I posted on the wrong box.

    Sweet! The Pinoy in me can’t get enough of the sun. I’ll be in Miami Beach for work (near the botanical garden) until Friday so I won’t be able to enjoy it much. But I will cross the I-195 for some Puetro Rican pollo frito!

    Yeah, a 2-senator-per-region-senate might save us some money, but I’m more for a drastic cut in our budget. Also, I’m thinking that making senate seats regional does not remedy the problem of idiocy and non-performance in the senate. To my mind, if the Filipinos traditionally vote idiots into government anyway, the solution to your thesis above maybe to limit the size (and power) of government.

    If you find yourself in the Bay Area, let me know and we’ll get some San Mig lights and ponder some more about the state of our nation.

  8. Until Friday only? And when do you fly out? You oughtta spend at least Saturday evening in Miami, fly out Sunday. Lotsa nice spots in Lincoln road, have Cuban espresso,

    I was actually planning to drive down to Miami this weekend and just chill with my homeys in Ft Lauderdale, until something came up for Sat evening and we opted to head for Margaritaville in Universal Orlando’s City Walk.

    Kung nagkataon, one of the homeyz is in charge of a yacht – and is allowed to accept guests when the boss is not around – dang. San Mig light and some guests from Miami Beach – como esta señorita; dispensame por yo hablo un poquito español 😉


    Unicameralism also makes sense considering the frequent political gridlocks in the PI

  9. Uncle Pinoy · ·

    Yeah, dude, bummer on my 3-day trip. I fly out with my boss Friday aftenoon. But if I do get some time off (from work and my girlfriend) I’ll let you know if I can fly in and hang out with you and Migz (y las bonitas senoritas, yeah!).

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