BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PHILIPPINE CONGRESS
EVOLUTION OF THE PHILIPPINE LEGISLATIVE SYSTEM 1
The Philippine legislative system has undergone a series of evolutions that reflected the sociopolitical conditions of the times and the level of political maturity of society.
It began with the unicameral Malolos Congress of the short-lived Philippine Republic of 1898-1899, followed by the Philippine Commission of 1901, a colonial legislative system composed of all-American appointees. This body then evolved into a bicameral, predominantly elective, Filipino-controlled legislature by virtue of the Jones Act of 1916, and lasted until November 1935 when the semi-independent Commonwealth Government was inaugurated. A unicameral National Assembly replaced the bicameral body after the 1935 Philippine Constitution was ratified. In 1941, the Constitution was amended, again restoring the bicameral legislature that came to be called the Congress of the Philippines.
Except during the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Republic from 1942-1945, the Congress functioned as the national legislature until September 1972 when President Ferdinand E. Marcos placed the country under martial law.
THE BATASANG PAMBANSA - A UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE 2
When martial law was declared, the Constitutional Convention, by virtue of an Act of Congress in 1971, was in the process of drafting a new Constitution. The final draft was adopted by the Convention on November 29, 1972. This was ratified and proclaimed by President Marcos on January 17, 1973 amidst widespread protest and controversy. With the proclamation of a new Constitution, the presidential form of government was changed to a modified parliamentary form. Congress was abolished and was replaced by an elected unicameral National Assembly, known as Batasang Pambansa.
The Batasang Pambansa was made up of a maximum of 200 Members elected from different provinces with their component cities, highly urbanized cities and districts of Metropolitan Manila, appointed representatives from various sectors such as the youth, agricultural and industrial labor sectors, and those chosen by the President from the members of the Cabinet. The Members had a term of six years.
THE PRESENT PHILIPPINE CONGRESS
THE FEBRUARY 1986 REVOLUTION PEOPLE POWER REVOLUTION 3
1986 EDSA RevolutionThe world-famed bloodless coup of February 22-25, 1986 ushered in a new political regime. President Corazon Aquino, backed by a coalition of forces from both ends of the political spectrum, forged a new government, triggering a chain of events that dramatically changed the political landscape of the country and signalled the rebirth of democracy. These political changes were: the abolition of the Batasang Pambansa following the proclamation of a new revolutionary government; the organization of a Constitutional Commission that drafted a new charter which, in turn, was ratified in February 1987; the rebirth of the old bicameral system; and the election of Members to the new Congress.
THE NEW CONGRESS 4
The new Congress has the biggest membership and is probably the most powerful among its predecessor legislatures. The Constitutional Commission (ConCom) clothed it with vast powers to perform a wider and more dynamic role. This fact is partly reflected in the Charter itself, which devotes 32 sections to the legislative department compared with only 23 for the executive and 16 for the judicial departments.
The new bicameral Congress consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The upper chamber or the Senate is composed of 24 Members elected at-large by the qualified voters of the Philippines. On the other hand, the lower chamber or the House of Representatives is composed of
"not more than 250 Members, who are elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio and those, as provided by law, elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations". [Sec. 5(1), Art. VI, 1987 Philippine Constitution]
- 1 Velasco, R. and Sylvano, M., The Philippine Legislative Reader, (1989), p. 41.
- 2 Ibid, pp. 43-44.
- 3 Abletez, J., Foundations of Freedom (A History of Philippine Congresses), 1989, pp. 82-85.
- 4 Ibid.