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How the Philippine Government Is Organized

The Philippines is a republic with a presidential form of government wherein power is equally divided among its three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.

One basic corollary in a presidential system of government is the principle of separation of powers wherein legislation belongs to Congress, execution to the Executive, and settlement of legal controversies to the Judiciary.

  • The Legislative branch is authorized to make laws, alter, and repeal them through the power vested in the Philippine Congress. This institution is divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives.

  • The Executive branch carries out laws. It is composed of the President and the Vice President who are elected by direct popular vote and serve a term of six years. The Constitution grants the President authority to appoint his Cabinet. These departments form a large portion of the country’s bureaucracy.

  • The Judicial branch evaluates laws. It holds the power to settle controversies involving rights that are legally demandable and enforceable. This branch determines whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part and instrumentality of the government. It is made up of a Supreme Court and lower courts.

Each branch of government can change acts of the other branches as follows:

  • The President can veto laws passed by Congress.

  • Congress confirms or rejects the President's appointments and can remove the President from office in exceptional circumstances.

  • The Justices of the Supreme Court, who can overturn unconstitutional laws, are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

The Philippine government seeks to act in the best interests of its citizens through this system of checks and balances.

The Constitution expressly grants the Supreme Court the power of Judicial Review as the power to declare a treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance or regulation unconstitutional. 

Legislative Department

The Legislative Branch enacts legislation, confirms or rejects Presidential appointments, and has the authority to declare war. This branch includes Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) and several agencies that provide support services to Congress.

  • Senate –  The Senate shall be composed of twenty-four Senators who shall be elected at large by the qualified voters of the Philippines, as may be provided by law.

  • House of Representatives – The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.

The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per cent of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.

Executive Department

The executive branch carries out and enforces laws. It includes the President, Vice President, the Cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.

Key roles of the executive branch include:

  • President – The President leads the country. He/she is the head of state, leader of the national government, and Commander in Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines. The President serves a six-year term and cannot be re-elected.

  • Vice President – The Vice President supports the President. If the President is unable to serve, the Vice President becomes President. He/she serves a six-year term.

  • The Cabinet – Cabinet members serve as advisors to the President. They include the Vice President and the heads of executive departments. Cabinet members are nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Commission of Appointments.

Judicial Department

The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution. The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law.

Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government. The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution.