The Government of the Philippines, also called Pamahalaan ng Pilipinas in their Filipino national language, was officially formed in 1898. (The official name of the country is “Philippines,” although most people commonly refer to it as “The Philippines.”) The country of 110 million citizens that spans 7,600 islands in Southeast Asia is governed by a presidential head of state, and then a pluriform multi-party system of democratic and constitutional republic representatives.
Under this system, the government has three separate branches that are independent of each other: the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. The roles, responsibilities, and power of each of these three branches are ensured by the Constitution of the Philippines, a document with obvious U.S. constitutional influences.
In fact, legislative power is vested in their Congress of the Philippines, which consists of two chambers. The House of Representatives convenes in the lower chamber, while the Senate is in the upper chamber of Congress. When Congress convenes, the House of Representatives – or Lower Chamber- meets at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City (part of Manila), while the Senate – Upper Chamber – meets at the GSIS Building in Pasay City, also part of Metro Manila.
The democratically elected President assumes executive power as a singular head of state, and the Supreme Court of the Philippines holds judicial power over lower courts and the court system. He or she (the Philippines had several female Presidents) base their operations in the Malacañang Palace in San Miguel, Manila. Unlike in the U.S. where the military is completely autonomous and independent from the other branches of government, the President of the Philippines also serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a consolidation of power that’s led to dictatorship-like governance in the past.
There are some similarities and differences between term limits in the Philippines and those in the United States.
Presidential elections take place every six years, which is the term of each newly elected president.
Representatives serve a three-year term and can be re-elected three more times only for a total of four consecutive terms, or 12 years. Senators, however, serve a term of six years once elected. They also can be re-elected, but cannot serve more than three consecutive terms, or 18 years.
Another profound difference between politics in the U.S. and their former commonwealth-now independent country, the Philippines, is that their Vice President isn’t affiliated with the President. In fact, the VP in that country is elected separately from the President, so you often see candidates from opposing political parties forced to work in unison as a President-VP tandem. But just like in America, if the President dies or is impeached in the Philippines, the Vice President is next in succession and automatically assumes power.
To govern the highly diverse, sprawling, and very provincial island governments, the Philippines employs a complex hive of Regional Governors, Vice-Governors, Mayors and Vice-Members, and Barangay (loosely “neighborhood”) Captains, who hold real sway over everything that takes place in their purview.
Political season and elections are always vibrant and colorful in the Philippines, taking on a carnival atmosphere all over the country. The day-to-day government also takes on a soap opera flare, as accusations, scandals, trials, and bitter-infighting are the norm.
Since 2016, the President is Rodrigo Duterte, a controversial and oft-criticized figure called “The Punisher” because of his use of extra-judicial hit squads to go after drug dealers and clean up the streets.