Senate of the Philippines

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Senate of the Philippines

Senado ng Pilipinas
18th Congress of the Philippines
Seal of the Philippine Senate.svg
Flag of the Senate President of the Philippines.svg
Flag of the Senate of the Philippines
Term limits
2 consecutive terms (12 years)
FoundedOctober 16, 1916 (1916-10-16)
Preceded by Second Philippine Commission
Tito Sotto [1] (NPC)
since July 22, 2019
Ralph Recto (Nacionalista)
since July 22, 2019
Juan Miguel Zubiri [1] (Independent)
since July 22, 2019
Franklin Drilon (Liberal)
since February 28, 2017
Seats24 senators
Philippine Senate composition.svg
Political groups
Majority bloc (20):
  •   PDP–Laban (5)
  •   Nacionalista (4)
  •   NPC (3)
  •   CIBAC (1)
  •   Lakas (1)
  •   LDP (1)
  •   Reporma (1)
  •   UNA (1)
  •   Independent (3)

Minority bloc (4):

Committees 40 standing committees
Length of term
6 years, renewable once
AuthorityArticle VI, Constitution of the Philippines
Plurality-at-large voting
Last election
May 13, 2019 (12 seats)
Next election
May 9, 2022 (12 seats)
Meeting place
Senate Session Hall.JPG
GSIS Building, Financial Center, Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay
Senate of the Philippines
Rules of the Senate (English)

The Senate of the Philippines (Filipino: Senado ng Pilipinas, also Mataas na Kapulungan ng Pilipinas or "upper chamber") is the upper house of Congress, the bicameral legislature of the Philippines; the House of Representatives is the lower house. The Senate is composed of 24 senators who are elected at-large (the country forms one district in its elections) under plurality-at-large voting.


Senators serve six-year terms with a maximum of two consecutive terms, with half of the senators elected in staggered elections every three years. When the Senate was restored by the 1987 Constitution, the 24 senators who were elected in 1987 served until 1992. In 1992 the 12 candidates for the Senate obtaining the highest number of votes served until 1998, while the next 12 served until 1995. Thereafter, each senator elected serves the full six years. From 1945 to 1972, the Senate was a continuing body, with only eight seats up every two years.

Aside from having its concurrence on every bill in order to be passed for the president's signature to become a law, the Senate is the only body that can concur with treaties, and can try impeachment cases. The Senate Presidency, which is elected by senator from among them, is currently held by Tito Sotto.


Joint session of Philippine Legislature including the newly elected Senate, November 15, 1916 Joint session of Philippine Legislature.jpg
Joint session of Philippine Legislature including the newly elected Senate, November 15, 1916
The post-World War II Philippine Senate in 1951: Cipriano P. Primicias, Sr., far left, debates Quintin Paredes, far right. In the middle are Justiniano Montano, Mariano Jesus Cuenco, Enrique B. Magalona, and Francisco Delgado; in the foreground is Edmundo Cea. Deliberations were once held at the Old Legislative Building. Sen. Primcias debates Sen. Paredes.jpg
The post–World War II Philippine Senate in 1951: Cipriano P. Primicias, Sr., far left, debates Quintín Paredes, far right. In the middle are Justiniano Montano, Mariano Jesús Cuenco, Enrique B. Magalona, and Francisco Delgado; in the foreground is Edmundo Cea. Deliberations were once held at the Old Legislative Building.

The Senate has its roots in the Philippine Commission of the Insular Government. Under the Philippine Organic Act, from 1907 to 1916, the Philippine Commission headed by the Governor-General of the Philippines served as the upper chamber of the Philippine Legislature, with the Philippine Assembly as the elected lower house. At the same time the governor-general also exercised executive powers.

In August 1916 the United States Congress enacted the Philippine Autonomy Act or popularly known as the "Jones Law", which created an elected bicameral Philippine Legislature with the Senate as the upper chamber and with the House of Representatives of the Philippines, previously called the Philippine Assembly, as the lower chamber. The Governor-General continued to be the head of the executive branch of the Insular Government. Senators then were elected via senatorial districts via plurality-at-large voting; each district grouped several provinces and each elected two senators except for "non-Christian" provinces where the Governor-General of the Philippines appointed the senators for the district.

Future president Manuel L. Quezon, who was then Philippine Resident Commissioner, encouraged future president Sergio Osmeña, then Speaker of the House, to run for the leadership of the Senate, but Osmeña preferred to continue leading the lower house. Quezon then ran for the Senate and became Senate President serving for 19 years (1916–1935).

This setup continued until 1935, when the Philippine Independence Act or the "Tydings–McDuffie Act" was passed by the U.S. Congress which granted the Filipinos the right to frame their own constitution in preparation for their independence, wherein they established a unicameral National Assembly of the Philippines, effectively abolishing the Senate. Not long after the adoption of the 1935 Constitution several amendments began to be proposed. By 1938, the National Assembly began consideration of these proposals, which included restoring the Senate as the upper chamber of Congress. The amendment of the 1935 Constitution to have a bicameral legislature was approved in 1940 and the first biennial elections for the restored upper house was held in November 1941. Instead of the old senatorial districts, senators were elected via the entire country serving as an at-large district, although still under plurality-at-large voting, with voters voting up to eight candidates, and the eight candidates with the highest number of votes being elected. While the Senate from 1916 to 1935 had exclusive confirmation rights over executive appointments, as part of the compromises that restored the Senate in 1941, the power of confirming executive appointments has been exercised by a joint Commission on Appointments composed of members of both houses. However, the Senate since its restoration and the independence of the Philippines in 1946 has the power to ratify treaties.

The Senate finally convened in 1945 and served as the upper chamber of Congress from thereon until the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, which shut down Congress. The Senate was resurrected in 1987 upon the ratification of the 1987 Constitution. However, instead of eight senators being replaced after every election, it was changed to twelve.

In the Senate, the officers are the Senate President, Senate President pro tempore, Majority Floor Leader, Minority Floor Leader and the Senate Secretary and the Senate Sergeant at Arms who shall be elected by the Senators from among the employees and staff of the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate President, Senate President pro-tempore, the Majority Floor Leader and the Minority Floor Leader shall be elected by the Senators from among themselves.


Article VI, Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that the Senate shall be composed of 24 senators who shall be elected at-large by the qualified voters of the Philippines, as may be provided by law.

The composition of the Senate is smaller in number as compared to the House of Representatives. The members of this chamber are elected at large by the entire electorate. The rationale for this rule intends to make the Senate a training ground for national leaders and possibly a springboard for the presidency.

It follows also that the Senator, having a national rather than only a district constituency, will have a broader outlook of the problems of the country, instead of being restricted by narrow viewpoints and interests. With such perspective, the Senate is likely to be more circumspect, or at least less impulsive, than the House of Representatives.

Senatorial candidates are chosen by the leaders of major political parties or coalitions of parties. The selection process is not transparent and is done in "backrooms" where much political horse-trading occurs. Thus, the absence of regional or proportional representation in the Senate exacerbates a top heavy system of governance, with power centralized in Metro Manila. It has often been suggested that each region of the country should elect its own senator(s) to more properly represent the people. This will have the effect of flattening the power structure. Regional problems and concerns within a national view can be addressed more effectively. A senator's performance, accountability, and electability become meaningful to a more defined and identifiable regional constituency.

The Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) composed of three Supreme Court justices and six senators determines election protests on already-seated senators. There had been three instances where the SET has replaced senators due to election protests, the last of which was in 2011 when the tribunal awarded the protest of Koko Pimentel against Juan Miguel Zubiri. [2]


The qualifications for membership in the Senate are expressly stated in Section 3, Art. VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as follows:


Under the Constitution, "Congress shall convene once every year on the fourth Monday of July for its regular session...". During this time, the Senate is organized to elect its officers. Specifically, the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides a definite statement, to it:

The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives its Speaker by a vote of all its respective members.

Each House shall choose such other officers as it may deem necessary.

By virtue of these provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the Senate adopts its own rules, otherwise known as the "Rules of the Senate." The Rules of the Senate provide the following officers: a President, a President pro tempore, a Secretary and a Sergeant-at-Arms.

Following this set of officers, the Senate as an institution can then be grouped into the Senate Proper and the Secretariat. The former belongs exclusively to the members of the Senate as well as its committees, while the latter renders support services to the members of the Senate.


The Senate was modeled upon the United States Senate; the two chambers of Congress have roughly equal powers, and every bill or resolution that has to go through both houses needs the consent of both chambers before being passed for the president's signature. Once a bill is defeated in the Senate, it is lost. Once a bill is approved by the Senate on third reading, the bill is passed to the House of Representatives, unless an identical bill has also been passed by the lower house. When a counterpart bill in the lower house is different from the one passed by the Senate, either a bicameral conference committee is created consisting of members from both chambers of Congress to reconcile the differences, or either chamber may instead approve the other chamber's version.

While money bills originate in the House of Representatives, the Senate may still propose or concur with amendments. Only the Senate has the power to approve, via a two-thirds supermajority, or denounce treaties, and the power to try and convict, via a two-thirds supermajority, an impeached official.

Current members

Senator [3] Party Term numberStartsEnds
Leila de Lima Liberal 1June 30, 2016June 30, 2022
Franklin Drilon Liberal 2
Win Gatchalian NPC 1
Richard J. Gordon Independent 1
Risa Hontiveros Akbayan 1
Panfilo Lacson Reporma 1
Manny Pacquiao PDP–Laban 1
Francis Pangilinan Liberal 1
Ralph Recto Nacionalista 2
Tito Sotto NPC 2
Joel Villanueva CIBAC 1
Juan Miguel Zubiri Independent 1
Sonny Angara LDP 2June 30, 2019June 30, 2025
Nancy Binay UNA 2
Pia Cayetano Nacionalista 1
Ronald dela Rosa PDP–Laban 1
Bong Go PDP–Laban 1
Lito Lapid NPC 1
Imee Marcos Nacionalista 1
Koko Pimentel PDP–Laban 3
Grace Poe Independent 2
Bong Revilla Lakas–CMD 1
Francis Tolentino PDP–Laban 1
Cynthia Villar Nacionalista 2

Party and bloc composition


The Senate currently meets at the GSIS Building along Jose Diokno Boulevard in Pasay. Built on land reclaimed from Manila Bay, the Senate shares the complex with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

The Senate previously met at the Old Legislative Building in Manila until May 1997. The Senate occupied the upper floors (the Session Hall now restored to its semi-former glory) while the House of Representatives occupied the lower floors (now occupied by the permanent exhibit of Juan Luna's Spoliarium as the museum's centerpiece), with the National Library at the basement. When the Legislative Building was ruined in World War II, the House of Representatives temporarily met at the Old Japanese Schoolhouse at Lepanto Street (modern-day S. H. Loyola Street), [4] while the Senate's temporary headquarters was at the half-ruined Manila City Hall. [5] Congress then returned to the Legislative Building in 1950 upon its reconstruction. When President Ferdinand Marcos dissolved Congress in 1972, he built a new legislative complex in Quezon City. The unicameral parliament known as the Batasang Pambansa eventually met there in 1978. With the restoration of the bicameral legislature in 1987, the House of Representatives inherited the complex at Quezon City, now called the Batasang Pambansa Complex, while the Senate returned to the Congress Building, until the GSIS Building was finished in 1997. Thus, the country's two houses of Congress meet at different places in Metro Manila.

The Senate would eventually move to Navy Village in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig by July 2022. As the Senate is renting GSIS for the office space, it asked the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to present suitable sites for it to move to, with the Senate eyeing the Navy Village property along Lawton Avenue as its favored site. [6] In 2018, a building designed by AECOM was chosen as winner for the new home for the Senate and is expected to be built by 2022. Civil works to erect the building had been awarded to Hilmarcs Construction Corporation, the same company the Senate investigated for alleged overpriced construction of the Makati City Hall Parking Building II in 2015. [7] The reception to the design was mixed, with some Filipino netizens comparing it to a garbage can. [8]

Historical makeup

This is how the Senate looked like after every beginning of term under the 1987 constitution. The parties are arranged alphabetically, with independents at the rightmost side. Vacancies are denoted by dashes after the independents.

Latest elections

Prominent senators


Further notable statesmen

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  1. 1 2 Elemia, Camille (May 21, 2018). "Tito Sotto elected as Senate president". Rappler. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  2. Calonzo, Andero (August 11, 2011). "Pimentel proclaimed 12th winning senator in '07 polls". GMA News Online. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  3. Viray, Patricia Lourdes (May 19, 2016). "Comelec proclaims Senate 'Magic 12'". The Philippine Star. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  4. Quezon Memorial Book. Quezon Memorial Committee. 1952.
  5. Towards the south side, opposite the base of the famous clocktower. &
  6. "Senate to move to Bonifacio Global City in Taguig by 2020 - The Manila Times Online". January 25, 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  8. "Lacson defends construction of new Senate Building in Bonifacio" . Retrieved August 22, 2019.
  9. "Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago". Senate.
  10. "Miriam joins Bill Gates elite law group". Philstar.