The Constitution of the Philippines
was adopted by a referendum in 1987. According to the
Constitution, the President is Head of State and Government
as well as Commander-in-Chief and is appointed for a term of
six years. The Vice President is also elected and may
therefore have a different ideological residence than the
Head of State. Since 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has been
The legislative power is held by the two chambers of
Congress, the House of Representatives with a varying number
of members (292 in 2018) and the Senate with 24. The
senators are elected for six years and may be re-elected.
However, Senate elections are held every three years, and at
each ballot, twelve members are appointed. The members of
the House of Representatives are elected in direct elections
every three years and can sit for a maximum of three terms.
Most of the seats are added through direct elections in
one-man constituencies, while a smaller number of seats are
distributed from party lists to provide representation to
disadvantaged groups and parties disadvantaged in the direct
elections. The president may veto bills passed by Congress,
but this is set aside if two-thirds of the members of both
chambers vote in favor of the proposal. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how PH can stand for Philippines.
The Constitution contains several sections that have been
added to prevent the abuse of power that occurred during
Ferdinand Marco's regime should not be repeated. The
President may only sit for a term of office, all members of
Congress must report their financial interests when they
take office and may not hold any other office while sitting
The country is divided into 17 regions, which in turn are
divided into 81 provinces and the metropolitan region. The
provinces are governed by elected governors and legislative
provincial assemblies. The autonomous region of Muslim
Mindanao, which includes five provinces on the island of
Mindanao and the Sulu Islands, has as its only region
limited regional self-government.
In July 2018, President Duterte called on Congress to
revise the country's constitution with the intention of
decentralizing power and strengthening both the
congressional role and regional self-government. Critics,
however, fear that the president will at the same time
abolish the limitation on how many terms a president can
sit, thereby laying the groundwork for a long-standing
authoritarian regime, similar to that exercised by Ferdinand
Marcos during his 21 years as president.
Politics is largely dominated by political dynasties
based in a particular province or city. The party system has
since been independent and there are no major ideological
differences between the parties, which are often formed to
support an individual candidate for presidential elections.
Party loyalty means little, as many members change parties
in connection with a change of power. Before the
presidential elections, it is common for parties to split
and new political alliances to be concluded. Parties that
represent weaker groups have also previously had difficulty
asserting themselves. However, a number of new popular
movements and voluntary organizations representing these
groups have been formed since the early 1980s.
Arroyo made efforts to make peace with the Muslim rebels
in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the
left-wing guerrilla New People's Army. In 1996, Fidel Ramos
had concluded a peace agreement with a larger and smaller
hardline Muslim group, Moro's National Liberation Front
(MNLF). ("Fun" means "Muslims/Moors"). Arroyo, however,
refused to negotiate with the more militant Muslim guerrilla
Abu Sayyaf, who has been behind several brutal kidnappings
and bomb attacks since 2000, and who has come to be linked
to the al-Qaeda terror network, but her decision in early
2002 to seek help from the United States in pursuit of
guerrillas were controversial both within the left and among
At the same time as the Arroyo government periodically
conducted peace talks with armed insurgency, the climate of
society deteriorated. In 2007, a government-appointed
commission concluded that the majority of the hundreds of
journalists, priests and left-wing activists killed since
Arroyo came to power had fallen victim to the security
forces. The leading armies of leading politicians and
wealthy businessmen were also considered to contribute to
the increased level of violence. Ahead of the governorship
election on the island of Mindanao in 2009, 57 people,
including some 30 journalists, were killed by militia
organized by one of the candidates with a party affiliation
with Arroyo. A large proportion of the victims belonged to a
rival candidate's clan.
Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino took office as president in 2010
and was one of the fourth generation of prominent
politicians in one of the Philippines' most famous families.
His mother Corazon Aquino led the rebellion against
Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and was elected president after
him. Benigno Aquino represents the Liberal Party, one of the
country's oldest political parties.
In the 2016 presidential election, Davao mayor Rodrigo
Duterte won by about 38 percent of the vote. He took office
as president June 30 of that year. In the election campaign,
Duterte joked that he wanted to participate in a gang rape
against an Australian missionary who was brutally murdered
during a prison riot in 1989. Despite several other cruel
statements, Duterte has expressed his support for increased
equality and gay rights.
Duterte's populist campaign and unpolished appearance
appealed to many voters who were disappointed by the
previous government's inability to reduce crime and
corruption. Shortly after Duterte took office as president,
a violent campaign was launched against alleged drug
addicts, and in less than three months around mid-2016, some
3,000 people were killed by police or unknown perpetrators
without trial but apparently with the government's consent.
At the end of the year, the president also initiated a bill
aimed at reintroducing the death penalty. According to
Duterte, the purpose of the tough policy is to reduce the
country's crime and drug addiction, while at the same time
strengthening the image of himself as an effective and
The judicial system consists mainly of the Supreme Court,
the Court of Appeal, regional courts and various kinds of
local courts. The legal system has Spanish roots (including
the Spanish Trade Act of 1886, which was introduced in the
Philippines in 1888) but has developed under strong American
influence. The Supreme Court's decisions, for example,
constitute binding precedents for the lower courts. The
legal rules are mainly codified. a civil law from 1950 and a
penal law from 1930. The death penalty was abolished in
The modern history of the Philippines has been
characterized by political violence between government
forces, Muslim separatists and communists (see History)
which led to several serious human rights violations.
Periods with an exception allowed each other during the
second half of the 20th century and on into the 2000s.
During the 2010s, several peace agreements were signed,
which were interrupted by new fighting.
Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, who took office as president in
2010, made the choice to end the long conflicts with Muslim
separatists and the left-wing guerrillas, and to reform the
judiciary. Extrajudicial executions and enforced
disappearances have decreased somewhat since Aquino took
office, but harassment and violence against political
activists, opponents and journalists have not ceased and
impunity is still widespread.
The military and police are committing serious human
rights violations through torture and extrajudicial
executions in the fight against communists, while the armed
opposition commits abuses against civilians. In the southern
parts of the country, the authorities are harassing the
Muslim minority with the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The Philippines' relationship to freedom of expression
and press is contradictory. Despite new anti-slander
legislation introduced online in 2012, the country is known
for providing one of the world's freest internet. At the
same time, it is considered to be the country in the world
where it is most dangerous to work as a journalist.
Self-censorship is widespread as violence and outright
murder of journalists occur. Reporters Without Borders
places the Philippines at 141 out of 180 in the 2015 Press
Women are discriminated against in working life and the
strong position of the Catholic Church in the country
contributes to the violation of the rights of both women and
LGBT people in society. Abortion is prohibited, which leads
to illegal abortions being carried out to a large extent
with serious complications as a result.
In Filipino prisons, men and women are not kept separate
and abuses against female interns are extensive. The prisons
are often overcrowded and the conditions are unsatisfactory.
Information also exists that minors are imprisoned.
Minors are also used as labor and in the sex trade.
Although the legislation prohibits all forms of child abuse,
their situation is exposed.