The legal system of the Philippines is a unique combination of civil law and common law, together with Islamic law and indigenous law. The current constitution, enacted in 1987, is the supreme law and defines the Philippines as a “democratic and republican state”, with the President heading the executive branch, the Congress as the legislative branch and the Supreme Court as the highest judicial body.
Congress is bicameral, consisting of the House of Representatives (commonly known as the Lower House, but frequently referred to as the Congress), and the Senate (often referred to as the Upper House). The Senate is composed of 24 senators, who are elected by the entire electorate. Senators serve for six years each, with elections held every three years for half of them. Senators can serve no more than two consecutive terms. The House of Representatives is composed of approximately 250 congressmen, representing either geographical districts (provinces or cities) or different sectors. The latter represent no more than 20% of the House, and are referred to as party-list representatives. All members of the House are elected for three years, and for a maximum of three consecutive terms. Latest electioneer both the House of Representatives and the Senate were held in May 2016, next are expected for 2019.
Proposed laws are called bills and may be introduced by the Senate or by the House of Representatives. A bill goes through a first reading in which the number and title are read, after which it is referred to an appropriate committee, which prepares a committee report. It is then passed to the Rules committee, and returned for a second hearing, and is subject to debate and amendment before proceeding to the final third hearing. After passing in one House, the bill goes through the same process in the other House.
Major legislation is often introduced in both Houses in the form of companion (identical) bills, to speed up the legislative process by encouraging both chambers to consider the measure simultaneously, and to emphasise the urgency or importance of the issue. After it has passed in both Houses and been signed by their respective leaders, it goes for final approval to the President. The President may sign the bill into a law, or veto all or part of it. A presidential veto can be overridden by a Congressional vote of two thirds of all its members.
Another form of legislation, equivalent to a bill, is a Joint Resolution, generally used when dealing with a single item or issue, such as a continuing or emergency appropriations bill. Joint resolutions are also used to propose amendments to the Constitution.