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Executive Department

Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution restores the presidential system with certain modifications. The president is elected by a direct vote of the people for a term of six years and is not eligible for reelection. The president must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, at least forty years of age, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the election.

The president is empowered to control all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices, and to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. Presidential nominations of heads of executive departments and ambassadors are confirmed by a Commission on Appointments, consisting of twelve senators and twelve representatives. The president may grant amnesty (for example, to former communists, Muslim rebels, or military mutineers) with the concurrence of a majority of all the members of Congress and, as chief diplomat, negotiate treaties, which must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate.

The constitution contains many clauses intended to preclude repetition of abuses such as those committed by Marcos. The president's spouse cannot be appointed to any government post (a reaction to Imelda Marcos's immoderate accumulation of titles and powers). The public must be informed if the president becomes seriously ill (a reaction to the belated discovery of numerous kidney-dialysis machines in Marcos's bedroom in Malacaņang). The president is prohibited from owning any company that does business with the government. And the armed forces must be recruited proportionately from all provinces and cities as far as is practicable, in order to prevent a future president from repeating Marcos's ploy of padding the officer corps with people from his home province.

Constitutional safeguards also prevent the president from ruling indefinitely under emergency powers. Martial law may be proclaimed, but only for sixty days. The president must notify Congress of the institution of martial law within forty-eight hours, and Congress can revoke martial law by a simple majority vote. The president may not abolish Congress. The Supreme Court may review and invalidate a presidential proclamation of martial law. Of course, Congress can grant the president emergency powers at any time.

The vice president has the same term of office as the president and is elected in the same manner. The vice president also may serve as a member of the cabinet. No vice president may serve for more than two successive terms. The president and vice president are not elected as a team. Thus, they may be ideologically opposed, or even personal rivals.

In 1991 the president's cabinet consisted of the executive secretary (who controlled the flow of paper and visitors reaching the president), the press secretary, the cabinet secretary, and the national security adviser, and the secretaries of the following departments: agrarian reform; agriculture; budget and management; economic planning; education, culture, and sports; environment and natural resources; finance; foreign affairs; health; interior and local governments; justice; labor and employment; national defense; public works and highways; science and technology; social welfare and development; tourism; trade and industry; and transportation and communications. Cabinet members directed a vast bureaucracy--2.6 million Filipinos were on the government payroll in 1988.

The bureaucracy in the late 1980s was overseen by a constitutionally independent Civil Service Commission, the members of which were appointed by the president to a single nonrenewable term of seven years. Because the Constitution prohibits defeated political candidates from becoming civil servants, bureaucratic positions cannot be used as consolation prizes.

Two problems, in particular, have plagued the civil service: corruption (especially in the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue) and the natural tendency, in the absence of a forceful chief executive, of cabinet secretaries to run their departments as independent fiefdoms. Bribes, payoffs, and shakedowns characterized Philippine government and society at all levels. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimated in 1988 that one-third of the annual national budget was lost to corruption. Corruption also occurred because of cultural values. The Filipino bureaucrat who did not help a friend or relative in need was regarded as lacking a sense of utang na loob, or repayment of debts (see Social Values and Organization , ch. 2). Many Filipinos recognize this old-fashioned value as being detrimental to economic development. A 1988 congressional study concluded that because of their "personalistic world view," Filipinos were "uncomfortable with bureaucracy, with rules and regulations, and with standard procedures, all of which tend to be impersonal." When faced with such rules they often "ignore them or ask for exceptions."

Data as of June 1991

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Philippines Table of Contents