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Philippines - Government

Rodrigo Duterte warned October 13, 2017 that he would impose a revolutionary government [RevGov] if his political rivals would pushed through with plans to undermine his administration and remove him from office. Duterte made the remark as he once again insisted that the “Reds,” or the communist rebels, were in connivance with the “yellow,” a political color associated with opposition Liberal Party (LP), to remove him from office.

The President had bad relations with the LP who expressed strong opposition to his policies, including his war against illegal drugs. Duterte had also scrapped the peace negotiations with the communists following the series of offensives of New People's Army against government forces in the countryside.

"I am concerned because if war erupts, I will really go after you, including the NDF (National Democratic Front)… If I will declare a revolutionary government, I will arrest all of you. I am not threatening you. Just remember that," the Chief Executive said. "And I will arrest all of you and we can go to a full scale war against the Reds," he added.

The Duterte Revolutionary Government [RevGov] is a regime that Duterte would not call “Martial Rule”… or else he will be tagged as the “new Ferdinand Marcos.” In the new Constitution of 1987 martial law was severely limited by the need for congressional consent. Which is why Duterte spoke of revolutionary government, rather than martial law, when he spoke of countering the new threats to national stability.

Duterte threatened to declare revolutionary government if his critics continue to sabotage his administration. In a revolutionary government, he needed “autocratic rule” (authoritarian or totalitarian). Once the RevGov is declared by the President, a 25-member panel will be appointed by the President to draft the Federal Government charter. Survey ng Bayan (SNB) asked whether if the revgov were to be declared by Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte and the answer was startling. A high of 70% said Yes, while 26% said No and only 4% were undecided.

On 29 November 2017, the President said he hoped he would not be "compelled" to declare a revolutionary government. "I hope there will never be a time I will be compelled to call for it. I am a lawyer and we follow the Constitution," he said.

In a speech delivered on 23 November 2017, the President gave assurance that he can address the problems in the country without declaring a revolutionary government. He, however, warned that there would be "chaos," if his political detractors would continue to undermine his administration. "No revolutionary government. I will ensure to you that I can enforce the law by just using the way that we are being run now," Duterte said. "But do not abuse my kindness because what you can do, I will do. If you start to assassinate people, so be it. I will give you the same. It will be chaos."

Some 2,000 Negrenses who belong to the organization "RevGov Para sa Masa" called on President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a revolutionary government (RevGov) to bring change and real reform in the country. Clad in red shirts, the members held their first General Assembly on Thursday, November 30, at the Bacolod Pavillion Hotel led by the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) and Guardians Brotherhood Federal Inc. (GBFI) National Fraternal.

George Mapili, secretary-general of Mula Sa Masa DU30 Movement (MMDM) Inc., said the sovereign will of the people would give Duterte the power and authority to declare a Revolutionary Government. "We won't allow the congressmen and senators to change the Constitution through Constitutional Assembly because we believe that traditional politicians are not after for the real interest of the people. Their orientation is to perpetuate the rotten political system, the rotten status quo. To break the status quo, RevGov is the answer to institute genuine reform towards federalism," Mapili added.

On 08 November 2017, the Armed Forces of the Philippines led by new chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero gave Vice President Leni Robredo a security briefing at the Philippine Air Force headquarters in Pasay City. It was here where the military officers assured her that they would not support any move to establish a revolutionary government.

The revolutionary government of President Cory was intended to transform the country from Marcos dictatorship to a constitutional democracy. The 1987 constitution, adopted during the Corazon Aquino administration, reestablished a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary.

The Philippines has a representative democracy modeled on the U.S. system. It has experienced an incomplete transition to democratic governance that, while marked by great personal freedom for Philippine citizens, never seems to have properly taken root in the institutions that must handle the difficult task of governing a diverse and divided society.

The Philippines lives with an imperfect 1987 Constitution that, according to some observers, was passed in extreme haste to meet an artificial deadline imposed by President Cory Aquino, taking the country from one extreme -- rigid rule under Marcos -- to another extreme, in which minority parties and groups without defined constituencies (such as the Philippine Senate) are given extensive power at the expense of a more mature and stable political system.

The president is limited to one 6-year term. Provision also was made in the constitution for autonomous regions in Muslim areas of Mindanao and in the Cordillera region of northern Luzon, where many aboriginal tribes still live.

The constitution, one of the longest in the world, establishes three separate branches of government called departments: executive, legislative, and judicial. A number of independent commissions are mandated: the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit are continued from the old constitution, and two others, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on Good Government, were formed in reaction to Marcos's abuses. The Commission on Good Government is charged with the task of repossessing ill-gotten wealth acquired during the Marcos regime.

Many provisions lend a progressive spirit to the Constitution, but these provisions are symbolic declarations of the framers' hopes and are unenforceable. For example, the state is to make decent housing available to underprivileged citizens. Priority is to be given to the sick, elderly, disabled, women, and children. Wealth and political power are to be diffused for the common good. The state shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service. To be implemented, all of these declarations of intent required legislation.

The church and state are separated, but Catholic influence can be seen in parts of the Constitution. An article on the family downplays birth control; another clause directs the state to protect the life of the unborn beginning with conception; and still another clause abolishes the death penalty. Church-owned land also is tax-exempt.

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 Malacañang). 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.

The national government is in theory highly centralized, with few powers devolving to provincial and municipal governments. In fact, local potentates often reserve powers to themselves that the national government is not even aware of. The national government consists of three branches: the executive, headed by the president; two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives; and the Supreme Court, which heads an independent judiciary. A bill of rights guarantees political freedoms, and the constitution provides for regular elections.

The performance of these institutions was, of course, conditioned by Philippine history and culture, and by poverty. For example, the twenty-four members of the Senate, elected by nationwide ballot, in the 1980s were drawn almost entirely from old, prominent families. Senators staked out liberal, nationalist positions on symbolic issues, such as military base rights for the United States, but were exceedingly cautious about any structural changes, such as land reform, that could jeopardize their families' economic positions. The internal operation of Congress was slowed by inefficiency and a lack of party discipline. Legislation often has been detained in the dozens of House and Senate committees staffed with friends and relatives of members of Congress.

As of March 31, 2006, the Republic had 17 regions and 43,679 local Government units. Local Government units included 79 provinces, 117 cities, 1,501 municipalities (subdivisions of provinces) and 41,982 barangays (villages, which are the basic units of the political system). Highly urbanized cities function independently of any province, while other cities are subject to the administrative supervision of their home provinces.


Elections take place in the Philippines every three years on the second Monday of May, for a total of nearly 18,000 seats nationwide. The national, provincial, and municipal elective seats at stake in 2007 included:

  • all members of the House of Representatives. There were 220 seats available in this year's elections from geographic constituencies and a maximum of 55 from party list elections. The total number of members varies from one Congress to another, depending on how many party list candidates gain the minimum required percent of votes; as of 2010 there were 285 members in the House of Representatives, 229 of whom represent single-member districts. The remaining House seats are occupied by sectoral party representatives elected at large, called party list representatives. The Supreme Court approved the introduction of 31 additional party list seats in April 2009, in time for May 2010 national elections. Party-list organizations must obtain at least two percent of the vote nationwide to win one seat and can each obtain a maximum of three seats with six percent or more of the vote. All representatives serve 3-year terms, with a maximum of three consecutive terms.
  • 12 senators; the 24-member Philippine Senate is elected at large, and all senators serve 6-year terms. Half are elected every 3 years, and the 12 highest vote-winners nationwide are elected. 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.
  • governors, vice governors, and provincial legislators from 81 provinces (940), but not from autonomous regions;
  • mayors, vice mayors, and council members from 118 cities (1558);
  • mayors, vice mayors, and council members from 1,558 towns (15,112).

An estimated 87,000 candidates vied for these positions. Republic Act 7166 of 1991 limited campaign spending per candidate to no more than three Philippine pesos per voter (five pesos per voter for independent candidates), while political parties may spend no more than ten pesos per voter. Most observers note that these figures are unrealistic and unenforceable.

Philippine elections historically have encountered significant violence. In the 2004 elections, there were 249 incidents of violence, with at least 148 known election-related deaths. In the 2001 mid-term election, there were 269 incidents of violence, with 111 known deaths. Election-related killings typically escalate in the final days of the election.

Philippine law permits one observer from each party, as well as observers from various civil society organizations and accredited foreign observers, to be present in polling stations during the actual voting and the counting of the votes. The main civil society group, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting - a Catholic Church-based group but with a Memorandum of Understanding with numerous Muslim groups to help cover Mindanao - claims to have lined up at least one million volunteers this year. Most civil society observers believe that it is extremely difficult to commit fraud at the precinct level, but have expressed concerns that the likelihood of cheating increases at each stage upward in the counting process.

Legal System

The legal system used in the early 1990s was derived for the most part from those of Spain and the United States. Civil code procedures on family and property and the absence of jury trial were attributable to Spanish influences, but most important statutes governing trade and commerce, labor relations, taxation, banking and currency, and governmental operations were of United States derivation, introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Judicial power is vested in a Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. The 1981 Judicial Reorganization Act provides for four main levels of courts and several special courts. At the local level are metropolitan trial courts, municipal trial courts, and municipal circuit trial courts. The next level consists of regional trial courts, one for each of the nation's thirteen political regions, including Manila. Courts at the local level have original jurisdiction over less serious criminal cases while more serious offenses are heard by the regional level courts, which also have appellate jurisdiction. At the national level is the Intermediate Appellate Court, also called the court of appeals. Special courts include Muslim circuit and district courts in Moro (Muslim Filipino) areas, the court of tax appeals, and the Sandiganbayan. The Sandiganbayan tries government officers and employees charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Philippines has always been a highly litigious society, and the courts often were used to carry on personal vendettas and family feuds. There was widespread public perception that at least some judges could be bought. Public confidence in the judicial system was dealt a particular blow in 1988 when a special prosecutor alleged that six Supreme Court justices had pressured him to "go easy" on their friends. The offended justices threatened to cite the prosecutor for contempt. Aquino did not take sides in this dispute. The net effect was to confirm many Filipinos' cynicism about the impartiality of justice.

Justice was endlessly delayed. Court calendars were jammed. Most lower courts lacked stenographers. A former judge reported in 1988 that judges routinely scheduled as many as twenty hearings at the same time in the knowledge that lawyers would show up only to ask for a postponement. One tax case heard in 1988 had been filed 50 years before, and a study of the tax court showed that even if the judges were to work 50 percent faster, it would take them 476 years to catch up. Even in the spectacular case of the 1983 murder of Senator Benigno Aquino, the judicial system did not function speedily or reliably. It took five years to convict some middle-ranking officers, and although the verdict obliquely hinted at then-Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver's ultimate responsibility, the court never directly addressed that question.

On May 11, 2018, the Supreme Court voted 8-6 to remove Maria Lourdes Sereno from her job on the ground she had failed an “integrity test” by not submitting all of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs). Sereno was appointed as Supreme Court Chief Justice in 2012. Sereno had filed all her SALNs while she was a law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP). Solicitor General Jose Calida filed the quo warranto petition that received an 8-6 votes from the other justices of SC, making Sereno the first chief justice to get ousted without undergoing an impeachment trial.

Diego Garcia Sayan of Peru, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, noted that despite the denials of President Duterte that he was involved in the ouster of Sereno, the fact is that the decision in the quo warranto case against the Chief Justice was issued two days after the president demanded her resignation. The Supreme Court decision came as if on cue, the UN special rapporteur noted, and this should send a chilling message to other Supreme Court justices and members of the judiciary that they could no longer enjoy judicial independence.

“The decision of the Supreme Court was issued two days after the President of the Philippines publicly threatened the Chief Justice by saying that she was his enemy and that she should be removed from her job or resign,” said Sayán. “The unprecedented decision of the Supreme Court seems directly related to the threats made against the Chief Justice in relation to her professional activities in defense of the independence of the judiciary,” Sayan argued.

Duterte said that Sayan had no business interfering in Philippine internal matters and he could thus “go to hell.”

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