Article VI of the 1986 Philippine Constitution provides for the organization of a bicameral lawmaking body. Sovereignty of the Filipino people is expressed by the Congress of the Philippines through their elected representatives.
The Congress of the Philippines consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The senate is made up of 24 Senators who are elected at large by the qualified voters of the Philippines for a term of six years. A senator must be a natural-born Filipino citizen, able to read and write, a registered voter, is at least 35 years old and a resident of the Philippines for at least two years immediately preceding the day of election.
The house of representatives is compose of not more than 250 members who are elected from legislative districts apportioned among the different provinces, cities and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants for a term of three years. A representative must be a natural-born citizen, is at least 25 years old, able to read and write, a registered voter in the district that elected him, and a resident thereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of election. The first election of the member s of Congress was on May 11, 1987
Congress has wide powers but there are prohibitions on its activities. Its powers are categorized into four, namely, general legislative power, specific legislative power, inherent power, and implied power.
General legislative power is concerned with the making of any law of the land that is not prohibited by the Constitution. These laws may relate to such matters as suffrage, election, the national languages, land reform, succession to the Presidency, citizenship, taxation, organization of courts, apportionment of electoral districts, etc. There is no limit to the number of laws the Congress can make.
Specific legislative power refers to power to make treaties with other countries declare war, impeach the President, members of the Supreme court and the Constitutional Commissions and the Auditor-General, enact the Appropriation Act based on the budget, amend the constitution.
Inherent power is its powers to impose taxes impose penalties for specific crimes, authorize upon payment of just compensation, the expropriation of private lands.
Implied power of Congress refers to its power to conduct inquires on the social and economic conditions of the country in aid of legislation.
The powers of Congress and their limitations:
1. A member shall not hold any other office or employment in the government.
2. No member shall appear as counsel before any court in any civil case wherein the government is the adverse party.
3. Congress cannot pass laws that will deprive a person of his life, property and in the pursuit of happiness without due process of law.
4. It can not pass ex-post facto laws. An ex-post facto law is one that imposes punishment on a crime that was not punishable at the time it was committed.
5. When making inquiries or investigations, the individual rights of the persons appearing in such inquiries shall be respected.
6. Congress can declare war only if approved by 2/3 of all members.
7. Congress cannot increase the appropriations in the budget proposed by the President.
The Privileges of Congress
Members of Congress are granted by the constitution some privileges in order that the body can carry on its work without interruption. Among these are:
1. Congress may determine the rules of its proceedings; punish its members for disorderly behavior.
2. A member is immune from arrest when Congress is in session provided that the offense is punishable by not more that six years imprisonment.
3. A member shall not be questioned or held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in Congress.
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