The 19th Congress

Published July 29, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Senator Francis Tolentino


Senator Francis N. Tolentino

The Senate of the Philippines officially held the First Regular Session of the 19th Congress on July 25, 2022. The 24 senators formally convened in the Senate’s Plenary Hall.

During the latter part of the 18th Congress, for health and safety reasons, the Senators can choose to be physically present in the Plenary Hall or attend the Senate sessions via video conference.

For the First Regular Session, it was a joyous and exciting occasion for all to open the 19th Congress with all senators physically present. This was the beginning of the formation of legislative policies to guide our nation in the upcoming years.

Under the 1987 Constitution, “The legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives, except to the extent reserved to the people by the provision on initiative and referendum.”

Long before the arrival of Spain in the Philippines, the indigenous Filipinos lived in communities without any written laws. Despite the absence of any written edict, they were governed by rules derived from customs and traditions believed to be imposed by the gods. Notably, the Spaniards found that these customs and traditions were practiced in a somewhat uniform manner all throughout the archipelago despite the distance between the communities. During those times, it was the datu that exercised the three branches of the government we have today – executive, legislative, and judicial.

During the Spanish colonial period, the legislative powers were shared by the governor-general, the Royal Audencia, and the Crown of Spain. The governor-general was said to be the main legislator, while the Royal Audencia was the Spanish Supreme Court here in the Philippines. Records were replete of Filipino representation during this time.

Later, the Malolos Congress was established under the revolutionary government of former President Emilio Aguinaldo. This was a unicameral lawmaking body known as the Assembly of Representatives. This assembly framed the Malolos Constitution, which resulted in the creation of the Philippine Republic.
Interestingly, the Malolos Congress was primarily created to attract the wealthy and intellectuals to join the revolution. Next, it was established to solidify the legitimacy of the revolutionary government as the will of the people through a well-represented government. This Congress was said to be a key player in the success of the establishment of the first Philippine government.

Fast-forward to today, the two-chamber Congress was set in place to further provide equal representation and opportunity to voice out the concerns of the people.

As we close the first week of the 19th Congress, I am confident that, together with my esteemed colleagues, crucial laws would be passed to improve the lives of the Filipino people — laws that would address the challenges we face as a nation brought about by the pandemic and geopolitical tensions.
As public servants, to improve the lives of the Filipino people is the common goal we share with the executive department who executes the laws and the judiciary who monitors the due execution and compliance with the Constitution and the laws of the land.