The Executive Branch of the Philippine Political System

Section 1, Article II of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines declares that the country is “a democratic and republican state” and that all government authority emanates from the people.

A republic is a representative government where public officials derive their mandate from the people, act on their behalf, and are at all times accountable to them on the principle that their office is a public trust. Three equal branches of government exist—executive, legislative, and judicial—and operate under the doctrine of separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. Executive power is vested in the president. Legislative power is vested in a bicameral Congress that consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court and such lower courts as may be created by law. The branches of government are examined in the following sections. Constitutional commissions, and local governments and autonomous regions are also included for us to better understand the system of accountability which is already in place as provided by the 1987 constitution.


Executive power is the power to execute laws and rule the country as chief executive, administering the affairs of government (Nolledo, 1996). The president heads the executive branch. The vice-president replaces the president when the latter dies, is permanently disabled, or is removed from office or resigns. The president and vice-president are elected by a direct vote of the people and may only be removed by impeachment. The former is limited to one 6-year term, while the latter is prohibited from serving for more than two successive 6-year terms.

The heads of executive departments comprise the Cabinet. They are nominated and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appointed by the president, who has full control of all executive departments, bureaus, and offices. The vice-president may be appointed to the Cabinet without any need for such appointment to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. Two of the four vice-presidents who served in the post-Marcos period held the foreign affairs portfolio. At the opening of every regular session of Congress, the president delivers the State of the Nation Address that principally discusses current political and socioeconomic conditions and outlines the administration’s policy and program targets for the year, including its legislative agenda. Within 30 days thereafter, the president has a duty to submit to Congress a budget message and a proposed national budget consisting of a budget of expenditures and sources of financing and revenues that will serve as the basis for the annual general appropriations bill. The president also has the power to contract or guarantee foreign loans on behalf of the country, with the prior concurrence of the Monetary Board, and to enter into treaties or international agreements that become effective only with the concurrence of the Senate.

The president is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and place the country or any part thereof under martial law, under limited conditions prescribed by the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines that also include mechanisms for congressional revocation and Supreme Court review of the factual basis thereof. A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines or supplant civil courts and legislative assemblies.