Philippines: Government

Principal Government Officials

Chief of State: President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III
Head of Government: President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III

The Philippines has a representative democracy modeled on the U.S. system. The 1987 constitution, adopted during the Corazon Aquino administration, reestablished a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature and an independent judiciary. 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 24-member Philippine Senate is elected at large, and all senators serve 6-year terms. Half are elected every 3 years. There are currently 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. All representatives serve 3-year terms, with a maximum of three consecutive terms.

The government continues to face threats from terrorist groups, including groups on the U.S. Government's Foreign Terrorist Organization list. The terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which gained international notoriety with its kidnappings of foreign tourists in the southern islands, remains a major problem for the government, along with members of the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Efforts to track down and interdict ASG and JI members have met with some success, especially in Basilan and Jolo, where U.S. troops provide counterterrorism assistance and training to Philippine soldiers, along with conducting humanitarian activities. In August 2006, the Armed Forces of the Philippines began a major offensive against ASG and JI on the island of Jolo. This offensive was successful and resulted in the deaths of Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafy Janjalani and his deputy, Abu Solaiman. In 2010, Philippine forces killed ASG leaders Albader Parad and Dulmatin. The U.S. Government provided rewards to Philippine citizens whose information led to these deaths in the military operations, as well as to many other operations against terrorist leaders. The broad-based efforts to weaken terrorist organizations resulted in the death or capture of more than 200 terrorists since 2007.

An international monitoring team continues to watch over a cease-fire agreement between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In June 2003, the MILF issued a formal renunciation of terrorism. In August 2008, during peace talks facilitated by the Government of Malaysia, the Philippine Government and the MILF reached agreement in principle on a territorial agreement. Intervention by the Philippine Supreme Court, however, and its subsequent October 14, 2008 ruling that the draft agreement was unconstitutional, forced both parties to seek new ways to reach a peace agreement. Fighting flared up after the agreement was struck down in court and continued sporadically in central Mindanao until both sides agreed to a cease-fire on July 29, 2009 and formally resumed the peace talks in December 2009. Following a hiatus in talks during the first months of the Aquino administration, the parties again pursued peace negotiations beginning in February 2011. In August 2011, Aquino met for the first time with MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo. The parties most recently met in Kuala Lumpur in January 2012.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
In its foreign policy, the Philippines cultivates constructive relations with its Asian neighbors, with whom it is linked through membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN Plus Three (with China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM), the East Asia Summit (EAS), and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The Philippines chaired ASEAN from 2006 to 2007, hosting the ASEAN Heads of State Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum. The Philippines is a member of the UN and some of its specialized agencies, and served a 2-year term as a member of the UN Security Council from 2004-2005, acting as UNSC President in September 2005. Since 1992, the Philippines has been a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. The government is seeking observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The Philippines has played a key role in ASEAN in recent years, ratifying the ASEAN Charter in October 2008, and is serving as the Country Coordinator for the United States with ASEAN until mid-2012. The Philippines also values its relations with the countries of the Middle East, in no small part because hundreds of thousands of Filipinos are employed in that region. Protecting the welfare of the some four million to five million overseas Filipino contract workers is considered to be a pillar of Philippine foreign policy.

The Philippines signed its first bilateral free trade agreement in 2006 with Japan under the Japan Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). The Philippines has also begun implementing preferential rates under the ASEAN trade in goods agreement (ATIGA), ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Korea, and ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Areas.

The fundamental Philippine attachment to democracy and human rights is reflected in its foreign policy. Philippine soldiers and police have participated in a number of multilateral civilian police and peacekeeping operations, and a Philippine Army general served as the first commander of the UN Peacekeeping Operation in East Timor. The Philippines presently has peacekeepers deployed in eight UN peacekeeping operations worldwide. The Philippines participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, deploying some 50 troops to Iraq in 2003. (These troops were subsequently withdrawn in 2004 after the kidnapping of a Filipino overseas worker.) The Philippine Government also has been active in efforts to reduce tensions among rival claimants to the territories and waters of the resource-rich South China Sea.

Sources:

CIA World Factbook (January 2012)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( January 2012)

Glossary