Qualifications of Congressional Candidates

Its election time once again and as usual, the same faces are running in the guise of  “public service”.  Even if the qualifications of certain candidates are to say the least, questionable, this has not stopped the thick skinned from running.  This is a country where running for an elected position has become a national pastime and where no clear cut policies have been drawn to curb the temerity of the unqualified to run for public office.  In this light, we shall now examine the qualifications required by law for Congress.

Qualifications for Senator are found under Section 3, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:

“No person shall be a Senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least thirty-five years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.”

For the lower house of Congress, candidates must meet the requirements found under Section 6, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which states:

“No person shall be a Member of the House of Representatives unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least twenty-five years of age, able to read and write, and, except the party-list representatives, a registered voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident thereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election.”

As can be seen from the above provisions, the requirements for membership in both houses are identical save for the limitations on age and residency. Natural-born citizens are those who are citizens of the Philippines from birth without having to perform any act to acquire or perfect their Philippine citizenship. 

The party-list system was also included in the Constitution under Section 5 (2) of Article VI.  This provision states that:

The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.

The aim of the party list system was to recognize and give representation to the marginalized sectors of society. However, the spirit of the law has not been realized, most of the groups who have filed before the Comelec do not come from the marginalized sector.

Finally, any questions relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of any member of  the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be decided by the Electoral Tribunal of each house. Each Electoral Tribunal shall be composed of nine Members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice, and the remaining six shall be Members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, who shall be chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The senior Justice in the Electoral Tribunal shall be its Chairman.