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How a Bill Becomes a Law

By
DAVID ROBERT C. AQUINO, csse*
___________________

1.

Parts of a Statute, p. 621

2.

Title, p. 622

3.

Enacting Clause, p. 622

4.

Body, p. 622

5.

Provisos, p. 623

6.

Repealing Clause, p. 624

7.

Separability Clause, p. 624

8.

Date of Effectivity, p. 625

9.

Conclusion, p. 627

___________________
As the 15th Congress nearly draws to a close with the impending sine die
adjournment in the middle of next year, it is best to note the multifarious roles it
has played that in one way or another shaped the political firmament of this
country.
_______________
* Atty. Aquino is a professor of law and author of several law books. In mid-2008, he
was appointed as member of the Sub-Committee on the Revision of the Rules on
Criminal Procedure, Supreme Court. Prior to returning to private practice, he
occupied various Director-level positions in the government such as in the Senate,
House of Representatives, Supreme Court, PDEA.
We note that amidst the socio-political crises besetting the country today, Congress
and more particularly the Philippine Senate has with great apprehension, and at
times reluctance, played the role of arbiter, peacekeeper, leader and fiscalizer.
Apprehension and reluctance, because this is not the primary role of Congressits
role being that of drafting and enacting laws that address the needs of an impatient
nation.
Yet this primary role, more often than not, has been relegated to the sidelines in
order for Congress to discharge its other roles.

Thus, we witnessed on television and in various forms of media the much talked
about impeachment trial as well as other legislative inquiries in aid of legislation. It
seems that Congress is being known more and more as an investigator rather than
a legislator.
Yet, Congress remains the legislative organ of government. Despite what other role
it plays that is drummed up into prominence by the media, Congress shall remain a
maker of laws.
Thus, amid the din of excitement that was generated over the impeachment trial
conducted by the Senate and prosecuted by the Lower House, it would be best that
a cursory look into the dynamism involved in the process of lawmaking be taken.
Before any worthwhile discussion, however, on the legislative process can be made,
it is necessary that we know some of the terms involved in the legislative process as
follows:
1)REPUBLIC ACT (or simply an ACT)this is a legislative measure that has been
passed by Congress and signed into law by the President;
2)AMENDMENTthis refers to a legislative action to delete, alter or revise a bill or
an act. Amendments are introduced for several reasons. Some are proposed in
response to interest groups, executive pressure, or constituent demands. Others are
intended to spark public interest, hinder legislative action, exhibit a members
concern, or test his sentiment for or against a bill. Some amendments are of
technical nature, while others represent substantial changes;1
3)APPROPRIATION BILLthis refers to a measure which allocates funds for
agencies or programs of the government. Usually denoted as the General
Appropriations Act;2
4)BILLthis refers to a legislative measuregeneral or special, public or private,
local, appropriation, revenue and tariffto effect a new statute or alter or abolish an
existing one;3
5)BUDGETthis refers to a financial proposal detailing projected revenue and
programmed expenses of the government subject to Congressional approval;4
6)CERTIFIED BILLthis refers to a measure which the President attests to the
necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or an emergency.
Such bill may be voted on Third Reading without need to wait for the 3-day period
after its approval on Second Reading;5
7)CLEAN BILLthis refers to a measure that has been significantly reworded by a
committee so as to bear little resemblance to the original version that it in effect
replaces the latter. In todays Congress, it usually refers to a new draft where the
corrections have already been incorporated and the pro_______________
1 Sections 80 to 86, Rule XXIX, Rules of the Senate.

2 Sections 24 and 25, Article VI, 1987 Constitution.


3 Sections 59 and 60, Rule XXI, Rules of the Senate.
4 Sections 24 and 25, Article VI, 1987 Constitution.
5 Section 26(2), Article VI, 1987 Constitution.
posed provisions to be deleted have already been removed;
8)COMMITTEEthis refers to a subdivision of Congress that considers and then
reports to the chamber any measures referred to it. Big committees are divided into
subcommittees that hold hearings and investigate proposed legislation before
recommending it to their full committees;6
9)COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLEthis refers to the situation where the entire
Chamber resolves itself into a committee in order to debate and discuss legislation
informally;7
10)CONCURRENT RESOLUTIONthis refers to a resolution passed by both houses
of Congress but does not have the power of law and does not require the Presidents
signature;
11)CONFERENCE COMMITTEEthis refers to a committee composed of equal
number of members from both the House of Representatives and the Senate with
the purpose of forging a compromise between the disagreeing provisions between
the Senate version and House version of a particular legislative measure. The result
of such compromise is contained in a Conference Committee Report or colloquially
called a Bicam Report which is then submitted to their respective chambers for
approval;8
12)CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONthis refers to a mechanism or tool in which
Congress,
through its committees conduct investigations or inquiries in aid of legislation;9
13)ENACTING CLAUSEthis refers to the opening phrase of a bill that points to
the identity of the promulgating authority;
14)EXECUTIVE SESSIONthis refers to a meeting of the House or Senate
Committee, of the entire chamber, that only members of each may attend and
usually referred to as a closed-door session;10
15)JOINT COMMITTEEthis refers to a special panel composed of members from
the House and the Senate temporarily constituted to study a particular problem or
issue;
16)JOINT REFERRALthis refers to the concurrent referral of a bill to two or more
committees in cases of overlapping jurisdiction;11
17)JOINT RESOLUTIONthis refers to a resolution approved by both chambers of
Congress that becomes a law upon the signature of the President;

18)JOURNALthis refers to the narrative record of what transpires during a


plenary session of the Legislature;12
19)LEGISLATIONthis refers to the process wherein a proposed legislative
measure is crafted, deliberated upon and enacted into a statute; colloquially
referred to as lawmaking;
20)LEGISLATIVE AGENDAthis refers to the prioritization of legislative measures
or action of the Legislature;
21)PERMANENT COMMITTEEthis is otherwise known as a standing committee
with a permanent jurisdiction;13
22)QUORUMthis refers to the required minimum number of members present in
order that a chamber can validly conduct business;14
23)READING OF BILLSthis refers to the recitation of bills by the appropriate
officer of the Senate. This is designed to ensure that each member is apprised of
the bills pending on the floor;15
24)RECORDthis refers to the verbatim account of the deliberations of the
plenary session of Congress;16
25)SPECIAL SESSIONthis refers to a session that can be called only by the
President when Congress is in recess. During a special session, any topic or subject
can be discussed by Congress without any limitation;
26)TABLE A BILLthis refers to a motion to either delay or kill a bill. It is not
debatable in either chamber. The Senate, however, employs a different language
from that of the House. In the Senate, the motion is worded to allow a bill to lie on
the table, perhaps to be picked up at a later time;
27)VETO OVERRIDEthis refers to the mechanism that allows Congress to reverse
a presidential veto and enact a bill into law. A veto override requires a two-thirds
vote of those present and voting in the Senate and the House of Representatives17;
and
28)VETO POWERthis refers to the authority of the President of the Republic to
disapprove a bill passed by Congress.18
It should be noted that there is no fixed time period attached to the life of a bill
while it is pending in Congress. There have been instances when a legislative
measure takes years before it is finally enacted into law. Some statutes, however,
take a shorter time. A good comparison would be the Comprehensive Dangerous
Drugs Act of 2002 and the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2000. It should be noted
that Congress began deliberations on the drug law way back in the Eighth Congress
in 1988 but was finally passed in 2002 but not before undergoing several
incarnations and revisions. The Anti-Money Laundering Act, on the other hand, was
deliberated by the Senate in roughly a weeks time before being enacted.
It is worth noting that the time it takes for a legislative proposal to be passed by
Congress depends on a number of factors, both external and internal.

Such external factors may be international or domestic events that necessitate the
attention of our lawmakers. The anti-climactic impeachment trial is a domestic
event that had the entire populace riveted to the proceedings. Another event that
never fails to divert the attention of Congress and of the people is the national
elections. Finally, the task of appropriating the annual budget of the government
more often than not eats up the attention of legislators particularly during the end
of every year.
Internal factors may be the presence of a number of equally important measures
competing for the time, effort and attention of legislators. Since Congress normally
holds sessions in the afternoon of Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and at times
Thursdays, such limited time has to be allocated to competing interests and issues.
As of last year, the number of measures now pending with the Senate alone stands
at a staggering 2,098 bills and 319 resolutions while those pending at the House of
Representatives number more than 4,500 bills!
Yet, despite the multifarious nature of its tasks, its primary mandate is to enact laws
as delegated no less under the Constitution.
The pertinent provisions under the Constitution on its lawmaking functions are
reproduced below:
SECTION25.(1) The Congress may not increase the appropriations
recommended by the President for the operation of the Government as specified in
the budget. The form, content, and manner of preparation of the budget shall be
prescribed by law.
(2)No provision or enactment shall be embraced in the general appropriations bill
unless it relates specifically to some particular appropriation therein. Any such
provision or enactment shall be limited in its operation to the appropriation to which
it relates.
(3)The procedure in approving appropriations for the Congress shall strictly
follow the procedure for approving appropriations for other departments or
agencies.
(4)A special appropriations bill shall specify the purpose for which it is intended,
and shall be supported by funds actually available as certified by the National
Treasurer, or to be raised by a corresponding revenue proposed therein.
(5)No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; however,
the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of
Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional
Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general
appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their
respective appropriations.
(6)Discretionary funds appropriated for particular officials shall be disbursed only
for public purposes to be supported by appropriate vouchers and subject to such
guidelines as may be prescribed by law.

(7)If, by the end of any fiscal year, the Congress shall have failed to pass the
general appropriations bill for the ensuing fiscal year, the general appropriations
law for the preceding fiscal year shall be deemed reenacted and shall remain in
force and effect until the general appropriations bill is passed by the Congress.
SECTION 26.(1) Every bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one
subject, which shall be expressed in the title thereof. (2) No bill passed by either
House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days,
and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its members
three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity
of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency. Upon the last
reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed, and the vote thereon shall
be taken immediately thereafter, and the yeas and nays entered in the Journal.
SECTION 27.(1) Every bill passed by the Congress shall, before it becomes a law,
be presented to the President. If he approves the same, he shall sign it; otherwise,
he shall veto it and return the same with his objections to the House where it
originated, which shall enter the objections at large in its Journal and proceed to
reconsider it. If, after such reconsideration, two-thirds of all the Members of such
House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to
the other House by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by twothirds of all the Members of that House, it shall become a law. In all such cases, the
votes of each House shall be determined by yeas or nays, and the names of the
Members voting for or against shall be entered in its Journal. The President shall
communicate his veto of any bill to the House where it originated within thirty days
after the day of receipt thereof; otherwise, it shall become a law as if he had signed
it. (2) The President shall have the power to veto any particular item or items in an
appropriation, revenue, or tariff bill, but the veto shall not affect the item or items to
which he does not object.
Simply put, the legislative life of a measure or a bill, as it is commonly called, begins
with the filing of the same by the lawmaker. Once filed, it is then calendared for First
Reading.
First Reading is the process where the bills title is read in plenary session and
referred to the appropriate committee.19 Once in the committee level, the bill is
scrutinized through public hearings where arguments by advocates and those in
opposition of the measure are heard.
After the public hearings are terminated a Committee Report is then prepared and
transmitted to the floor for Second Reading.
During Second Reading,20 the bill undergoes sponsorship, interpellation and
amendments.
Sponsorship is where the essential and salient features of the bill are presented as
well as to underscore the rationale for the bills enactment.

The period of interpellations is where debate over the bill takes place.21 This is
where arguments of lawmakers in opposition to and those in favor of the bills
passage are heard.
After the period of interpellations, the period of amendments come in. This period is
divided into two stagesthe period of committee amendments and the period of
individual amendments.
Committee amendments are those formulated by the Committee or Committees
that reported out the bill. Said amendments are usually included in the committee
report.22
Individual amendments on the other hand are amendments proposed by the
individual legislators in plenary session.
Such amendments may or may not be accepted by the sponsor of the bill. If a
deadlock ensues, a division of the house will be called.
After the conclusion of the period of individual amendments, the bill is again read on
THIRD READING and voted upon.23
Once passed, it is then transmitted to the other chamber and it will undergo the
same procedure as it did in the chamber that transmitted it.
In the event the other chamber has a similar bill and the two (2) measuresthe
Senate version and House version, have conflicting provisions, a Bicameral
Conference will be constituted in order to thresh out the conflicting provisions of
both bills.
After its conclusion, a Bicameral Conference Committee Report will be transmitted
to both houses of Congress for its approval. The Bicameral Report will contain the
reconciled version of the bill.24 Once passed by Congress, the enrolled bill,
enacted by both Houses of Congress and certified by its officials, is then transmitted
to the Office of the President for consideration. Note that the President of the
Republic of the Philippines may approve or reject the bill or allow the same to lapse
into law.
1.

Parts of a Statute

In its simplest form, a statute has a Title; an Enacting Clause; the Body which
contains the bulk of the law itself; a Repealing Clause; a Separability Clause; and
the Date of Effectivity.
2.Title
The title provides for the general subject matter of the legislative measure.
It informs the public as well as the legislator and any other interested party of the
contents, purpose and area or subject being legislated upon.
A typical Title is given below:

AN ACT TO INSTITUTIONALIZE THE USE OF AN ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION


SYSTEM IN THE PHILIPPINES AND TO ESTABLISH THE OFFICE FOR ALTERNATIVE
DISPUTE RESOLUTION, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
Although the Title does not have to be so comprehensive as to encompass the
entire provisions of the law, it must however, be clearly indicative of the subject
matter of the law as to properly apprise the legislators and the general public of the
nature and purpose of the law.
3.Enacting Clause
The enacting clause declares the source of the promulgation and is usually stated
as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled
Thus, from the enacting clause given above, the promulgating body is Congress
which under the 1987 Constitution is the sole organ of government that is delegated
the power to legislate and enact laws.
4.Body
The main provisions of the law are lumped into what we call the Body of the statute.
It is here where we find the definition of terms, the policy declaration of the state,
the penal clauses, the prohibited acts, the rights and duties of parties and the like.
An example of a provision that forms part of the body of a statute is given below
taken from the ADR Law:
SEC.5.Liability of ADR Providers/Practitioners.The ADR providers and
practitioners shall have the same civil liability for acts done in the performance of
their duties as that of public officers as provided in Section 38(1), Chapter 9, Book I
of the Administrative Code of 1987.
It should be further noted that the body of a law may be divided into chapters or
articles or sections and further subdivided into subsections or subparagraphs
depending on the styling adopted by Congress at the time of its enactment.
5.Provisos
A proviso qualifies the operation or effectivity of a particular provision of law. It has
to be complied with or observed in order that the particular provision can be given
full application as can be seen in the example below:
SEC.23.Confidentiality of Arbitration Proceedings.The arbitration proceedings,
including the records, evidence and the arbitral award, shall be considered
confidential and shall not be published except (1) with the consent of the parties, or
(2) for the limited purpose of disclosing to the court of relevant documents in cases
where resort to the court is allowed herein: Provided, however, That the court in
which the action or the appeal is pending may issue a protective order to prevent or
prohibit disclosure of documents or information containing secret processes,
developments, research and other information where it is shown that the applicant

shall be materially prejudiced by an authorized disclosure thereof. (Emphasis


supplied)
6.Repealing Clause
Usually, under established rules of statutory construction, a newly enacted law
supersedes an old law. Leges posteriors contrarias abrogate.25 This is premised on
the assumption that the prevailing statute is the more recent and more reflective
and in tune with the intention of the legislature as well as consistent with the
provision of the Civil Code.26
The standard repealing clause used today by Congress is given below:
Sec.XX.Repealing Clause.All laws, decrees, executive orders, rules and
regulations which are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby
repealed, amended or modified accordingly.
There are certain laws, however, that does not repeal its predecessors but modifies
them.
Moreover, there are other laws that preserve or maintain the effectivity of its
predecessor laws as can be seen below in the repealing clause of the ADR Law:
Sec.31.Repealing clause.The provisions of chapters one and two, Title XIV, of
the Civil Code shall remain in force. All other laws and parts of laws inconsistent
with this Act are hereby repealed. If any provision of this Act shall be held invalid
the remainder that shall not be affected thereby. (Emphasis supplied)
7.Separability Clause
The function of a separability clause in a statute is very important. It serves to
protect other provisions within a statute in the event that a part of a statute is
judicially declared as unconstitutional.
As such, the separability clause manifests the legislative intent that other portions
of the statute not affected by such judicial declaration of unconstitutionality are still
considered in force and effect.
One recent example is the declaration of the Supreme Court in the case of
Macalintal v. COMELEC27 that the provisions under the Absentee Voting Law
providing for Oversight Functions of Congress over the Implementing Rules and
Regulations (IRR) to be implemented by the Commission on Elections is
unconstitutional being violative of the independent nature of the latter.
A standard separability clause is given below:
SEC.XX.Separability Clause.If, for any reason or reasons, any portion or
provision of this Act shall be held to be unconstitutional or invalid, all other parts or
provisions not affected shall thereby continue to remain in full force and effect.
8.Date of Effectivity

Legislative enactments usually take effect fifteen days after its complete publication
in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation pursuant to the provision
of the Civil Code.28
Other laws provide for their own dates of effectivity such as the Local Government
Code as follows:
SEC.536.Effectivity Clause.This Code shall take effect on January first,
nineteen hundred ninety-two, unless otherwise provided herein, after its complete
publication in at least one (1) newspaper of general circulation.
Prior legislative enactments and Presidential Decrees sported a short effectivity
clause which provided that such law shall take effect upon approval. This clause
take effect upon its approvalsparked a long debate which reached the highest
tribunal. Some sectors believed that this phrase allowed the law to take effect even
if no such publication was made.
This issue was finally laid to rest in the landmark case of Taada v. Tuvera,29 where
the Supreme Court held that publication is indispensable, but the legislature may in
its discretion provide that the usual fifteen-day (15) period shall be shortened or
extended.
Moreover, the ponente of the decision noted that it is not correct to say that under
the disputed clause, publication may be dispensed with altogether.
The reason is that such omission would offend due process insofar as it would deny
the public knowledge of the laws that are supposed to govern it.
Further, it also stated that the conclusive presumption that every person knows the
law, which of course presupposes that, the law has been published if the
presumption is to have any legal justification at all.
It is no less important to remember that the Bill of Rights recognizes the right of
the people to information on matters of public concern, and this certainly applies
to, among others, and indeed especially, the legislative enactments of the
government.
The Supreme Court then held that all statutes, including those of local application
and private laws, shall be published as a condition for their effectivity, which shall
begin fifteen days after publication unless a different effectivity date is fixed by the
legislature.
Covered by this rule are presidential decrees and executive orders promulgated by
the President in the exercise of legislative powers whenever the same are validly
delegated by the legislature or, at present, directly conferred by the Constitution.
Moreover, administrative rules and regulations must also be published if their
purpose is to enforce or implement existing law pursuant also to a valid delegation.
Finally, the High Court held that publication must be in full or it is no publication at
all since its purpose is to inform the public of the contents of the laws.

In cases of conflict in the word and meaning of the provisions of law and in order to
ascertain the intent and purpose of the law, a legislative history of each statute is
prepared by Congress.
9.Conclusion
In summary, the legislative process is nothing more than the life of a bill while it is
pending in Congress until it becomes a law. Its length of stay in Congress will largely
depend on its nature and importance as well as the prevailing national mood at any
given time. There have been some bills that took years before it became law while
there were some measures that took a much shorter time.
What is important that despite the various roles that Congress has to play, its
mandate still remains that of a lawmakerall other functions it performs are merely
considered adjunct to its principal duty.
Congress shall always be and will be the forum where laws are made for the
common good.
In the eloquent words of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile:30 Let us restore the
Senate to what it once was as the citadel and beacon light of our liberty. Let us
again make it the repository of our hopes and aspirations. Let us bring it back to
what it used to bethe stouthearted and courageous sentinel and protector of the
commonweal. Let it become once more a true forum of the peoplethe authentic
and concrete senatus populi of the nation.
o0o
Copyright 2016 Central Book Supply, Inc. All rights reserved. The Legislative
Process (How a Bill Becomes a Law), 669 SCRA 611, April 17, 2012