The government of the Philippines is organized as a, Presidential head of the government, and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote to a six-year term, during which he or she appoints and presides over the cavinet of secretaries.
The bicameral congresscomprises the Senate and the House of Representative; members of the former are elected at large and those of the latter by geographical district. The 24 senators serve six-year terms, with half retiring every three years, while the House of Representatives comprises 250 members serving three-year terms.
The judicial branch of government is headed by the Supreme Court, with a Chief Justice as its head and 14 associate justices, all appointed by the President from nominations submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council. Other courts include the Court of Appeals, the Regional Trial Courts, and the Metropolitan Trial Courts.
As of June 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is hoping to get agreement to amend the constitution to a unicameral parliament patterned after the Westminster model (at least according to the Lower House as of December 2006) under a federal setting similar to what they believe to be the German constitution. The country would be split into "states" with each one having a local legislature responsible for certain functions. Included in the amendments are plans to remove/ease the current ban on foreign ownership of property, land, and commercial organizations in the Philippines. Plans have been announced to decentralize government by moving departments from Manila to the provinces, such as the Department of Tourism to Cebu City, the Department of Foreign Affairs to Angeles City, and the Department of Agrarian Reform to Iloilo City.
The Philippines is a founding and active member of the United Nations since its inception on Octover 24, 1945 and is a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nation (ASEAN). The Philippines is also a member of the East Asia Summit (EAS), an active player in the Asia Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC), the Latin Union, and a member of the Group of 24. The country is a major non-NATO Ally of the U.S. but also a member of the Non Alligned Movement.
The Philippines, along with the nation of Malta, is one of only two nations in the world where all civil marriages are for life, because civil divorse (for violations coming after the marriage) is banned, although annulment (for violations before the marriage, although it may manifest itself after the solemnization) is permitted.
The Philippines is currently in a dispute with Taiwan, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia over the oil- and natural-gas-rich Spratly Island and Scarborough Shoal, and with Malaysia over Sabah The Sultan of Sulu, who received Sabah as a gift in 1703 having helped the Sultan of Brunei defeat a rebellion, has given the Philippine government power to reclaim its lost territory. To this day, the Sultan Sulu's family receives "rental" payments for Sabah from the Malaysian government.