10 stages in passing a bill into law

[1] Filing/Calendaring for First Reading

A bill is filed in the Office of the Secretary where it is given a corresponding number and calendared for First Reading.

Please note that this stage and other stages hereunder discussed are not detailed in the 1987 Constitution because the fundamental law simply serves as an outline of the workings of the government. The blanks and spaces are filled by the internal rules of either the House or the Senate.

[2] First Reading

Its title, bill number, and author’s name are read on the floor, after which it is referred to the proper committee.

There has always been a question as to whether a bill can be killed on first reading. "Killed" means voted by at least a majority of the members in a quorum to be expelled from the calendar of bills so it will not longer progress into the following stages. It appears the 1987 Constitution does not provide an answer to this question.

[3] Committee Hearings/Report

Committee conducts hearings and consultation meetings. It then either approves the proposed bill without an amendment, approves it with changes, or recommends substitution or consolidation with similar bills filed.

Each house of Congress has its committees which study a bill submitted for passage. These are "small congresses" that can introduce suggested changes, substitutions and consolidations. The rule of majority also applies to these committees.

[4] Calendaring for Second Reading

The Committee Report with its approved bill version is submitted to the Committee on Rules for calendaring for Second Reading.

[5] Second Reading

Bill author delivers sponsorship speech on the floor. Senators engage in debate, interpellation, turno en contra, and rebuttal to highlight the pros and cons of the bill. A period of amendments incorporates necessary changes in the bill proposed by the committee or introduced by the Senators themselves on the floor.

During debates, amendments may be introduced into the bill during the discussion. Discussions and debates provide a venue to see the advantages and disadvantages of the bill if ever it becomes a law. It also gives way to opinions regarding the constitutionality of said proposed law.

[6] Voting on Second Reading

Senators vote on the second reading version of the bill. If approved, the bill is calendared for third reading.

[7] Voting on Third Reading

Printed copies of the bill’s final version are distributed to the lawmakers. This time, only the title of the bill is read on the floor. Nominal voting is held. If passed, the approved Senate bill is referred to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

The 1987 Constitution requires that printed copies of the bill's final version be distributed to the lawmakers. "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 26, Article VI)

The reason for the requirement is to discourage members of Congress from voting without having read the bill in its final form. This also ensures that there is enough evidence as to the contents of the bill in case of dispute. The enrolled bill doctrine comes into play.

[8] At the House of Representatives

Assuming the bill originates from the Upper House, the Lower Chamber/House follows substantially the same procedures (First Reading, Second Reading and Third Reading). It must be noted that the House of Representatives is allowed to craft its own rules to fill in the blanks left by the 1987 Constitution.

[9] Back to the Senate

Assuming the bill originates from the House of Representatives, if the House-approved version is compatible with that of the Senate’s, the final version’s enrolled form is printed. If there are certain differences, a Bicameral Conference Committee is called to reconcile conflicting provisions of both versions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Conference committee submits report on the reconciled version of the bill, duly approved by both chambers. After all these, the Senate prints the reconciled version in its enrolled form.


[10] Submission to MalacaƱang

Final enrolled form is submitted to MalacaƱang. The President either signs it into law, or vetoes it thereby sending it back to the originating house with his/her veto message.