FAST FACTS: Trivia on the Philippine Senate

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FAST FACTS: Trivia on the Philippine Senate
(UPDATED) Rappler compiles interesting tidbits and trivia on the Philippine Senate, which turns 100 this year

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Philippine Senate celebrates its centennial anniversary on Sunday, October 16, marking a long history from its roots as a legislative set-up under American rule.

With the enactment of the Jones Law, the Philippine Legislature was inaugurated on October 16, 1916, establishing what is now known as the Senate and the House of Representatives. (IN PHOTOS: Philippine Senate turns 100)

Throughout its long history, the institution weathered war and political storms.

Last year, former President Benigno Aquino III signed Proclamation No. 1091, s. 2015, declaring October 2015 to October 2016 as the “Centennial Year of the Senate of the Philippines.”

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Senate, Rappler compiles interesting tidbits and trivia on this political institution and the men and women who have served under its august halls.

The firsts

  • First Muslim senator: Hadji Butu Abdul Baqui, representing the 12th senatorial district of Mindanao and Sulu from 1916 to 1919, and from 1922 to 1931. In the Senate, he pushed for more appropriations for the construction of schools, hospitals, roads, and bridges in Mindanao and Sulu.

  • First woman senator: Geronima Tomelden-Pecson, who served from 1947 to 1953. She headed the Senate Committees of Education, Health, Public Welfare, and the Joint Congressional Committee on Education. She was known for her work on laws on education, such as the Free and Compulsory Education Act and the Vocational Education Act.

  • First Filipina senator to be re-elected: Eva Estrada Kalaw, who chaired the Senate committee on games, amusements and tourism, and national minorities. She was senator from 1965 to 1972.

  • First Senate President: Manuel L. Quezon, who went on to become the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. He was the second Philippine president after Emilio Aguinaldo.

  • First actor to become senator: Rogelio de la Rosa, a popular matinee idol and multi-awarded actor. De la Rosa entered politics with a successful bid for the Senate in 1957.

Age and longevity

  • Oldest living former senator: Helena Zoila Benitez was 102 years old when she died in 2016. She served from 1967 to 1972.
  • Oldest while in office: Juan Ponce Enrile was 92 years old when his term ended in 2016.
  • Longest-serving senator: Lorenzo Tañada served for 4 terms from 1947 to 1971, for a total of 24 years.
  • Youngest senators elected: Due to incomplete historical records and insufficient biographical profiles of some senators, it is difficult as of this writing to determine the youngest Filipino senator ever elected.

Nonetheless, based on available information, here are some senators who were below 35 years old at the time of their election. Three of them were from the very first batch of senators elected in 1916:

Senator Age Date of Birth Date of Election
Jose Ma. Veloso 30 Apr 30, 1886 Oct 3, 1916
Pedro Ma. Sison 31 Jan 18, 1885 Oct 3, 1916
Esteban Singson 32 Aug 13, 1884 Oct 3, 1916
Jose Hontiveros 33 Mar 19, 1889 Jun 6, 1922
Salipada Pendatun 33 Dec 3, 1912 Apr 23, 1946
Antero Soriano 33 Jan 3, 1886 Jun 3, 1919
Benigno Aquino Sr. 33 Sept 3, 1894 Jun 5, 1928
Santiago Fonacier 34 May 21, 1885 Jun 3, 1919
Jose P. Laurel 34 Mar 9, 1891 Jun 2, 1925
Pastor Salazar 34 1891 Jun 2, 1925
Elpidio Quirino 34 Nov 16, 1890 Jun 2, 1925

From 1916 to 1935, when the Jones Law was in effect, the minimum age for senators at the time of election was set at 30 years old. Under the 1935 Constitution and the present 1987 Constitution, the minimum age became 35 years old. 

(Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correct the initial information that Benigno Aquino Sr was the youngest Philippine senator elected into office. We apologize for the error.)

How many senators eventually became president?

Of the Philippines’ 16 presidents so far, 10 were former senators:

  1. Manuel L. Quezon, 2nd President and first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines
  2. Jose P. Laurel, 3rd president, during the Japanese occupation of Manila
  3. Sergio Osmeña, 4th president
  4. Manuel Roxas, 5th president
  5. Elpidio Quirino, 6th president
  6. Carlos P. Garcia, 8th president
  7. Ferdinand E. Marcos, 10th president
  8. Joseph Ejercito Estrada, 13th president
  9. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 14th president
  10. Benigno Aquino III, 15th president


Abolished, shuttered, or not convened

LOCKED. Senators Doy Laurel, Eva Estrada Kalaw, Ramon Mitra, Gerry Roxas, and Jovito Salonga in 1973, outside the padlocked Senate Session Hall. Photo from “Doy Laurel” by Celia Diaz-Laurel, from the Official Gazette

There were two periods when the Senate was abolished, shuttered, or not able to convene:

1935 to 1945 – The 1935 Constitution provided for the shift to a unicameral Congress, then known as the National Assembly. A constitutional amendment in 1940 brought back the Senate and the House of Representatives, members of which were determined in the November 1941 elections.

However, in December 1941, Japanese forces started occupying the country during World War II. As a result, the 1941 poll winners were not able to convene until June 1945. During the Japanese occupation, the government’s legislative arm was the unicameral National Assembly, which held sessions from 1943 to 1944.

1972 to 1987 – Soon after the declaration of Martial Law, both houses of Congress were abolished. It was replaced by the appointed Batasang Bayan (1976-78), then the elected unicameral Interim Batasang Pambansa (1978-84) and the Regular Batasang Pambansa (1984-86). The current bicameral set-up – Senate and House of Representatives – was restored in the 1987 Constitution.

The Senate’s homes

Senators currently hold office at the GSIS Building in Pasay City, the institution’s home since May 1997. Prior to this, the Philippine Senate has called other locations its home:

  1. The Goldenberg Mansion, where the inaugural session of the Senate was held
  2. The Intendencia Building in Intramuros, occupied by the Senate from 1916 to 1926
  3. Legislative Building, which was initially intended to become the Philippine Library
  4. Temporary Congress Building, a school house along Lepanto St in Manila, after the Japanese occupation and the subsequent liberation of the Philippines left the Legislative Building in ruins
  5. Manila City Hall, from 1947 to 1948
  6. Legislative Building, which was rebuilt after the war and renamed “Congress – Republic of the Philippines”
  7. Legislative Building, this time renamed “Executive House” with the abolition of Congress when martial law was declared



– Research by Michael Bueza and Katerina Francisco/

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