What is a party-list — and why should you even care about them?

The very first time I voted in a national election, I went to the voting center thinking myself fully prepared and informed about the candidates I would be casting my ballot for. I reassured myself that I’d done my research for all the relevant positions, from President to Senators to District officials. It was only once I read through my ballot that I realized: I didn’t even know what a party-list was.


Let’s be honest for a second here, you probably know more about party-lists than I did at the time but you wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t still a little bit confused about them. And that’s fine. Based on what I’ve seen online and talked about with people I know, this is a common problem.

A lot of voters don’t understand what party lists are and why they’re so important.

To get a better understanding of how party-lists work and what they do in Congress, I talked to BaNat Partylist for a bit of help on the subject.

The first step in fixing this is dispelling any myths about party-lists. They are not, as many confuse them with, political parties like the Liberal Party or PDP Laban. Political parties are organizations that promote candidates while party-lists are groups centered on advocacy.

One other thing to clarify is that party-lists exist on a spectrum. A common misconception is that party-lists only represent the left, or are totally comprised of the left. In reality, there are party-lists for any group you can think of (even the fascist right).


So what are party-lists then, and why do we need to care about them? The first reason is that they make up 20% of the seats in Congress — which is actually a big number if you think about it. And they essentially function the same as a district Congressman, save for their nationwide scope. What this means is that party-lists have a significant amount of power in the government.

They use that power to represent marginalized sectors in the law-making process. BaNat, for example, is a party-list that champions Barangay workers. A seat in Congress would mean BaNat pushing for increased funding and support of the Barangay system.

We know that party-lists have the ability to push platforms like this based on their previous achievements. The recently passed Extended Maternity Leave bill was co-authored by Bagong Henerasyon while the Universal Healthcare bill by Akbayan. The representation of party-lists extends beyond being tokenistic, they actually push laws and get things done.


Lastly, voting for a party-list is unlike voting for any other position in government. Here, you’re voting for the group as a whole and not their representatives or individual candidates. This allows you to spend more time on their platform rather than their persona. You get to prioritize advocacy over personality.

Share your questions or concerns about the midterm elections with us in the comments!