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Who to Vote For? Get To Know the Political Parties in the Philippines

Here are the major political parties in the country.
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The elections are fast approaching. In order to make an informed decision, it is important to take a good look at what the candidates are promising their constituents, as well as the principles they hold. Most of our candidates run under a political party, which helps them advance their causes and build their campaigns. Ideally, these parties should align with the candidates’ ideologies so that the proper programs and platforms are created for the electorate. Sadly, this is not entirely the case in Philippine politics. Unlike in the United States where only two major and clearly distinctive political parties exist, the Philippines have about a hundred.

Joy Aceron, an academic from the Ateneo De Manila University, said the functions of political parties should include the proper selection of candidates and leadership training for them, and setting the agenda and sparking interest among the people. "But in the Philippines, parties can be best described as ‘temporary political alliances.’ Some would even go to the extent of saying there are no real parties in the country and what we have are mere ‘fans club of politicians’," Aceron added in her paper It’s the (Non-) System, Stupid!: Explaining ‘Mal-development’ of Parties in the Philippines.

And she’s right. The party-switching or the so-called "political turncoatism" of our politicians shows the absence of loyalty, as well as the lack of solid commitment to the principles, platforms, and programs they supposedly advance.

"One major factor that makes our political parties weak is the dependence of political parties on personalities rather than on issues and political platforms. Traditional politicians only use Political Parties as financial vehicles to win elections," the Office of the Ombudsman wrote in a primer they made for the Political Party Development Act, which is still pending in the Congress.

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There are about 169 political parties listed and accredited by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on its official website. These include all the major and minor parties, both on the national and local scope, as well as party lists.

Liberal Party

The Liberal Party is the second oldest existing political party in the country following the Nacionalista Party (No. 3 on this list). Its founder, former Senate President Manuel Roxas, formed the party in 1945 right after the country’s liberation from the Japanese occupation.

Before the LP’s creation, Roxas was first responsible for establishing a liberal wing of the Nacionalista Party, which is why the LP is also seen as a breakaway faction of the NP. Historically, the party’s political position has tended to be in the center to center-left. It promotes social liberalism.

The Comelec identified the LP as the dominant majority party for the 2016 elections. Today, it currently holds five Senate seats and 46 seats in the House of Representatives. It is chaired by Vice President Leni Robredo and has Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as its president. It is also known as the opposition block today.

United Nationalist Alliance

UNA may be the youngest political party on this list, but it was recognized by the Comelec as the dominant minority party for the 2016 elections.

Officially founded as a political party in 2015 by former Vice President Jejomar Binay, it sprung from the United Opposition (UNO) coalition that was formed in 2005 for the 2007 midterm elections.

The party leans toward center-right and practices rather conservative politics. It holds two seats in the Upper House and three in the Lower Chamber. It is currently chaired by Binay’s daughter, Senator Nancy Binay.

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Nacionalista Party

The Nacionalista Party is the oldest existing political party in the country and in Southeast Asia. It was founded in April 1907 by former presidents Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña and was formed to support the liberalization of the Philippines from the American rule.

The NP is a largely right-wing political party with conservative ideologies, somewhat similar to the US’ Republican Party. Today, the party holds four Senate seats and 29 seats in the House of Representatives. It is currently chaired by former Senate President Manuel “Manny” Villar.

Nationalist People's Coalition

Like the Liberal Party, the NPC is also a breakaway faction that stemmed from another partythis time, the Nacionalista Party.

Filipino businessman and then-presidential candidate Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. founded the NPC in 1992. Since its first members came from the Nacionalista Party, the two parties share a lot in common when it comes to ideologies and political leanings.

Like the NP, the NPC also promotes conservatism and positions itself at the center-right of the political spectrum. It currently holds three seats in the Senate and 33 seats in the House of Representatives.

Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan

Fact: This party endorsed the presidential campaign of Rodrigo Duterte.

Another fact: It also nominated former President Corazon Aquino as its candidate for the 1986 snap elections.

PDP-Laban was established through a merger between the parties Partido Demokratiko Pilipino and Lakas ng Bayan (founded by former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.) in 1983, led by former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel. Its creation was to overthrow the Marcos administration.

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The party’s inherent ideologies lie in democratic socialism. These days, however, it is also mixed with populism and federalism.

It is also currently the ruling political party in the country. The party holds three upper house seats and 114 lower house seats. Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel serves as its president.

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

Kilusang Bagong Lipunan

Largely a pro-Marcos party, the KBL was founded in 1978 and was reorganized again in 1986 after the Martial Law. It was formed by pro-Marcos supporters who came from the Nacionalista and Liberal parties. As such, the party supports authoritarianism.

The party currently doesn’t have any representatives in both chambers of the Congress.

Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats

The Lakas-CMD that we know now was founded in 2008. It is one of the only two parties on this list that is influenced by religion (the other is NUP).

Its roots trace back to the merger of the original Lakas-CMD, which was founded in 1991, and Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI). It is in the center-right of the political spectrum and promotes conservatism, Christian democracy, and Islamic democracy as its core ideologies.

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They only hold four seats in the lower chamber today. Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. serves as its chairman.

Aksyon Demokratiko

Much like the other parties mentioned in this list, Aksyon Demokratiko’s roots came from an older party. In this case, it was the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino.

Aksyon Demokratiko was founded in 1997 by former senator Raul Roco. It identifies itself as a progressive political party, forwarding progressivism and liberal democracy. It aligns itself in the center-left of the political spectrum.

National Unity Party

Founded in 2011, the NUP is a breakaway party from the Lakas Kampi CMD. The party advances social conservatism and Christian democracy as its core ideologies. Its politics tend to lean towards the center to center-right.

The party does not hold any seat in the Senate, but it has 21 representatives in the lower house. It is currently chaired by Ronaldo Puno.

Akbayan

Akbayan was formally formed in 1998, but talks about the formation of the group started way back in 1994. The goal was simple: to build an “alternative, citizens' political party” to institutionalize the power of the masses, especially after what the country had gone through during the Martial Law years.

In a 2012 Philippine Star article written by columnist Domini M. Torrevillas, she discussed how Akbayan is a breakaway group from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). CPP, led by founder Jose Maria Sison, proposed the Second Great Rectification Movement in 1992. But not all CPP members agreed to the idea, which divided the group into the reaffirmists and the rejectionists. Akbayan founder Joel Rocamora was one of the rejectionists.

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Today, the party advances progressive politics and democratic socialism. It is still left-leaning, with focused programs on the marginalized sectors such as youth, women, gay and lesbians, urban poor, etc. It currently holds one Senate seat and two seats in the House of Representatives.

Photo by WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.

Citizens' Battle Against Corruption

CIBAC was founded in 1997. Just as its name suggests, and according to its official Facebook page, the party’s goal is to help Filipinos from different sectors fight graft, corruption, and cronyism in the government.

The party currently holds one seat each in the upper and lower chambers of the Congress. Senator Joel Villanueva serves as its chairman, and party-list representative Sherwin Tugna is the party’s incumbent president.

Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino

LDP sprung from two other political parties, the PDP-Laban led by Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, Jr. and the now-defunct Lakas ng Bansa led by Ramon Mitra. It was formally formed in 1988.

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The party is generally seen as a conservative group, positioning itself at the center of the political spectrum. It is represented by a member each in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara serves as its chairman today.

Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan

Unlike the other parties formerly mentioned, which only stemmed from one to two political parties, Makabayan is a coalition of 12 party lists.

Formed in 2009, Makabayan today is composed of Bayan Muna, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Anakpawis, GABRIELA, Kabataan, Katribu, Migrante, Akap-bata, COURAGE, Piston, Kalikasan, and Aking Bikolnon.

These twelve parties all represent the marginalized sectors of society, such as women, youth, migrant workers, indigenous people, etc. The party practices left-wing politics and forwards progressivism.

Makabayan holds seven seats in the 17th Congress of the Philippines. Satur Ocampo currently serves as the bloc’s leader, while Neri Colmenares sits as its president.

Partido Federal ng Pilipinas

PFP is a new party, perhaps the youngest to date, which was formed to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and his push for the country’s shift to federalism. The Comelec accredited it as a national party just last October 2018, in time for the 2019 midterm elections.

Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones serves as the president of the party.

Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino

Formerly known as Partido ng Masang Pilipino, PMP was formed by former President Joseph Estrada and was recognized as a political party in 1991.

In a 2012 article, Rappler quoted Estrada as saying that he does not see PMP as a political party, rather as a “force” of the masses. He claimed that unlike other political parties, which only functions as such during the elections, PMP focuses on the needs of the people and continues to do so all throughout the year.

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PMP engages heavily in populist politics, a probable reason why and how Estrada achieved landslide victories during the 1992 and 1998 elections. Estrada still serves as the party’s president today.

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Pauline Macaraeg
Esquire Philippines
Pauline is Esquire Philippines’ data journalist. Follow her on Twitter @paulinemacaraeg.
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