The just-concluded 2004 elections ended for the party-list system as a repeat of the 2001 elections -with a big difference. With one more certificate of canvas to count out of 176 total, 45 percent or 13 million of Filipino voters voted for party-list representatives. Twenty-four representatives, belonging to 16 party-list parties and groups, were proclaimed. What is different is that the vote bases for winning party-list groups have expanded. This ensures that the system continues to thrive even as it mercilessly cut out those who do not have the requisite vote bases.
In the 2001 party-list election, 20 representatives from 12 party-list groups were elected after the Supreme Court handed down various decisions on the party-list system. These decisions effectively pared the qualified party-list groups to 46 from the listed 158 groups approved by the Commission on Elections. The votes of the disqualified party-list groups were subsequently set aside as stray votes, bringing the total votes cast for the system from 15 million to around 6.5 million. This, in turn, raised the percentage shares of the remaining qualified party-list groups. Some were able to reach the two-percent minimum threshold while others added more seats to their existing ones. When there was still no Supreme Court disqualification, only 13 representatives from 10 parties qualified.
This time in the 2004 party-list election, although the total votes cast for party-list is less than 15 million votes, it is more than double the 6.5 million legitimate votes cast for party-list in 2001. This upped the two percent minimum threshold to more than 250,000 votes from the 130,000 in the 2001 election. The 2004 party-list election only filled up 24 seats, still a far cry from the 52 available seats up for grab.
Had the winning parties and groups rested on their achievements in the last election, there would have been fewer party-list representatives in the incoming 13th Congress. As it happened, most of them - including newly-organized ones - increased their respective vote bases.
This is most observable in winning Left party-list groups. In the case of Akbayan, it had 370,000 votes in the 2001 elections - good enough for two seats. In the 2004 election, this increased more than a hundred percent to more than 850,000. It has now three seats - the maximum possible that can be allocated to a single party list group.
Bayan Muna - the front-runner - lost some half-million votes at first glance, down from 1.7 million in 2001 to only 1.2 million in 2004. However, because it pursued a strategy of multiple party-list groups, the total vote base of the Bayan Muna groups actually increased to 2.7 million. However, only 1.5 million votes were useable to achieve the six seats Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela got. The group increased its vote base by 60 percent.
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) maintained its one seat but more than doubled its vote base from 215,000 to around 480,000. However, this was done at the expense of its sister party-list group, Sanlakas. The latter failed to reach the two-percent threshold when it garnered only around 190,000 votes - a mere 50,000 additional vote base from its 149,000 in 2001.
Anak Mindanaw (Amin) only increased its vote base by 10,000 from 259,000 to 269,000, but this was good enough to maintain its one seat in Congress.
A notable feature of the 2004 party-list election is the continued strong showing of religious-affiliated groups. Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay), identified with El Shaddai, earned two seats. Alagad, supported by Iglesia ni Cristo, gained a seat. Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC), identified with the Jesus Is Lord Movement, still maintained a seat while losing its second seat.
The Association of Electric Cooperatives (APEC) also increased its vote base a little, but it was enough to maintain its three representatives in Congress. The Veterans Party of the Philippines (VFP), Butil Farmers Party (Butil), and Cooperative NATTCO Network Party (COOP-NATTCO), were former winners and came back in the 2004 elections with one seat each.
Three newcomers, the Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE), the Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino (ALIF), and An Waray managed to grab one seat each. However, veteran party-list Abanse Pinay lost its seat, along with Sanlakas.
No party-list group from the overseas Filipino sector was able to barge into the winning column. The sector does not yet have a block vote, aside from the fact that a very low number of overseas Filipinos voted (162,000 out of 260,000 total voters).
The 2004 party-list elections underscored the fact of multisectoral support, rather than merely sectoral appeal, as decisive. There is also the importance of combining vote base organizing, negotiated votes, and appeal to market votes.
It again disclosed the various defects of the system, such as high minimum threshold, three-seat limit, and entry of party-list groups that do not represent marginalized and under-represented sectors. The pending bill for amendment of the Party-List Law has never been more relevant - the just-concluded election begs for its passage.