Tarpaulins bearing faces of politicians, campaign jingles waking you up in the morning, campaign rallies blasting music, politicians conducting house-to-house campaigns; those are just some of the indications Filipinos know all too well that election day in the Philippines is fast approaching.

With that being said, Filipinos already know the ins and outs of the election season. However, it is quite not the same when it comes to the actual electoral system of the country. Let us review the technicalities of how the Filipino people elect their leaders!

History of the Philippine Electoral System

During the reign of the Spaniards, Filipinos did not really have any freedom to elect who would govern them–it was the Spaniards who did it for them. This all changed however when Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence after American forces defeated the Spaniards during the Spanish-American War. The Revolutionary Government of the Philippines headed by Aguinaldo held the elections for the Malolos Congress, or also known as the Revolutionary Congress in 1898. However, there were several parts in Visayas and Mindanao who did not elect their own representatives.

(Malolos Congress | Credits to Barasoain Church)

It was only in 1907 where there was a full legislative election as the first Philippine Assembly election occurred on the 30th July of the same year. Sergio Osmeña was elected as Speaker of the Assembly, Manuel L. Quezon as the majority leader, and Vicente Singson as the Minority Leader. This election and the inauguration of the assembly marked a turning point in Philippine history as it paved the way for Filipino self-governance and self-determination (Piedad-Pugay, 2012).

(Philippine Assembly | Photo credits to Official Gazette)

During the American occupation of the Philippines, specifically in 1916, through the colonial Insular Government, the Philippines had its first Senatorial elections. Manuel L. Quezon won in the said elections and was subsequently elected by his peers as the Senate President.

19 years later, the first nationwide presidential elections followed with Manuel L. Quezon getting a landslide victory against former President Emilio Aguinaldo, garnering 67.99% of votes.

2 years after, suffrage for women in the Philippines was granted. This was after the 1937 Philippine Women’s Suffrage Plebiscite resulted in a 91% affirmative response to the granting of suffrage to women.

(President Manuel Quezon signing the Women's Suffrage Bill | Credits to Malacañang Palace)

In 1940, the Commision on Elections (COMELEC) was born after an amendment to the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. Its main purpose is to enforce all the laws and regulations related to elections in the country.

During the presidency and dictatorship rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., specifically in 1978, the first parliamentary elections were held in which Marcos became the third Prime Minister of the country. When the Philippines were freed from the dictatorship of Marcos, a new constitution was born, and it is when the Philippines transitioned into a multi-party system, its current party system.

1987 Constitution

After then President Corazon Aquno became president when Marcos was ousted, a new constitution was made; which includes how the country will elect its leaders. With that being said, the Electoral System of the Philippines shall always follow what is written in the constitution, if not, the very essence of the constitution is undermined. With that, the characteristics of the Philippine Electoral System are as follows:
  • Elections for the members of Congress and Local Government Units shall be held every three years during the second Monday of May.
  • Elections for the President and Vice President shall occur every 6 years every second Monday of May.
  • All elected officials shall start their term on June 30 of the election year.
  • Proportional Representation System is used for Party-List elections, while Plurality Voting System is used for the rest.
Voting System

Unlike the Electoral System in the United States of America (USA), the Philippines utilizes a Plurality Voting System wherein the candidate that has the most number of votes wins. For the USA, it has an electoral college, which is a story for another time. Going back to the Plurality Voting System, a candidate is not required to ensure a majority vote. As long as they have the most votes among their fellow candidates, they are considered to be the winner.

The aforementioned system of voting is used for all positions in the government, except for the party lists, which utilizes Proportional Representation System. Under a Proportional Representation System of voting, a party-list running for a seat in the House of Representatives does not necessarily need to get the most votes to be seated. The party-lists just need a certain number of votes (2% of total votes cast) in order to get a seat.

Who Can Vote?

Filipino citizens aged at least 18 years old or above on the day of the Elections, a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years, residing at least six months in the place where they are a registered voter, not disqualified by law, are the ones who are allowed to exercise their right to vote.

Besides the aforementioned qualifications of those who can vote, Filipinos residing abroad can also cast their votes for President, Vice-President, Senators, and a Party-List. Overseas absentee voters can cast their votes days or months earlier than the election day in the Philippines in their respective Philippine embassies and consulates. Furthermore, those who are working (government employees, healthcare workers, police, soldiers, etc.) during the Election Day are also considered as an absentee voter since they would not be able to cast their vote while working at the same time–so they are given a special day to cast their votes.

Written by Lawrenze Empleo

Christian Lawrenze Empleo is currently a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise, and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of Colegio de San Juan de Letran Calamba.

Ray Christian S. Lopez

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