Philippines opposition fails to rock Duterte’s Senate dominance

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Rappler’s real-time video coverage of the the 2019 mid-term Philippine elections.

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

All 12 spots open for election in the Philippines Senate have been dominated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies without a single opposition candidate becoming a senator, according to early unofficial results.

The projected result of the Philippines mid-term elections represents a consolidation of President Duterte’s power across the country, reports Rappler.

Senator Cynthia Villar was the top victor with a total of 24,082,934 votes, based on the latest partial and unofficial results from the Commission on Elections transparency server earlier today, with 92.61 percent of precincts having transmitted results.

READ MORE: Otso Diretso’s catch-up trail

Cheerful but unsuccessful … an opposition Otso Diretso thanksgiving concert in Manila last week before yesterday’s election in the Philippines. Image: Rappler

Completing the 11 seats are other senators up for reelection and administration candidates who ran under Duterte’s PDP-Laban and the Hugpong ng Pagbabago slate of his daughter and Davao City mayor Sara Duterte Carpio.

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In second place with 21,078,911 votes was Grace Poe, followed by former special assistant to the president Bong Go in third place, with 19,480,785 votes.

Al Jazeera reports that although mostly supportive of Duterte, the outgoing Senate had so far tempered his more polarising objectives, such as reinstating the death penalty or redrafting the constitution to change the form of government from unitary to federal – a move that may allow Duterte to stay in power indefinitely.

Critics have expressed fears that a victory for Duterte’s allies would reduce the Senate’s independence and prevent it from keeping a check on the president, whom they expect to further push for his platforms as his single six-year term enters its home run.

‘Truth voices lacking’
“Clearly, there are few who make a stand in the government nowadays,” said Senator Leila de Lima, jailed on illegal drug charges after she ran an investigation into thousands of killings in Duterte’s “war on drugs”.

“Our institutions lack voices for justice and truth. Many fear persecution and choose to kowtow just to stay in power,” she said in a statement yesterday.

Except for Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, and Lito Lapid, all top candidates in yesterday’s election belong to the administration-backed Hugpong ng Pagbabago slate.

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito placed 13th, registering 13,651,401 votes. He was behind Bong Revilla by around 220,000 votes.

None of the opposition candidates of the Liberal Party-led Otso Diretso ticket made it to the so-called “Magic 12”, including its two veteran candidates who had breached the winners’ circle in preelection surveys – Senator Bam Aquino and former interior chief Mar Roxas.

Aquino placed only 14th with 13,499,806 votes, behind Revilla by around 340,000. Roxas recorded 9,382,159 and landed at 16th place.

An election analyst said opposition candidates should have united to present a “new vision” for the Philippines that would have countered the Duterte administration’s narrative of strongman rule, reports Rappler.

Arjan Aguirre, a political science instructor at Ateneo de Manila University, said the opposition’s strategy of focusing only on specific issues was ineffective to counter a president who continued to enjoy high satisfaction ratings despite the controversies hounding his administration.

Stacked odds
The odds have long been stacked against the opposition candidates, most of whom ran either under the Otso Diretso slate or the Labour Win coalition of labour groups.

Most of them struggled with running a nationwide campaign, having no steady campaign funds, and few to zero politicians and donors willing to endorse them publicly.

But Vice-President Leni Robredo, who campaigned diligently for Otso Diretso, remained positive until the end, reports Rappler.

The Otso Diretso candidates had hoped they would be able to pull off another come-from-behind victory like Robredo did in the 2016 vice presidential polls.

“Whatever the outcome of the elections is, tingin ko panalo na kami – panalo na in uniting a lot of people na pare-pareho iyong paniniwala (I think we’re already winners – winners in uniting a lot of people who believe) in the things that are happening in our midst,” said the opposition leader after she voted at Naga City yesterday afternoon.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz