Duterte strengthened in Philippine midterm elections

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Duterte Strengthened In Philippine Midterm Elections

Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte appear to have swept the elections for the Philippine Senate, according to unofficial results on May 14, giving him a stronger grip on the one legislative chamber that had shown some degree of independence from his authoritarian rule.

With more than 95 per cent of the vote counted, candidates backed by Duterte looked likely to win all 12 of the seats in the 24-member Senate that were up for election in the voting on May 13. If that is confirmed in the coming days by the Commission on Elections, then a small opposition bloc in the Senate that had managed to thwart some of the president’s agenda will become substantially weaker.

One by one, candidates in an opposition alliance known as Otso Diretso, meaning Straight Eight, threw in the towel, and a spokesman for Duterte essentially declared victory.

Most notably, the architect of Duterte’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines has almost certainly won a senate seat, prompting concerns among victims’ groups.

Former police chief Ronald Dela Rosa is among Duterte’s allies who were on track to take nine of 12 open seats in the Upper House. The senate has previously been a bulwark against some of the president’s most controversial proposals.

“[Dela Rosa] now has his own influence and clout, independent of the president,” said Kristina Conti, a lawyer for the victims’ group Rise Up for Life and for Rights, which filed criminal and civil cases against police in relation to Duterte’s drug war.

“He might use his political clout to whitewash investigations into the human rights violations of the police,” she added.

Another of Duterte’s hand-picked candidates on course for a senate seat is Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

She is poised to beat scions of political families who fought her father’s dictatorship, including Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV. He is the nephew and namesake of Benigno Aquino Jr, whose assassination in 1983 invigorated opposition to the Marcos regime.

Unlike the House of Representatives, which has backed Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, martial law in the south and other policies that have alarmed human rights groups, the Senate has shown some degree of defiance. But the president’s strongest critic in the Senate, Antonio Trillanes, did not seek re-election this week, and another incumbent opposition senator, Bam Aquino, a cousin of the former president Benigno S. Aquino III, appears to have been defeated.

That would leave just four anti-Duterte senators, one of whom, Leila de Lima, cannot vote because she has been jailed since 2017 on drug-trafficking charges, which she says were fabricated to silence her.

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Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte appear to have swept the elections for the Philippine Senate, according to unofficial results on May 14, giving him a stronger grip on the one legislative chamber that had shown some degree of independence from his authoritarian rule. With more than 95 per cent of the vote counted, candidates backed by Duterte looked likely to win all 12 of the seats in the 24-member Senate that were up for election in the voting on May 13. If that is confirmed in the coming days by the Commission on Elections, then a small opposition bloc in...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Duterte Strengthened In Philippine Midterm Elections

Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte appear to have swept the elections for the Philippine Senate, according to unofficial results on May 14, giving him a stronger grip on the one legislative chamber that had shown some degree of independence from his authoritarian rule.

With more than 95 per cent of the vote counted, candidates backed by Duterte looked likely to win all 12 of the seats in the 24-member Senate that were up for election in the voting on May 13. If that is confirmed in the coming days by the Commission on Elections, then a small opposition bloc in the Senate that had managed to thwart some of the president’s agenda will become substantially weaker.

One by one, candidates in an opposition alliance known as Otso Diretso, meaning Straight Eight, threw in the towel, and a spokesman for Duterte essentially declared victory.

Most notably, the architect of Duterte’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines has almost certainly won a senate seat, prompting concerns among victims’ groups.

Former police chief Ronald Dela Rosa is among Duterte’s allies who were on track to take nine of 12 open seats in the Upper House. The senate has previously been a bulwark against some of the president’s most controversial proposals.

“[Dela Rosa] now has his own influence and clout, independent of the president,” said Kristina Conti, a lawyer for the victims’ group Rise Up for Life and for Rights, which filed criminal and civil cases against police in relation to Duterte’s drug war.

“He might use his political clout to whitewash investigations into the human rights violations of the police,” she added.

Another of Duterte’s hand-picked candidates on course for a senate seat is Imee Marcos, daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

She is poised to beat scions of political families who fought her father’s dictatorship, including Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV. He is the nephew and namesake of Benigno Aquino Jr, whose assassination in 1983 invigorated opposition to the Marcos regime.

Unlike the House of Representatives, which has backed Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, martial law in the south and other policies that have alarmed human rights groups, the Senate has shown some degree of defiance. But the president’s strongest critic in the Senate, Antonio Trillanes, did not seek re-election this week, and another incumbent opposition senator, Bam Aquino, a cousin of the former president Benigno S. Aquino III, appears to have been defeated.

That would leave just four anti-Duterte senators, one of whom, Leila de Lima, cannot vote because she has been jailed since 2017 on drug-trafficking charges, which she says were fabricated to silence her.

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