Philippines gives thumbs up to Duterte as loyalists dominate midterm vote

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 16, 2019

More than 18,000 positions were at stake, including half of the 24-seat Senate, which has served as a bulwark against some of the President's most controversial policies.

Candidates leading the Senate contest include Duterte's closest aide, the daughter of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the wife of the country's richest man, a movie star, a jailed politician recently cleared of plunder charges, and a police general who spearheaded Duterte's brutal war on drugs.

Voters crowded voting centers in Metro Manila even ahead of polls opening at 6 automated midterm elections where some 62 million were registered to cast ballots.

"I voted for numerous candidates endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte because his government is doing its job", said Myrna Cruz, 51.

The opening of the polls was accompanied by isolated outbursts of violence, which is not unusual in the Philippines' frequently bloody competition for elective offices.

While the results of the elections are still unofficial, Philippine presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Tuesday told a news conference at the presidential palace that "there appears to be an unstoppable trend towards a resounding victory of the administration's favored senatorial candidates".

The 74-year-old leader, whose six-year term ends in 2022, acknowledged that Monday's election could very well be a referendum on his first three years as president.

Early on Monday, nine people were shot and wounded during a confrontation at a polling station on the southern island of Jolo, which is home to insurgents and powerful local clans.

But for Duterte the key is taking control of an independent-minded Senate while keeping the House of Representatives in the hands of his allies.

Winning a Senate majority, something which independent national surveys indicate is well within reach, would give him legislative backing for his anti-crime proposals and his plan to rewrite the constitution.

It would also allow him to expand his contentious anti-drug crackdown by bringing back the death penalty, a pledge the UN Human Rights Council said gave it "deep alarm". The death penalty has a twisting past in the Philippines, having been outlawed in 1987, reinstated six years later and then abolished again in 2006.

She is now mayor of Davao City, a post previously held by her father, and could follow in his footsteps to run for president in 2022.

"The opposition may not even get one seat and that would be a record".

The results for municipal and city mayors and councils are expected within hours of polls closing at 6.00pm on Monday, with winners for the Senate and congressional seats likely to be declared from Friday.

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