Duterte’s Allies Dominate Unofficial Results in Philippine Senatorial Race

The results echo President Rodrigo Duterte's enduring popularity, as no opposition candidate manages to make it through.

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13 May 2019, 2:56pm

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte's endorsed candidates win 9 out of 12 senatorial seats. File photo by Reuters

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Partial and unofficial results a day after the elections showed that of the dozen senatorial seats up for grabs, 9 allies of President Rodrigo Duterte are among those in the top 12. The other 3 are re-electionists who ran independently but are also supportive of Duterte.

Among the winning candidates are Duterte's closest aide, Bong Go, and his hand-picked former police chief Bato dela Rosa – both of whom ran for the first time but benefitted greatly from Duterte's avid endorsement. Imee Marcos, the daughter of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos is also among the top 12, as is Bong Revilla, an actor-turned-senator who is facing graft charges.

The most recent results have no opposition senators in the top 12. The closet opposition candidate is re-electionist Benigno "Bam" Aquino, who is currently ranking 14th.

This means that of the total 24-seat Senate, only 4 are members of the opposition, all incumbents. One of them, Leila de Lima, is detained and unable to vote on key issues.

The results are based on 93.91% of election returns transmitted, representing 82,508 of 87,851 clustered precincts. The initial results are largely similar to the most recent pre-election surveys, which favored Duterte's endorsed candidates.

While Duterte himself is not up for election, the polls are largely seen as a referendum on the President and his policies. Initial results echo his satisfaction rating and enduring popularity, despite his violent and controversial war on drugs.

The results of these elections will dictate the momentum of Duterte’s remaining three years, and the fate of the policies he has instituted and are trying to pass. More senatorial allies means more support for his proposed measures, such as changing the country’s form of government to federalism, controversial tax reforms, and the future of his drug war.

Before the polls, the surveys spurred fears that the elections will result in a Senate that is not independent and largely controlled by the President.

Democracy observers have also cautioned that a Senate largely in favor of the President could make him the most powerful president since former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Historically, the last senatorial race wherein only one opposition candidate managed to win a seat was in 1967, during Marcos' era – 5 years before Martial Law was declared.

The end of election day was also marred with a delay in the results transmissions. Incoming transmissions were expected to arrive every 15 minutes, as they did in the 2016 presidential elections. But since the initial transmissions within half an hour of polls closing, which represented 350 precincts, the transparency server of the Commission on Elections used by media, candidates and watchdogs, stopped receiving results. The Commission said the server was having "technical issues."