Mid-term elections seen boosting Duterte’s rule

Girlie Linao –
Millions of Filipinos head to the polls on Monday to vote for new lawmakers and local officials in mid-term elections seen as cementing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s popular rule in the country.
While a slew of issues confront the country ahead of the May 13 polls, voters are expected to choose candidates allied with Duterte regardless of their positions on the violent campaign against illegal drugs and the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, among others.
More than 61 million Filipinos are registered to vote for half of the 24-seat Senate, more than 240 members of the House of Representatives and nearly 20,000 provincial and municipal officials in the elections.
Duterte has been actively campaigning for his candidates, especially in the Senate, which has become a “battleground” for his controversial bills such as a proposal to change the country’s form of government and to cut corporate taxes to attract more investments.
Opposition senators have also led high-profile investigations into allegations of irregularities against the 74-year-old leader and his family in the past three years of his term.
But latest surveys show that Duterte’s candidates, including his former close aide Christopher Go and ex-police chief Ronald Dela Rosa, would dominate the Senate race despite the unabated criticisms against him and his policies.
“This likely means the last institutional bastion of the opposition will have fallen,” noted Mark Thompson, a politics professor and director of the Hong Kong-based Southeast Asia Research Centre.
“The expected electoral tsunami will likely enable Duterte to further consolidate his illiberal populist rule,” he added. “Duterte has transgressed even the limited constraints on his power in a ‘hyper-presidentialist’ system such as the Philippines.”
The main opposition group, the Liberal party, has been struggling with limited resources and ground support in the campaign. The party also has only fielded eight candidates in the Senate race.
In the latest survey by research group Pulse Asia Research Inc, only two candidates from the Liberal Party could possibly win a seat in the Senate and they are both trailing behind.
“We need a miracle,” admitted Senator Francis Pangilinan, campaign manager of the Liberal Party’s Otso Derecho (Straight Eight) slate. — dpa