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Medium term in the Philippines: Duterte consolidates power



  Rodrigo Duterte

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AFP

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Mr Duterte was not in the vote, but many see the vote as a verdict on him

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has received sweeping support in the midterm elections this week.

Wednesday's official results show that his allies are now controlling the Senate, which has been used as a control for some of its most controversial policies. [1

9659007] Victory gives him the comprehensive power to advance his agenda, including amending the Constitution and reintroducing the death penalty.

The election has also cemented his family members in the political elite.

Despite criticism from right-wing groups in his brutal drug war, the president remains extremely popular in the Philippines.

What was the result?

The May 13 election included 18,000 posts, but the most-watched contest was the race for 12 Senate mandates in the 24-seat Upper House.

Nine of the new or re-elected Senators are pro-Duted, three are independent. The liberal opposition did not win any of the twelve seats.

The man who monitored a drug war that killed thousands of suspected drug dealers or consumers in police operations is one of the Senate-elected Duterte allies.

Human rights activists fear that former police chief Roland dela Rosa will be protected from any legal action. The police say the murders were self-defense.

Other elected to the Senate include the daughter of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the wife of one of the richest men in the Philippines.

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The opposition has only a minority of the other 12 Senate seats available for election in 2022. This means that the Senate is now firmly in the hands of Mr. Duterte and his allies.

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Reuters

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Duterte supporters say he must be tough on corruption and crime

What does that mean?

New government laws must be passed by the Senate, and so far some of Mr. Duterte's controversial plans have been blocked by the House of Lords.

But as soon as the new senators take their seats In July, it will be much easier for the government to enforce laws.

However, an automatic go-ahead is not guaranteed, said Aries Arugay, Associate Professor of Politics at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

"Some of the senators are allied with Duterte just because of his overwhelming popularity right now," he said. Should the mood fluctuate against him, some senators could stop their support.

For the time being, however, Mr Duterte will probably have a free hand in implementing his agenda.

And what is this agenda?

Mr Duterte wants to reintroduce the death penalty as part of his tough stance on crime and drugs. He also wants to reduce the age of criminal liability to 12 years.

The opposition and right-wing groups reject such changes on the grounds that they would take the president's brutal war on drugs to a new level.

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Reuters

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Activists protest Some of Mr. Duterte's policies, however, are very popular across the country

Mr. Duterte also wants to change the constitution to make the Philippines a federal system and give more power to the regions.

While this might make sense in a vast country like the Philippines, there are fears that it is consolidating dynastic structures in local politics, said Prof. Arugay.

"Without centralized oversight and local reform, more federalist Philippines will only translate unchecked powers to regional families and clans."

A Duted Dynasty in the making?

Family dynasties have long been a feature of Philippine politics. Several famous surnames participated in this race in the Senate.

Imée Marcos, daughter of Ferdinand Marcos, is a supporter of the Duterte government and has won a seat. Bam Aquino, the cousin of former President Benigno Aquino III, is part of the opposition and has not received a seat.

Mr. Duterte's family is no exception. Before being elected president in 2016, he made a name for himself as a politician in the southern city of Davao. Now, his daughter Sara has been re-elected mayor of the same city, and many believe that she will run for president in 2022 when her father's term ends.

It is not only Sara, but also two of Mr. Duterte's sons for the office. One ran unhindered to the deputy mayor of Davao while another gained a seat in the House of Representatives.


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