Benigno Aquino III triumphs, Manny Pacquiao re-elected
President Benigno Aquino III reigned victorious as he garnered a majority in Congress, easing the path to push for his legislative agenda that includes more economic reforms and a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF].
The Philippines held its midterm elections May 13 in a relatively peaceful and orderly fashion. Both the military and the police were tasked with maintaining order, particularly in clamping down on unlicensed firearms and private armies in electoral hotspots.
A day after the elections, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the death toll from poll violence stood at eight, with 21 injured.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the elections, saying the Philippine electorate has spoken overwhelmingly.
“While there were isolated incidents of violence and equally isolated hitches in the voting process, our institutions – from the [Commission on Elections] to its deputized agencies – volunteers for poll-watching, media, and the public came together and did their utmost to ensure free, fair, and credible elections,” Lacierda said.
On Election Day, the new military spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said the military would remain on guard even after the voting hours were over, saying the military’s next focus was to protect the canvassers.
Meanwhile, Director Gen. Alan Purisima of the Philippine National Police [PNP] said the election process was “generally peaceful so far, the senatorial and local elections are also going well even in the 15 provinces being strictly monitored.”
Since January, the police and the military had been enforcing an election firearms ban where only law enforcers in uniform and on duty may carry firearms outside their homes. Permits to carry firearms outside residences were suspended until June, as a precaution to minimize poll-related violence. More than 3,000 violators had been arrested as of Election Day, according to the PNP.
The police also rounded up more than 100 people for violating a ban on buying and consuming alcoholic beverages during the weekend before elections.
Meanwhile, the military arrested a group of suspected New People’s Army rebels allegedly trying to collect money from candidates in exchange for permits to campaign.
On Election Day, the PNP assisted voters and helped protect teachers serving as election inspectors from threats. Police also kept watch over the Commission on Elections, which has convened into the National Board of Canvassers to officially tally the votes.
Aquino’s party wins overwhelming majority in Congress
The ruling Liberal Party won nine of the 12 seats for the Senate.
In the House of Representatives, reports indicated that the Liberal Party will be able to obtain the majority. Aquino said this will allow him to continue efforts to sustain economic growth and bolster the country’s overall economic footing.
Lacierda said that as the counting is completed and the official proclamations take place, “it seems clear that our countrymen have spoken overwhelmingly to confirm and expand the mandate for reform and change that they first granted in 2010 to President Aquino.
“Since we will have a greater support in the Senate, that means we will be able to push our reform agenda, the laws that we feel are our priorities for the country, and so it is certainly a desire that we wanted during the campaign and it seems like it is going that way,” Lacierda said.
One of Aquino’s senatorial candidates, Antonio Trillanes IV, was re-elected. Opposition candidate Gregorio Honasan II of the United Nationalist Alliance also was re-elected to office.
Trillanes earned the ninth place while Honasan garnered the last spot in the Senate.
Trillanes, a former Navy lieutenant senior grade, was involved in a short-lived mutiny in 2003 when he seized a shopping mall and an apartment building in the central business district of Makati City to protest corruption and social injustice.
Meanwhile, Honasan was a key figure in the 1986 People Power revolution and, ironically, the coup attempts against then-President Corazon Aquino afterward.
Aside from the 12 seats or half of the entire Senate, the other public offices up for election included more than 250 district and party-list seats in the House of Representatives. Members of the upper house serve six-year terms, with half of the senators elected every three years.
Some analysts said an administration majority in Congress will help Aquino with the passage of his legislative agenda. In his last three years in office, Aquino is expected to focus on legislation needed to boost the economy as well as support the peace agreement with the MILF.
Aquino has shared plans to expand his anti-corruption measures and improve law and order, all challenges that could benefit from strong support in the Congress.
Estrada, Marcos and Pacquiao win
In other notable victories, former President Joseph Estrada was elected mayor of Manila in his first successful bid for public office since being ousted for alleged corruption in 2001. Estrada, 76, finished second in the 2010 presidential election and could use his new victory as mayor of the capital as a springboard into another run for the highest office.
Boxing champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquaio and his wife, Jinkee, were both declared winners in a ceremony in Alabel town in the province of Saragani on the southern island of Mindanao on May 17. He ran unopposed for re-election to a second term as the sole representative of Sarangani in Congress. In her first bid for public office, Jinkee Pacquaio was elected vice-governor of the same province, winning by a wide margin.
Former First Lady Imelda Marcos was re-elected to her second term as congresswoman representing the Ilocos Norte province. Marcos, 83, is the widow of former president Ferdinand Marcos. Their daughter Imee, 57, ran unopposed and was re-elected governor of the province.