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12 new senators proclaimed, boosting Duterte’s power

Paterno Esmaquel II
12 new senators proclaimed, boosting Duterte’s power
The new senators include Duterte aide Bong Go and Marcos daughter Imee Marcos, wiping out opposition bets and tightening the President's grip on Congress

MANILA, Philippines – The most trusted aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and an architect of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs formally won as Philippine senators on Wednesday, May 22.

Duterte aide Bong Go, Marcos daughter Imee Marcos, and former police chief Bato dela Rosa were among 12 senators-elect who walked the red carpet to an air-conditioned tent at the Marcos-built Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) proclaimed the 12 new senators at the PICC more than a week after the senatorial polls wiped out candidates from the opposition, tightening Duterte’s grip on Congress. 

The other winners include actor Lito Lapid, who recently starred in a blockbuster TV series; movie star Bong Revilla, who is facing 16 counts of graft; children of political families; and self-styled independent candidates like Grace Poe.

DUTERTE AIDE. Commission on Elections Chairman Sheriff Abas raises the hand of Senator-elect Bong Go during the proclamation of new senators on May 22, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Nine out of 12 senators-elect have openly allied themselves with the Duterte administration. It is the first time in 80 years that the opposition didn’t win any national legislative seat. 

Here is the list of the 12 winning senators along with their number of votes:

  1. Cynthia Villar – 25,283,727
  2. Grace Poe – 22,029,788
  3. Bong Go – 20,657,702
  4. Pia Cayetano – 19,789,019
  5. Bato dela Rosa – 19,004,225
  6. Sonny Angara – 18,161,862
  7. Lito Lapid – 16,965,464
  8. Imee Marcos – 15,882,628
  9. Francis Tolentino – 15,510,026
  10. Koko Pimentel – 14,668,665
  11. Bong Revilla – 14,624,445
  12. Nancy Binay – 14,504,936

“These 12 now stand with us today to accept the responsibility and duty that we, the voters, have entrusted to them,” said Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas, capping a weeklong tally marred by vote transmission woes and other problems such as hundreds of defective SD cards

MARCOS DAUGHTER. Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon raises the hand of Marcos daughter Imee Marcos during the proclamation of new senators on May 22, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

The front-runner in the Senate race, Cynthia Villar, delivered the acceptance speech on behalf of the other winners.

Villar is a reelectionist senator whose vast financial resources, networks, and decades in politics helped her overtake former front-runner Poe. Villar is also the wife of businessman Manny Villar, the closest rival of Benigno Aquino III in the 2010 presidential elections. (READ: The rise of Cynthia Villar: How politics, money, networks made her No. 1)

In her acceptance speech, Villar picked up from her campaign slogan and vowed a “hanep na buhay” (a good life) for millions of Filipinos. 

She also thanked Duterte and his daughter Sara, who is positioning herself as kingmaker, for their support. Observers see the midterm polls as a prelude to the 2022 presidential elections, where Sara Duterte is widely touted as a possible candidate. (In Philippine politics, front-runners in senatorial elections, like Villar, often seek higher posts in suceeding elections.)

“Thank you po sa kanilang mag-ama (Thank you to the father and daughter),” said Villar.

The proclamation ended with the senators-elect, except for Poe and Binay, together making Duterte’s trademark fist pump. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.