2025 Philippine senatorial election

How the Senate race is shaping up a year before 2025 elections

Bonz Magsambol

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How the Senate race is shaping up a year before 2025 elections

SESSION. Senators gather inside the plenary hall for their regular session.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Some personalities have already expressed their plan to run for the Senate, mostly either seeking reelection or a return to the upper chamber

MANILA, Philippines – Going by the results of surveys conducted in the first quarter of the year, the 2025 Senate race is likely to be, again, dominated by familiar names.

In 2022, over 60 candidates vied for a seat in the Senate but most of the winners were either reelectionists or former senators. Will the 2025 elections offer some surprises?

Aspiring candidates, especially those who have been out of the political limelight, are expected to make their presence felt in the coming months. Some of them have already done that, mostly either reelectionists or former senators seeking a comeback.

Nationwide surveys of various polling firms have included among the potential choices some prominent personalities who have never held a Senate post. So far, none of them have given any inkling about the possibility but neither have they shut the door to a senatorial run.

Here’s a glimpse of how the 2025 senatorial race is shaping up, a year before the elections.

Reelectionists: The advantage of name recall

A Pulse Asia survey held in March as well as other voters’ preference polls during the period showed similar findings: Reelectionist senators Pia Cayetano, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Bong Revilla, and Lito Lapid would likely get reelected if elections were held during the survey period.

Another reelectionist, Senator Francis Tolentino, was at 18th-31st place.

Go, Dela Rosa, and Tolentino have said that they would seek reelection under the Rodrigo Duterte-led the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP).

Political analyst and University of the Philippines professor Ela Atienza said that the advantage of reelectionists is name recall. “We have weak political parties. So, people normally vote on name recall and personalities, not party programs and performance,” she said.

Pulse Asia president Ronald Holmes said that reelectionists also enjoy public association with the position or the institution they seek to serve again and, “more importantly, access to patronage resources to implement projects or provide collective or individual benefits to constituents.”

Holmes said that it would be sweeping to say that Filipino voters prefer reelectionists just because of name recall. He said that in a “number of cases, the electoral contests are between well entrenched reelectionists from political clans versus possibly well-meaning competitors who don’t have the machinery or resources to compete with dynasts.”

Alliances are key: The administration slate

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. revealed one member of the administration slate on May 10, when he went to General Santos City, the hometown of former senator Manny Pacquiao, for the Bagong Pilipinas Serbisyo Fair.

In his opening greetings in his speech, he referred to Pacquiao as “ang dating senador at babalik na senador (former senator and returning senator).” Media reports quoted Pacquiao as confirming after the event that he would run in the 2025 Senate elections under the administration ticket. It was later reported that Pacquiao’s Probinsya Muna Development Initiative (PROMDI) plans to forge an alliance with Marcos’ Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP).

Two days earlier, on May 8, PFP formalized its alliance with Lakas-CMD. On Saturday night, May 18, Marcos’ party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition signed the “Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas (Alliance for a New Philippines).

PFP secretary general Thomas Lantion earlier said that they want former Senate president Sotto, the NPC chairperson, to join the administration slate in 2025. Sotto said in a media interview after the PFP-NPC event that he was 90% certain about making a Senate comeback.

In his newspaper column, veteran political strategist Lito Banayo shared Marcos’ supposed senatorial lineup in 2025: Revilla, Tingog Representative Yedda Romualdez, Erwin Tulfo, Defense Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr., Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, Leyte Representative Richard Gomez, Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, Lapid, retired colonel Ariel Querubin, Imee Marcos, and Pia Cayetano.

Las Piñas Representative Camille Villar, whose mother, Cynthia, is graduating from the Senate in 2025, is also supposedly part of that slate. The lawmaker has not spoken about any such plan but her posters have been seen in various parts of the country.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Lakas-CMD president, had said that it was important for them to field senatorial candidates who are in favor of charter change.

An uphill battle: The opposition slate

While Marcos’ Senate bets can bank on the administration coalition’s political machinery and campaign kitty, it’s a different story for their opposition rivals who face another uphill battle for seats in the upper chamber.

In February, Liberal Party spokesperson Leila de Lima bared some of the opposition’s 2025 Senate bets: former senators Kiko Pangilinan and Bam Aquino, and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno. She also said that LP will try to convince former vice president Leni Robredo to join the slate.

In the March Pulse Asia survey, Pangilinan was at 14th-18th place, Aquino at 18th-28th place, and Diokno at a distant 24th-40th place. Robredo, who has been mum about her political plans, was at 19th-36th place.

Aquino formally announced his Senate comeback bid on May 14, the same day he became the chairperson of new political party Katipunan ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KANP).

The LP’s Otso Diretso Senate slate did not win a single seat in 2019 midterm elections, during the watch of Duterte who attacked and vilified the LP and the political opposition. The opposition’s scorecard improved slightly in 2022, though with just one winner, then-reelectionist Senator Risa Hontiveros. Will opposition candidates fare better in 2025, under the Marcos administration?

Political analyst and Ateneo de Manila University professor Arjan Aguirre said that it will still be “a bit of a challenge” for the opposition to win seats in the Senate. While Filipino voters have seem to have a high level of awareness about them, people tend to vote for other candidates, Aguirre said.

“Since there are no opposition candidates who are running for a second term, it will be a bit a challenge for them to convert potential supporters,” he said.

Asked what senatorial aspirants from the opposition should work on, Aguirre said: “They need to work on increasing their conversion rate (turning this awareness level to voting preference points by closing the gap between them) by knowing first what makes the other candidates more palatable to voters than them.”

“They have to know also their appeal and strengthen them more in the months to come,” he added.

Will they run?

Potential Senate bets who have no problem about public appeal are those who have been topping the pre-election surveys: ACT-CIS Representative Erwin Tulfo, Tito Sotto, and Rodrigo Duterte.

Tulfo appears to be considering a Senate run, based on his response to his current top ranking in the voter preference surveys. He said that while he appreciated public support for a bid for higher office, it was too early to say anything about it and that “right now,” he was happy working as a congressman.

Duterte, true to form, continues to tease the public about a possible return to politics. In November 2023, he said he would be forced to come out of political retirement and join the 2025 Senate race if his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, would be impeached, amid rumors of such a move in the House of Representatives.

In January, close Duterte ally Bato dela Rosa said that the former president might run if the Philippine government allows the International Criminal Court’s probe into his infamous drug war. Duterte, who faces ICC arrest and has been accused of a destabilization plot against Marcos, has yet to say anything about running in 2025, although his party has been pushing for it.

Other personalities who are faring well in the first quarter pre-election surveys are former Manila mayor Isko Moreno and celebrity doctor Willie Ong, who ran as a tandem in the 2022 elections; broadcaster Ben Tulfo; and former senator Panfilo Lacson who is reportedly being wooed by NPC.

Another is third-term Makati Mayor Abby Binay, who the NPC is considering for its Senate slate. Her sister, Senator Nancy Binay, will end her second consecutive term next year.

Will familiar names still dominate the senatorial race in 2025? – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.