WATCH: New senators flash Duterte fist pump – except for 2

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's tighter grip on the Senate? 

Nothing would have shown it better than all 12 senators-elect making his trademark fist pump on Wednesday, May 22, when the Commission on Elections (Comelec) proclaimed them as winning senators.

But reelected senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay refused to join their fellow winners in making this Duterte salute.

Poe instead put her hand on her chest, a throwback to her 2016 campaign when she pushed for "gobyernong may puso" (a government with a heart). Poe, whom Duterte defeated in the 2016 presidential polls, is criticized for playing safe toward Duterte's policies as she is seen to be positioning herself for another presidential bid.  

Binay on the other hand flashed the No. 1 sign, the symbol of her party United Nationalist Alliance, whose acronym UNA is the Filipino word for "first." 

Nine of the 12 winning senators have openly allied themselves with Duterte. Senatorial candidate Lito Lapid is not directly classified as a Duterte ally, but on Wednesday also made the President's fist pump sign. 

Made up of 24 senators, the new Senate will have only 4 members from the opposition. This will tighten Duterte's control over the institution, even as it is supposed to provide checks and balances to Duterte's government.

Paterno R. 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