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[OPINION] #PHVote 2019: Of upsets and surprises

Chay F. Hofileña

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[OPINION] #PHVote 2019: Of upsets and surprises
Where is the hope?

This is a #PHVote newsletter sent to subscribers on May 14, 2019.

I’m Chay Hofileña, editor of NewsbreakVoting in the country, with just a few exceptions, ended at 6 pm on Monday, May 13. There were a number of pleasant surprises, and well, upsets that make elections always exciting for those who are heavily invested in them.

As of early Tuesday morning, May 14, these were some of the electoral victories that left many ecstatic because their outcomes were not entirely apparent, given the perceived continuing hold on power of incumbents.

  • Joseph Estrada loses mayoralty in Manila, site of numerous killings in the drug war, to Isko Moreno
  • Francis Zamora takes San Juan mayoralty and defeats Janelle Ejercito, daughter of Jinggoy Estrada and granddaughter of Joseph Estrada
  • Mayor Bobby Eusebio loses in Pasig to Vico Sotto
  • Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña concedes to his challenger, Vice Mayor Edgar Labella
  • Abby Binay wins over brother Junjun Binay in Makati mayoral race
  • Former vice president Jejomar Binay loses to Romulo “Kid” Peña in congressional race

These early results at the local level appear to indicate, to a limited degree, a shift in voter preference from the old guard to the new; from the old, experienced hands to newer and still willing-to-be-further-tested local executives.

These are of course just 6 local contests that may not be reflective of the overall national sentiment. They are nevertheless snapshots of what a segment of voters are looking for in their leaders. Not to inflate their significance, one could argue that the so-called “new” leaders aren’t exactly new themselves but are instead the fruits of dynastic, political families (except for Moreno, Labella, and Peña).

I, however, think that these results should not be summarily dismissed and swept under the rug. Unlike national contests, local elections are actually more personal and intimately relevant to the day-to-day concerns of voters – peace and order, garbage, traffic, schools, local roads, among others. The impact of local politics is truly more direct, that’s why the desire for something new is more palpable.

Perhaps the rays of hope will have to emanate from here more than the national level. 

Chosen senators 

The results of the senatorial race as of 12:47 pm, Tuesday, with 94.68% of precincts already reporting, indicate complete domination by the administration and a ruthless demolition of the opposition. All the candidates that President Rodrigo Duterte openly campaigned for – Bong Go, Bato dela Rosa, Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino – made it to the Top 9.

Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan are winning 4 seats (Go, Dela Rosa, Tolentino, and Pimentel), followed by the Nacionalista Party with 3 (Cynthia Villar, Pia Cayetano, Marcos). Four other parties managed one seat each – Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (Sonny Angara), Nationalist People’s Coalition (Lito Lapid), Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats (Bong Revilla), and United Nationalist Alliance (Nancy Binay). Grace Poe, the lone Independent, landed on second spot. 

Where were the candidates Bam Aquino and Mar Roxas, perhaps the only two from the opposition who had a chance of making it? At numbers 14 and 16, respectively. Talk about decimation. 

If there was anything positive about these results, it’s probably that this group of incoming legislators has 3 coming from Mindanao, which has been under-represented for the longest time – Davao Boys Go and Dela Rosa, and Cagayan de Oro’s Koko Pimentel. Another positive thing? There are 5 women, or close to half of the 12: topnotchers Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe, Pia Cayetano, Imee Marcos, and Nancy Binay. 

But the most obvious tragedy of it all is the absence of any strong opposition, not even a single one. Was this even a surprise? Not really. Is it an abomination? Of course. Because as we all know it spells the doom of dissent in the Senate. 

Even the supposed Independent in the Senate, Grace Poe, never mustered the guts to strongly oppose the extension of martial law in Mindanao in 2017 and 2018. She will be more cautious and tamed in the new Senate, now more than ever. Lamentable too is the senatorial victory of a Marcos, despite proven outright lies about academic credentials. 

Where is the Philippines headed after this midterm election? To perdition, unless the rays of hope shine brightly enough to cast light on looming darkness. I fervently want to be proven wrong. –  


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Chay F. Hofileña

Chay Hofileña is editor of Rappler's investigative and in-depth section, Newsbreak. Among Rappler’s senior founders and editors, she is also in charge of training. She obtained her graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York.