Duterte tightens grip on power after mid-term polls

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Manila, May 22 (IANS) Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has consolidated his grip on power as his allies swept opposition candidates in the mid-term election, according to official results announced on Wednesday after several deferrals and accusations of lack of transparency.

According to results of the May 13 polls, his allies now control the Senate, which so far served as a check on some of Duterte’s controversial policies.

The win gives him sweeping powers to push his agenda, including constitutional changes and reintroducing the death term, the BBC reported.

The “Magic 12” or the 12 senators who will make up half of the Upper House with a six-year mandate were presented at a formal event at the Philippine International Convention Centre by Sheriff Abas, chairperson of the Commission on Elections.

The opposition has been left out of the Magic 12, which means Duterte’s legislative agenda could be carried out without much opposition in the House of Representatives, in which he already has a majority, according to Efe news.

Bills to reinstate the death penalty, abolished in 2006, bringing down the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years, reform of the 1987 Constitution to implement a federal model and a possible proposal to eliminate the limit on mandates could be passed this term.

Despite criticism from rights groups over his brutal drug war, the President remains hugely popular across the country.

There were 18,000 posts up for grabs in the election. But the most-watched contest was the race for 12 Senate seats in the 24-seat Upper House. Nine of the new or re-elected senators are pro-Duterte and three Independents. The liberal opposition did not win a single of the 12 seats.

The man who oversaw a drug war that has seen thousands of suspected drug dealers or users killed in police operations is among the Duterte allies elected to the Senate, said the BBC.

Human rights activists fear that former police chief Roland dela Rosa will now be protected from any legal action. The police say the killings were “self defence”.

Others elected to the Senate, include daughter of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the wife of one of the Philippines’ richest men.

Duterte’s mandate has been reinforced and he will be able to implement his policies in the remaining years of his term without major opposition, said Institute for Political and Electoral Reform Executive Director Ramon Casiple.

According to Casiple, Duterte’s popularity is due to the fact that “his economic performance is good. He maintained the GDP growth, tamed inflation (which reached its highest of the decade in 2018), stabilised employment, brought in more investment and brought down poverty levels”.

–IANS

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