President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the PDP-Laban campaign rally at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City on Feb. 24, 2019.
Presidential photo/Alfred Frias
Duterte and 'drug war' won midterm polls, Locsin tweets
( - May 15, 2019 - 12:25pm

MANILA, Philippines — The results of the 2019 Senate elections are the public's stamp of approval of President Rodrigo Duterte and the bloody "war on drugs", Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday.

Locsin said on his Twitter account that the government's vigorous campaign against illegal drugs was the main election issue of the midterm polls.

"The Senatorial elections were not a referendum in favor of Charter Change either, the death penalty, and jailing minors," Locsin said.

“[Duterte] and the war just won. So shut the fuck up on that subject everybody. The war goes on,” the top diplomat added.

In his 2018 State of the Nation Address, Duterte listed charter change as one of the measures he wanted to pass. 

The firebrand leader has also often mentioned that he wants to bring back capital punishment, especially for drug offenders, and to lower the age of criminal liability. The two proposals were not included in the administration's priority bills.

READ: More allies in Senate bring new hope for delayed priority legislation

Duterte himself said that the midterm polls’ result “could be taken as one referendum.”

“So that if you agree with me, then you can vote for my candidates or the people I am supporting this election,” the president told reporters in a chance interview after he cast his vote in Davao, Monday.

Admin bets won but not all support 'drug war'

The partial, unofficial tally of the 2019 senatorial race has consistently been dominated by candidates backed by the administration and that remained unchanged on Wednesday morning.

Of the 12 candidates poised to win Senate seats, nine were fielded by Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the slate formed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the president's daughter.

Among them is former presidential aide Christopher “Bong” Go; the president's former political adviser Francis Tolentino and  Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa—former top cop and chief implementer of the Duterte’s drug war.

FOLLOW: Live updates: Senatorial election in the Philippines

A candidates' stand on the "war on drugs" was one of the issues asked in various debates and fora in months leading to the elections.

Most of the Hugpong bets skipped the debates in favor of campaign rallies across the country and although they are most likely supportive of how the government is running its campaign against illegal drugs, not all have said that they are.

Re-electionist Sen. Grace Poe, who ran as an independent, has raised concerns over the campaign and raised the possibility in July 2018 "that the war on drugs is being used as a smokescreen for political killings."

In 2017, she filed a resolution seeking hearings into the deaths of minors in the context of the drive against drugs.

"Given these increasingly gruesome deaths,we must ensure that the operational protocols of law enforcement agencies strictly adhere to the enshrined rights in our laws and international conventions," Poe said then.

Sen. Nancy Binay, who ran under the United Nationalist Alliance party, is the author of a bill proposing a "comprehensive substance abuse educational program" in the country's schools. She also voiced concern over minors getting killed in anti-drug operations, saying in August 2017 that "the deaths of these children are extremely enraging and brought me a heavy heart."

RELATED: 16 senators call on gov’t to stop killings, especially of children

Actor and former lawmaker Lito Lapid, who ran under the Nationalist People’s Coalition, has not said much about national issues.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, the consistent front-runner in the ongoing tally, has categorically said where she stands on the "war on drugs" . In 2016, she pushed for community-based rehabilitation for drug surrenderees.

Social Weather Stations survey on drug war

A September 2018 survey of the Social Weather Stations showed that the net satisfaction rating for the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs remained “very good.”

At least 78 percent of the respondents of the second quarter 2018 SWS poll said they were satisfied with the government’s drug war while 13 percent were dissatisfied and 9 percent were undecided. The government's crackdown on drugs has a net satisfaction rating of +65.

Another survey of the same polling station however showed that more than half of Filipinos believe police officers are involved in extrajudicial killings, illegal drug trade and planting of evidence against drug suspects.

The December 2018 survey revealed that out of the 1,440 respondents, 66 percent said the allegation that policemen are involved in the illegal drug trade is “definitely or probably true.” Only five percent answered it is “definitely or probably true” while 28 percent were undecided.

Sixty-eight percent believe that cops are definitely or probably involved in the illegal drug trade, while five percent believe otherwise. The remaining 26 percent were undecided.

Philippine politics is personality based

The Philippines uses a mixed-member majoritarian system, where part of the legislature is elected by proportional representation and the rest from local districts, according to a Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung paper published September 2007. In the Philippines' case, the senators are elected at the national level through plurality votes while members of the House of Representatives are voted through local districts.

EXPLAINER: The fault in our system: How to fix elections in the Philippines

Australian National University Paul Hutchcroft, editor of book titled “Strong Patronage, Weak Parties: The Case for Electoral System Redesign in the Philippines,” described the Philippine electoral system as “quite unusual” as 80% of elected officials are elected through a multimember plurality system.

As such, the system guarantees a high level of intraparty competition” that “weakens the cohesiveness” of political parties in the country. Senatorial candidates, for example, compete with each other, regardless of political party, to take one of 12 slots. This makes the competition personality-based rather than party-centric.

This explains the presence of so-called political butterflies or politicians who easily transfer political affiliations. Note that in 2016, several Liberal Party congressmen moved to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, giving birth to the so-called supermajority at the House of Representatives.

Having genuine political parties in the Philippines would probably make the elections more credible but pending House Bill 7088 or an act strengthening the political system only seeks to introduce reforms in campaign financing, promote party loyalty and encourage voters' education.

Senate Bill 226 or the Political Party System Act also seeks to strengthen political parties by making changes in campaign finances but also suggests promoting party loyalty and instituting measures to “professionalize political parties and make them viable instruments of development and good governance.” – Kristine Joy Patag with Patricia Lourdes Viray

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