" Who really won? Not the people of this country. Not the Filipino nation. And certainly not the Senate."
“We won” is the cry that has been heard from the supporters of Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) and PDP-Laban since the results of the contest for 12 Senate seats began to come in from the 80,000-plus polling stations during the hours immediately following the end of the May 13 electoral exercise. The cry is a reference to the early returns’ indication that candidates running under the HNP and PDP-Laban banners had captured all of the 12 up-for-grabs Senate seats.
If there were winners in the 2019 Senate election, there had to be losers. Who were the real losers? In strictly political-strength terms the Duterte administration and its two major allies—HNP and PDP-Laban—are right in claiming that they won: how else can the capture of all the positions at stake is a contest can be characterized? Yes, the Duterte administration and its allies won, and won big.
How about the nation? How about the Filipino people? How about that august institution, the Senate? Can they also shout “We won” in the wake of outcome of the 2019 Senate election?
The answer is a resounding No. The Filipino people, the Senate and, ultimately, the nation all ended up as the losers in this week’s senatorial election. They lost (1) because of what that exercise has deprived them of and (2) because of what it has saddled the Senate with.
The total shutout of the eight-member Otso Diretso slate has deprived the Filipino people and their Senate of the services of eight independent-minded, talented and honest individuals who want to serve their country well and recognize the place of the Senate in our political scheme of things. By shutting our Otso Diretso’s candidates, the voters who followed Hugpong’s and PDP-Laban’s instructions caused this country and the Senate to be deprived of the services of good-track-record former senators (Mar Roxas and Bam Aquino), first-rate legal minds (Chel Diokno and Pilo Hilbay), a top-notch election lawyer (Romy Macalintal), an ardent advocate of Philippine agriculture (Erin Tañada), a well-trained and courageous military officer (Gary Alejano) and a seasoned promoter of women’s social rights (Sam Gutoc).
In exchange for these first-rate individuals, those are now shouting “We won” have saddled the Senate and the nation with second-rate stuff—reelectionist and returning senators with mediocre Senate track records, individuals facing serious judicial challenges and at least one Class A list, and individuals whose only claim to fame is closeness to President Duterte.
That’s hardly a fair exchange. But it’s the exchange that the “We won” brigade procured for the Senate and the Filipino people with their victory in the 2019 Senatorial election.
We won, the administration and its partisans cry. But who really won? Not the people of this country. Not the Filipino nation. And certainly not the Senate. They were big losers.