The Commission on Elections on Wednesday proclaimed the 12 winners in the senatorial race, including four newcomers, five reelectionists and three returning senators, nine days after the May 13 midterm elections that were marred by vote buying and technical problems.
The newcomers were senators-elect Christopher “Bong” Go, Ronald dela Rosa, Imee Marcos, and Francis Tolentino, while the three who previously served in the Senate were Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla.
Reelectionist Senators Cynthia Villar topped the senatorial race followed by Grace Poe, Juan Edgardo Angara, Aquilino Pimentel III and Nancy Binay.
The canvassing of votes ended past midnight of Wednesday.
The proclamation of the 12 senators was done despite the petition filed by several party-list groups alleging massive fraud due to malfunctioning vote counting machines and faulty SD cards.
Party-list groups Append, Partido Lakas ng Masa, Murang Kuryente, and Ang Nars made this call as allegations of fraud continued to hound the Comelec.
Comelec Commissioner Sheriff Abas denied any allegations of fraud and stood by the credibility of the May 13 elections.
Abas expressed his appreciation to the entire Comelec employees and to the teachers who acted as election officers for their service.
“I’m proud to say that we have delivered more than what is needed. Thank you for effectively handling all the difficult and complex situations that have arisen during the conduct of elections,” Abas said.
Three of the four newcomers—Go, Dela Rosa and Tolentino—are close allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Marcos, who served as Ilocos Norte representative, will sit in the Senate for the first time.
The recent midterm elections also saw the successful comeback of Cayetano, Lapid and Revilla.
Revilla was unable to finish his second term as senator as he was detained over his alleged involvement in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
After being incarcerated for four years and six months, he regained his freedom when the Sandiganbayan cleared him of plunder charges.
Two senators seeking reelection—Senators JV Ejercito and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV—failed to enter the winner’s circle, ending in 13th and 14th place, respectively.
Ejercito’s candidacy was backed by the President’s PDP-Laban and HNP. On the other hand, Aquino ran under the opposition’s Otso Diretso senatorial slate.
Nobody among the Otso Diretso candidates won a seat.
Also leaving the Senate are Senators Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero and Antonio Trillanes IV, whose terms expire June 30.
Legarda and Escudero won as representatives of Antique and Sorsogon, respectively.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Go, formerly special adviser to Duterte—will serve as their bridge to the President.
Dela Rosa said his victory validates the public support for the Duterte administration’s bloody war on illegal drugs.
“I was Number 1 in Metro Manila and Metro Manila is the most badly hit by the war on drugs,” said Dela Rosa.
Villar, the frontrunner in the Senate race with more than 25-million votes, said she is thankful for the opportunity to continue serving our the people as a senator.
Villar was accompanied by her husband, former Senate President Manny Villar and their children during the proclamation ceremonies at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
Villar said she hopes to retain the chairmanship of the committee on agriculture and food, which puts her in “a better position to advance legislation that will ensure affordable and adequate supply of food for all Filipinos.”
As chairperson of the committee on environment and natural resources, Villar will also continue to help protect critical areas in the country and oppose reclamation projects in Manila Bay.
Poe, who won as an independent candidate, said she was ready to lead the Blue Ribbon committee if it would be assigned to her.
In acknowledging the equity of the incumbent, Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee, said this would only be realized if Senator Richard Gordon would forgo the chairmanship.
As an independent candidate, Poe also vowed to work for an independent and balanced Senate even as the majority of incoming senators are either allies or supporters of the President.
Marcos and Revilla, who were strongly criticized during the campaign period, appealed to their critics to stop the bashing.
Marcos, daughter of the late strongman President Ferdinand Marcos, has been assailed for alleged fake school records and the Marcos ill-gotten wealth.
Revilla drew flak for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Before her proclamation, Marcos told her bashers and haters that it’s time to move on.
Revilla professed his innocence and insisted he was a victim of political persecution.
Lapid, who once admitted he made a poor senator, also committed to do his job well.
Angara said he was honored that the Filipino people have allowed him to serve another term.
Binay likened her reelection journey to giving birth again.
Binay ended in the last spot in the so-called Magic 12 senators after obtaining 14,504,936 votes.
The landslide victory of Duterte allies in both chambers of Congress eroded the checks on the President’s controversial rule.
The results open a path for Duterte—who has remarkably high approval ratings—to make good on his call to bring back the death penalty and advance his project to rewrite the Constitution.
“It’s a clear signal that the people will be behind him as he pushes bills and processes that went nowhere previously,” political analyst Ramon Casiple said.
With nine Duterte backers and three nominally unaligned politicians taking the 12 seats at stake in the 24-member Senate, only four oppositions members will remain, election results showed.
Duterte allies kept control of the lower House of Representatives, which has approved legislation to bring back capital punishment and re-write the Constitution since Duterte’s 2016 election.
Dela Rosa’s victory meant there would be let-up in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
“Number one on my agenda is the reimposition of the death penalty for drug trafficking,” Dela Rosa told reporters. “I will focus on that.”
Despite assurances that the Senate would not be a rubber stamp, opponents fear the majority will allow Duterte to push forward his legislative agenda, which includes rewriting the Constitution.
In addition to opening avenues for him to stay in power beyond his legally mandated single term that ends in 2022, a charter change could reshape the Philippines for decades.
Duterte has pitched constitutional reform to turn the Asian country into a decentralized federal republic where regions would have the power to fix local problems.
But the various initiatives launched in his first three years in office have also included proposals dropping term limits, allowing him to run for another term and weakening checks on presidential power.
“The pessimistic assessment is that what we’re looking towards is the complete transformation of the Philippine political system in the years to come, well beyond 2022 when Duterte’s term is supposed to end,” political analyst Richard Heydarian said.
The landslide victory was a crushing defeat for the opposition, leaving it mostly in disarray.
“Voters were unable to relate to the issues highlighted by the opposition in the election, which was all about defeating Duterte,” Casiple said.
The pro-Duterte electoral tsunami was also a win for the Duterte family.
Daughter Sara, touted as a possible 2022 presidential candidate, retained her post as mayor of the southern city of Davao, with sibling Sebastian winning as vice mayor. The eldest son, Paolo, won a seat in the House of Representatives.
The Palace expressed optimism that the newly proclaimed senators would support the President’s programs for the betterment of the country.
“We are confident that the new Senators will do their best as legislators and enact laws which are not only conscientious but beneficial to the welfare of the nation and its citizenry,” Panelo said.
A number of top government and police officials, showbiz bigwigs and other prominent personalities were among the guests that attended the proclamation of 12 winning senatorial bets at the PICC.
Among the prominent politicians who were spotted during the event were
former First Lady Imelda Romauldez Marcos, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former Senate president Manny Villar, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde, National Capital Region Police Office chief Guillermo Eleazar and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Villar was accompanied by her husband Manny and son Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, while Poe was joined by her mother, actress Susan Roces.
Go arrived at the PICC accompanied by his staff members, with no family members.
Also on Wednesday, the Comelec said it would withhold payment to the supplier of SD cards that malfunctioned during election day.
Some 1,665 of the SD cards provided by the S1 Technologies and Silicon Valley Computer Group encountered multiple problems during election day.
S1 bagged the contract to supply the SD cards for P22.6 million. With AFP