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Friday, May 24, 2024


"We run the risk of having a stamp-pad Senate."

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There are just a few more days to go before the elections and if the latest Pulse Asia survey is accurate, it does not look good for candidates of the opposition. In fact, it does not look good for the country and the people.

Let us look at scenarios relative to the coming senate using the results of the most recent survey. The incumbent senators based on the Senate website are: Franklin Drilon, Joel Villanueva, Tito Sotto, Ping Lacson, Richard Gordon, Migz Zubiri, Manny Pacquiao, Kiko Pangilinan, Risa Hontiversos, Win Gatchalian, Ralph Recto, Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, Koko Pimentel, Cynthia Villar, and Grace Poe.

The last seven on this list are running for reelection while Trillanes, Legarda, Cayetano, Escudero, and Honasan are either not running at all, or gunning for other posts.

Of the present crop of senators, only six belong to the opposition: Drilon, Pangilinan, Hontiveros, De Lima, Aquino, and Trillanes. Trillanes is already out and Aquino may or may not make it. Only four will be left and De Lima remains detained, thanks to this administration. Thus, she is unable to fully perform as a senator. Thus, there will only be three from the present senators.

Of the remaining incumbents, two (Lacson and Binay) are independent-minded and occasionally speak up depending on the issue at hand. Sotto, Gordon, Pacquiao, and Pimentel are rabidly pro-Duterte while the others usually play it safe, or are really more pro-Duterte than not. This means that based on their performance in the last three years, the people will hardly be able to rely upon them to actively take the opposition side when needed.

Twelve seats are up for grabs and as earlier said, the following are running for reelection: Angara, Aquino, Binay, Ejercito Estrada, Pimentel, Poe, and Villar. Based on the surveys, only two of them, Aquino and Ejercito, are not in the magic 12 but are within striking distance as they are ranked 13th and 14th respectively. Of those topping the survey, only Binay can be considered as an independent.

The rest of those who are in the winning circle are: Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Bong Go, Bong Revilla, Bato de la Rosa, Imee Marcos, and Jinggoy Estrada. ALL of them are administration bets or close to Duterte and, therefore, if they actually win, Duterte will have a very powerful majority in the Senate.

Three of these probable winners, Revilla, Marcos, and Estrada, have a history, or presently facing corruption charges. Marcos is the daughter of one of the world’s most corrupt leaders, and herself facing charges as governor of Ilocos Norte. Additionally, Lapid’s wife admitted guilt to cash smuggling involving tens of thousands of US dollars, and conspiracy to structure money transactions in the USA. Lapid himself was a former senator who did NOTHING in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Bato was Duterte’s executioner of his war on drugs when the former was chief PNP. Thousands of poor people died on mere suspicion of being small-time drug pushers under Bato’s leadership. Go was Duterte’s assistant and remains very close to him. Of late, he was implicated by “Bikoy” as a big time drug lord. Cayetano is a known Duterte supporter.

Hovering in the 13th to 16th places are Aquino, Ejercito, Serge Osmeña, and Mar Roxas. The other oppositionists do not figure near the magic 12.

If the survey is accurate and IF people surveyed were telling the truth about their preferences, it appears that we are headed toward a stamp-pad Senate that will approve every measure that Duterte wants. This means that Charter change can be rammed down our throats and federalism, the Duterte type, can very well be a reality soon.

The absence of a real opposition will kill our democracy. Abuses of this administration, not just of Duterte himself but of the other officials will go unchecked. Repression of press freedom and other human rights will not only continue but will be stronger. The war on drugs that kills will continue to kill more and more poor people, but drugs will continue to proliferate as drug lords freely operate their “business.” Worst of all, more and more of the country’s territories may be occupied by China, our rich natural resources stolen right under our noses, and our sovereignty will continue to be disrespected by China with nary a whimper from this administration. We might as well be a province of China.

If this administration goes unchecked, the corrupt will not be put to justice. It is quite possible that government agencies tasked to deliver services to the people will go complacent and will NOT do their jobs effectively and efficiently. So brace for more traffic, crises in water and power, and do not expect the country to be any more ready in the face of calamities. Our quality of life will be worse.

This is how important the opposition is. While I am dismayed at the results of the Pulse Asia survey, I am still hopeful that some of the opposition candidates will still make it. Particularly, Pilo Hilbay, Chel Diokno, Erin Tañada, and Samira Gutoc will be very good addition to the Senate.

Pilo Hilbay knows how it is to be poor. The boy from Tondo soared to become a bar topnotcher and the youngest Solicitor General. He was instrumental in the country’s monumental victory over China on the West Philippine Sea case, in the defense of the RH law in front of the Supreme Court, and in the success of the coconut farmers over the Coco Levy Fund.

Chel Diokno and Erin Tañada have always been staunch human rights defenders. The first as a lawyer defending victims of human rights abuses, and the second as a former member of the House of Representatives. Samira Gutoc vows to be a defender of women’s rights. She is also a true-blue Mindanaoan who will be the voice of Muslims in the Senate. These four will bring in the much needed progressive, pro-country, pro-people perspectives to the Senate.

If they win together with Bam Aquino, Serge Osmeña, and Mar Roxas (because these three are within striking distance), there will be eleven oppositionists (including De Lima), and two independent-minded senators (Lacson and Binay). This will be a good Senate, one that will stand up for the country and people, and will go against abuses of this administration.

There are many things that the survey cannot capture. For one, the groundswell of discontent against Duterte’s kind of leadership cannot be measured. The people’s ongoing campaign for the opposition despite the acute lack of funds and collaterals is unseen by the surveys.

I remain hopeful that the electorate will go opposition for our country’s, our people’s, and our children’s sake.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook


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