PH midterm polls peaceful, but marred by glitches

MANILA – He was not on the ballot, but President Rodrigo Duterte won a decisive political victory this week as his candidates won almost all 12 senate seats that were up for grabs.

While the winners are not expected to be confirmed until Monday, next week, the best that the opposition could hope for was for reelectionist Bam Aquino to make it to the winners’ circle by the skin of his teeth.

The tentative list of winners are reelectionist senators Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe as the top two, newcomer Bong Go at third spot, followed by another reelectionist, Pia Cayetano.

The fifth spot was occupied by former Philippine National Police chief Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, then reelectionist Sonny Angara at sixth place.

Safely occupying the seventh and eighth spots were Imee Marcos and former senator Lito Lapid. Unless there is a sudden and unexpected shift in the voting trend, the top eight are considered likely winners.

It is the remaining four places where six candidates are engaged in a close fight. As of press time, the ninth and tenth spots were occupied by Francis Tolentino and Nancy Binay, another reelectionist.

The last two winners would likely be Koko Pimental, Bong Revilla, JV Ejercito or Bam Aquino. The four have been moving in and out of the Magic 12 as returns from the provinces come in.

President Duterte had campaigned for 11 of the 12 likely winners.

The decisive win, however, was marred by widespread problems with the Commission on Elections’ vote counting machines (VCMs) in hundreds of polling places nationwide as well as glitches in transparency servers that caused a seven-hour delay in the transmittal of results to the poll body’ head office, copies of which were supposed to be furnished to media.

Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo blamed a “bottleneck” in the delay which began shortly after polling places closed at 6:00pm on Monday, May 13.

The problem with VCMs caused presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo to say that “there must be something wrong” and perhaps the Comelec’s contract with supplier Smartmatic needed to be reviewed.

This was echoed by Senate President Tito Sotto, who said, “It’s about time we stopped using Smartmatic,” which has been supplying the hardware to the poll body ever since elections were automated in 2010.

The National Secretariat for Social Action under the wing of Roman Catholic bishops called for the suspension of the proclamation of winning senatorial candidates “until the issue of fraud is resolved.”

In related news, a number of political dynasties fell, or were dealt serious blows.

In the capital city of Manila, Mayor Joseph Estrada failed in his bid to win a third and final term, losing to his former vice mayor Isko Moreno. Initially, Estrada refused to concede as he said all surveys had shown he would win and that an outside force was to blame for his defeat. He later said, “I did my best” after his accepting his first and last political defeat in a career spanning five decades.

In San Juan, the nearly six-decade hold of the Estrada-Ejercito clan ended when former vice mayor Francis Zamora defeated Janella Ejercito Estrada, the granddaughter of the former president and daughter of Jinggoy Estrada, who likewise lost his bid to reclaim his senate seat.

In Pasig, the Eusebio dynasty was felled by young Vico Sotto, son of actor-comedian Vic Sotto by his former partner, actress Coney Reyes. The new mayor effectively ended the dynasty of the Eusebios headed by defeated mayor Robert Eusebio, which has been in power almost three decades.

And while Abby Binay beat her brother Jun Binay in the mayoralty race, the patriarch of the family, former vice president Jejomar Binay, was beaten by former acting mayor Kid Pena as representative for the first district of Makati City.

Other dynasties that fell short included the Magsaysays of Zambales, the Gordons of Subic, and the Osmeñas of Cebu.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, one relatively new dynasty on the rise is the Dutertes of Davao City, with the president’s daughter Sara and sons Sebastian and Paolo handily winning the posts of mayor, vice mayor and congressman, respectively.