Philippine mid-term election: Where will the wind blow?

Will the mid-term election in the Philippines this May serve as a referendum on the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte?  Will the election have a game-changing impact the way the November 2018 mid-term electionin the U.S. had on the Trump presidency?

At stake nationally in the Philippines are 12 of the 24 seats in the senate and all of theseats in the lower house (238 districts and 59 party-list representatives).

Based on the election tradition of the United States, mid-term elections “serveas referendums”because they show how the public rates the performance of the incumbent president and his administration.

In the last U.S. mid-term election, the Democrats gained enough seats to take themajority in the Lower House while the Senate remained aRepublican majority.  Because of this, it is no longer business as usual for Trumpwho during his first two years enjoyed a Republicanmajority in both the Senate and the Lower House.

Many Americans continue to express their dissatisfaction on the way Trump is handling the federal government including the direction where he is pushing the nation.  The government shutdown in late December that spilled over in 2019 went on for 35 days (the longest shutdown ever) added more to the burning anti-Trump sentiments.

The Democrats winning majority in the Lower House signaled a “no smooth-sail”in the next two years for Trump and his administration when it comes to pushing his agenda and policies forward.  The issues related to his impeachment(which have not prospered earlier)mayalso move forward now and find second wind.

Going back to the May 2019 mid-term election in the Philippines, it is important to note that unlike in the U.S., the party system there is not as strongas in the U.S.  In the Philippines, politics is purely “personal” and “based on popularity” as the recent surveys there show.  Philippine politics is dominated by the elite, by political clans, and by sports, media, and entertainment celebrities.  “Turncoat-ism,”switching, and changing political parties at the blink of an eye is an accepted norm for politicians and is part of the political culture.

In past Philippine elections and during the post-war and post-EDSA elections, mid-term elections were seen as the consolidation of forces of the administration since the politicians in power have enormous leverage through the use of government machineries and resources.  It is expected that the candidates of the ruling administration or coalition will win and it is very rare for those challenging pro-administration candidates to gain the upper hand.

There are a few exceptions though.  One was in the 1971 senatorial electionduring the second term of President Ferdinand Marcos and the other during the 2007 mid-term election under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In both elections, there were major scandals and national issues that catapulted the opposition candidates to victory.

In 1971, there was the Plaza Miranda bombing that led to the landslide victory of the Liberal Party senatorial candidates.

Then in 2007, there was the “Hello Garci Scandal” where Macapagal-Arroyo was caught on tape talking to an election official about manipulating election results.  Antonio Trillanes even found success running a nationwide campaign for a senate seat from his prison cell on a shoe-string budget because of the strong anti-Arroyo sentiment of the electorate at that time.

Thecoming 2019 mid-term election in the Philippines will again test the maturity and political education of the voters.  There are morepro-Duterte and pro-administration candidates than there are available seats in the Senate. Then there’s the genuine opposition against Duterte and his strongman-style rule as eight oppositionist senate candidates banded together and have packaged themselves as Otso-Direcho.  The Otso-Direcho candidates have started talking to people banking on the strategy of telling the truth, transparency, and information sharing to counter the propaganda machinery of the pro-administration candidates.

But one big question remains: Where will the wind blow during the May 2019 mid-term election in the Philippines?


Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.

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