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Editorial

Monday massacre

/ 05:12 AM May 16, 2019

That’s how political analyst and Inquirer columnist Richard Heydarian described the results of Monday’s midterm polls, and he’s not off the mark.

As election contests go, it was a rout, a sweep, or, as US President George W. Bush put it when his administration lost big-time in the midterm polls in 2006, “a thumpin’.”

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But “massacre” is as good a word, not only given the penchant by the current President for “kill, kill, kill” and violent imagery, but also because of the total annihilation by the administration slate of the opposition: 12-0.

The electoral bloodbath would no doubt warm the heart of Mr. Duterte. Sundry pundits, opposition candidates and many in the public had framed the midterms as a virtual referendum on his tumultuous governance over the last three years, and now the verdict is in, fresh as a plucked daisy: Mr. Duterte is still the man to beat.

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The people are still into their strongman, whose tremendous popularity carries the day. The surveys were pretty much accurate in their estimation of that sky-high popularity and its extended halo effect on Mr. Duterte’s preferred candidates, who dominated the surveys from the get-go or rapidly climbed up the rungs on the back of the President’s coveted endorsement.

Only that potent presidential benediction can account for the triumphant showing of two of Mr. Duterte’s staunchest factotums, lifelong yes-men who will now be addressed with the honorific “Mr. Senator.”

The President’s longtime assistant, Bong Go, a man who had held no previous elected office or was ever heard to voice out any opinion on the raging issues of the day, could only be the envy of other candidates with his spectacular final showing — No. 3 in the Magic 12.

Bato dela Rosa, who oversaw the administration’s brutal war on drugs and generally comported himself as a genial buffoon during the campaign period, did just as well for himself, landing at No. 5.

That the administration appeared to have no compunction about mobilizing government resources and machinery to assure the victory of these two presidential favorites was of no consequence this time to the President’s partisans, many of whom, it could be recalled, had raised a mighty ruckus the last time Kris Aquino was seen riding a government chopper to a campaign sortie in 2016, under then President Benigno Aquino III’s administration.

But that was then, and this is now. All that matters is that Mr. Duterte gets the most pliable, cooperative Senate he can get to bulldoze his agenda through in the last three years of his term, and with Go and Dela Rosa in the house to swell the ranks of other stolid loyalists such as Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Senate President Tito Sotto and reelectionist Koko Pimentel — whose Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan, a storied party founded to fight against Marcos but which is now formally allied with the dictator’s daughter, Imee Marcos — the President is well assured of a solid core.

One can also add to that clique the comebacking Lito Lapid, who still managed an impressive No. 7 showing despite a near-catatonic previous performance in the Senate (“a senator who could otherwise have been mistaken for a toadstool, so silent was he during his incumbency,” said an earlier Inquirer editorial).

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But, lest we forget, Lapid has that rare weapon — a show-biz name, the same talisman that has apparently also worked wonders for the plunder-tainted Bong Revilla (No. 10).

Revilla’s buddy, Jinggoy Estrada, must be tearing his hair out wondering what he failed to do, that Revilla would succeed in regaining his Senate seat while he languished at No. 15.

In any case, Revilla, too, having owed his political resurrection to the administration, will now be expected to play nice with the Palace, along with such other moist-eyed beneficiaries of Mr. Duterte’s pixie dust as Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino, the faux feminist Pia Cayetano (who, as usual, had nothing to say about the latest off-color presidential “joke” — that racy bit about holding on to a lady mayor’s panties until they snap).

Topnotchers Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe, and Nancy Binay (surprisingly a tail-ender at No. 12) are pragmatic workers, so they may end up useful, but not indispensable, allies to Mr. Duterte.

The wholesale entry into the chamber of his senatorial vanguard means the President now stands unopposed, a situation dangerous to the democratic project.

The Infinity Stones, as it were, are virtually complete on his iron hand. If the Senate from hereon fails to check the snapping fingers of that hand, the republic turning to dust, and democracy massacred, may not be a far-off thing.

See the bigger picture with the Inquirer's live in-depth coverage of the election here https://inq.ph/Election2019

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TAGS: 2019 elections, 2019 senatorial candidates, Inquirer editorial, Richard Heydarian, Rodrigo Duterte
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