🇵🇭 Ready, Set, Go in Philippines Midterms

60 million expected to have their say

Hello friends!

We are all about the Philippine midterms today. We’ll be back to regular schedule next week, especially looking at the Thai coronation and the good news out of Myanmar.

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See you next week!
Erin Cook

Monday is the Philippines midterms marking exactly the halfway point in President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership. This means: half of the 24 senate seats are up for grabs, ALL in the House of Reps and then all municipal, city and provincial spots. So it’s big. It’s been a long road, but here we go.

The election commission Comelec expects around 60 million Filipinos to cast their vote. This older video from Rappler shows how they’ll do that. I get very nervous about voting machines, but the complicated process is aimed at preventing any funny business.

Turnout among Overseas Filipino Workers is expected to be very low. That group is about 2.3 million strong with 1.8 million registered to vote. Comelec is predicting only around 20 to 30 percent will cast a vote, but they’re not surprised adding that for midterms turnout is particularly low. OFWs can vote for senate and party list candidates.

I hate party lists, but we have to do it. Okay, so 20 percent of the House are elected via party list and this is typically special interest groups like organised labour, Indigenous, etc. Quotas for party lists ooh boy I can’t work it out. My understanding is the quota for one seat is at 2 percent and parties cannot hold more than three seats. There is a push, though not too successful, to reform this angle with some accusing the elites of ‘abusing’ the system to secure power. Bayan Muna, a coalition of over a dozen progressive groups, are leading according to Pulse Asia’s mid-March survey. They’re joined by groups catering to women, teachers and Ako Bicol.

It’s super important for President Rodrigo Duterte’s ambitious federalism plan that his allies get up. That won’t be too hard, I imagine. Polling looks good for him and securing a Duterte endorsement is a must-have for loads of candidates. Weirdly, he’s endorsing candidates from parties other than his own PDP-Laban. Daughter/Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has peeled off on her own to sure up other candidates. It’s pretty straight forward though, according to UP poli-sci expert Aries Arugay.

“The differences in the slates have something to do with the Duterte family being invested in local races. It tells you they would rather hedge their bets locally, in order to make sure that they have the loyalty of whoever is going to be elected.”

Did you know the Philippines is number one in the world for using the internet each day? Pair that with a bonkers moment in political history and fake news is a hot mess. Comelec has endeavoured to root out fake news on Facebook, but with only 10 people it’s not even. It threatens to undermine the integrity of the vote and acceptance of results. Civil group Tsek.ph is doing what it can, but does anyone anywhere feel confident about getting ahead of this junk?

It’s the economy, bobo. First quarter 2019 growth came in a 5.6 percent which is the slowest in four years but the economy usually gets a boost around elections with consumption spending on the rise.

The so-called ‘widow candidates’ has fascinated me for a long time, it’s one of those things that doesn’t really have an equivalent elsewhere in Asean given how violent elections here are. This from AFP is a great read on these women, who take up the race after their partners are assassinated typically by rivals. “It works especially in the Philippine context because widowhood has symbolic elements that are very much valued in politics,” UP expert Jean Franco says.

All of Mindanao was declared one of the hot spots which would be tightly secured, but so far so good says the PNP.

Where do senate candidates fall on issues most important to young Filipinos, like the environment and LGBT rights? Love this! VICE did this for the Thai election and I’m glad to see it again.

The next presidential election is 2022, but it’s all about Sara Duterte this week. She’ll have no worries getting back up in Davao where she’s been mayor since dad moved up north. For a moment there it looked like she may run for the senate, but decided against it. Is she the next president of the Philippines? “Her image is being looked into, how people accept her. She has her own personality. She’s not being looked at as a carbon copy of her father,” says Ramon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform. It’s a long time between now and then, though.