MANILA - President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday called for nationwide midterm polls to be a referendum on his anti-graft, economic reforms as election season gets underway.
Although Aquino, whose term ends in 2016, is not running, his party members have said that the elections, particularly for 12 seats in the senate, will be a litmus test for his administration.
In a campaign rally at the centre of Manila, Aquino lashed out at the opposition, accusing them of blocking reforms and urging voters to choose his candidates, called "Team PNoy" after his own nickname.
He compared the opposition to his unpopular, scandal-tainted predecessor, ex-president Gloria Arroyo, saying "their style has not changed".
"If you want more good things to happen in our country, if you want a better future for your children... then you must send the entire Team PNoy to the senate," he told the crowd.
"In this campaign, we will put the president's capital on the line. He considers this a referendum on his first two and a half years," said senator Franklin Drilon, campaign manager of Team PNoy.
Meanwhile Vice President Jejomar Binay, who like Aquino was also elected in 2010, led a rival rally of opposition senatorial bets in the central island of Cebu.
President and vice president are elected separately in the Philippines and both Aquino and Binay hope to use their popularity to boost their senatorial candidates -- some of whom are their relatives.
The president's cousin, Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino, and the vice president's daughter, Nancy Binay are running for senate along with various sons, daughters and other relatives of prominent politicians.
Such political "dynasties" have dominated the country's electoral system for decades even though the constitution, ratified in 1987, forbids it.
This is because no law has ever been passed implementing the constitutional ban, said James Jimenez, spokesman of the Commission on Elections.
"We're just waiting for a law to be passed. We all know the constitution frowns on dynasties but as far as the commission is concerned, we have nothing to do with (passing a law)," he said.
He also warned that there had already been numerous violations of election rules, especially those about placement of campaign laws, adding that he feared election-related violence might go up in this campaign season.