MANILA (UPDATE) – Twelve winning senators were proclaimed on Wednesday, 9 of whom were endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter, in midterm elections that showed the weight of his endorsement and the emergence of the south as a voting bloc.
Greater influence over the Senate will help the 74-year-old Duterte fulfill his campaign promises in the last 3 years of his term, including shifting to a federal form of government to spread wealth to the countryside and lowering corporate taxes to lure more investors.
Duterte's long-time aide, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and former national police chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who was at the forefront of his war on drugs, were among those who got the highest votes.
It was their first time to seek an electoral post. Go placed third with 20,657,702 while Dela Rosa was fifth with 19,004,225.
The 8-member opposition slate Otso Diretso, which includes incumbent Sen. Bam Aquino and former Sen. Mar Roxas, all lost to bets from Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), led by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and the President's PDP-Laban Party.
"The transferability of the popularity is unprecedented to say the least, despite all the controversies," said University of Santo Tomas political science professor Edmund Tayao.
"Traditionally, during midterm polls, you have 2 or 3 but this is a wipeout," he said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar topped the Commission on Elections count with 25,283,727 votes, followed by Sen. Grace Poe, the 2013 elections topnotcher, with 22,029,788 votes. Both women will serve a second 6-year term.
The rest of the winners include Go, former Sen. Pia Cayetano, Dela Rosa, reelectionist Sen. Sonny Angara, former Sen. Lito Lapid, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, former presidential adviser Francis Tolentino, reelectionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko”, former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and reelectionist Nancy Binay.
The Dutertes' bets won by a landslide in Mindanao, securing 9 of the 12 top slots. Poe campaigned as an independent, Lapid was fielded by the Nationalist People's Coalition and Binay was backed by the United Nationalist Alliance.
Duterte is the Philippines' first president from Mindanao. He served as mayor of Davao City for decades. Three of his children are now all in power too: daughter Duterte-Carpio was reelected mayor, eldest son Paolo was elected congressman, and Sebastian vice mayor.
In Davao del Sur, Misamis Occidental, and Davao Occidental, candidates from Duterte-Carpio’s HNP, occupied the top 12 spots.
In 2016, Duterte won in 23 of 27 Mindanao provinces.
Duterte's former political adviser, Tolentino, credited the chief executive's backing for his win. Tolentino lost his first Senate bid in 2016. He was ninth this year with 15,510,026 votes.
"'Yung endorsement ng Pangulo napakalaki po iyon kasi ang taas ng trust ratings niya," Tolentino told dzMM.
(The endorsement of the President is a huge factor because his trust ratings are very high.)
The Duterte name has become a brand, especially in Davao politics, said University of the Philippine political science professor Aries Arugay.
"The Duterte dynasty has expanded its power and…the political leverage of Sara Duterte," he told ABS-CBN News.
For 22-year-old Davao City messenger Alrick John Alparito, the Dutertes are doing a good job, especially in maintaining peace and order.
Asked what he thinks of Duterte-Carpio running for president, Alparito said: "I will vote for them every time they will run. I am solid Duterte."
In a statement Wednesday, Malacañang congratulated the winning senators and urged for cooperation across the aisle.
"We call on everyone in all sides of the political spectrum to have a moratorium in what appears to most of us as excessive politicking that has only caused more divisions amongst us," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
"Now that the political dust has settled with the proclamation of the winners, it is the perfect time for nation-building and for those who triumphed to focus on public service."