A Press Statement by Friends of Akbayan USA: Defend democracy against Duterte
New York – President Duterte’s allies swept last May 13’s Philippine midterm elections for the Senate, shutting out the opposition’s candidates. Among the new pro-Duterte senators are the former police enforcer of his deadly “war on drugs” against the poor, a daughter of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and known plunderers of the public purse.
Yet, the presidential palace is already touting the results as proof that the Filipino people are “expressing their will in the strongest and unequivocal manner” in support of the Duterte administration.
On the contrary, the results are a severe setback for Philippine democracy, making its future uncertain. Dominated by Duterte supporters, the new Senate will be a virtual rubber stamp for the president’s extrajudicial drug war killings, assault on press freedom, imprisonment of children as adult criminals, revival of the death penalty, manipulation of the justice system to selectively prosecute critics while giving impunity to his allies, and sell-out of the country’s patrimony to neo-imperial China.
With the Lower House and the Senate packed with his allies and enforcers, Duterte now arguably has a freehand to remake the post-Marcos democratic Constitution to his liking, legitimize local political dynasties through so-called federalism, and conceivably stay in power for years to come.
Making this setback for democracy worse, the conduct of the elections itself has come under widespread criticism for fraud, vote buying by individual candidates and some party-list groups (which the president dismissed as an “expected” common practice), pre-marked ballots, police smearing of left wing party-list groups, and voter intimidation.
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) itself has come under criticism for various anomalies in its conduct of the polls. There was an unexplained seven-hour delay in reporting the returns, power interruptions and reports of corrupted secure digital cards. The Department of Education stated that it received up to 1,333 reports of defective vote counting machines on voting day, while COMELEC reported only about 600.
COMELEC also refused to give NAMFREL access to its data, causing the citizens monitoring organization to withdraw from its role. Inexplicably, COMELEC also officially named a party represented in the Duterte senatorial slate as the “dominant minority,” marginalizing the opposition coalition. These misgivings about the probity of the elections put the legitimacy of the Duterte “sweep” under a heavy cloud of doubt, such that there is a growing demand for a manual recount of the returns and an investigation of COMELEC’S conduct of the elections.
Akbayan, the party-list organization we support, is always ready to accept the will of the Filipino people. But we have also been witness to the corruption of the electoral system by traditional patronage and dynastic politics. Besides, this would not be the first time in recent Philippine history an election was manipulated. To safeguard the sacred voice of the electorate, Akbayan has joined other parties and citizens in protesting the grievous anomalies that attended the recent polls.
The bleak outcome of the elections is a sign of things to come. The path ahead will be challenging, but Akbayan will march on with other democratic organizations and citizens to fight an authoritarian agenda that will bring harm to more Filipino families and the nation as a whole. Akbayan Party will not back down in defending Philippine democracy and securing its future.
Friends of Akbayan USA, a network of supporters of Akbayan Citizens Party and its social democratic program of social justice reform, asks all democratic-minded Filipinos in North America and elsewhere to join protests and demand the rectification of election anomalies and to pursue the vision of a Philippines that is progressive and just, with a modern and mature democracy. (A press release by Friends of Akbayan USA)