There are now only four opposition senators in the opposition, prompting fears that the previously opposed legislations including charter change, the worst of all proposed charter changes according to senatorial bet Neri Colmenares, may soon be resurrected.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Amid protests questioning the integrity and results of the elections, the Commissions on Elections (Comelec) hastened to finish the canvassing of senatorial votes until late evening of May 21 to proclaim the new senators early today, May 22. They rolled out the red carpet for the arriving senators, mostly President Duterte’s candidates, who posed for the cameras ala Oscars award night before walking into the Philippine International Convention Center.
Former First Lady Imelda Marcos, widow of deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos and convicted of seven cases of corruption last November, arrived at the PICC ahead of her daughter and new Senator Imee Marcos. Duterte’s “Tol” Francis Tolentino who, like Imelda, is a former chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), walked the red carpet alone.
Movie and TV actors Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla regained their Senatorial seats. Actress Susan Roces accompanied daughter and reelected Senator Grace Poe, an independent candidate supported by progressive groups.
Sons and daughters of past politicians returned to the Senate and beat other sons of politicians. Senators Pia Cayetano, Sonny Angara, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III were proclaimed as Senators again. Senator Nancy Binay narrowly beat JV Ejercito, who was followed in the ranking by Bam Aquino and Jinggoy Estrada.
After proclaiming the winning senators, the Comelec held a press conference. It did not give answers to questions about rampant vote-buying, police and state military involvement in the campaign, and worse glitches in the automated elections, but said all the issues encountered before, during and after the elections will be discussed in Comelec’s “post-assessment.” Comelec Commissioner Shariff Abas said they “stand by the credibility of the election.”
Tougher times ahead for human rights
There are now only four opposition senators in the opposition, prompting fears that the previously opposed legislations including charter change, the worst of all proposed charter changes according to former Bayan Muna Neri Colmenares, may soon be resurrected.
As it is, new laws are currently being approved that the country’s basic sectors have long opposed. The Senate, for example, approved recently on final reading the Senate Bill 1571, or the “compressed work week,” which Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao described as contemptuous of the historical legacy of the Filipino workers’ movement that struggled for the eight-hour work day and protection of workers’ rights and welfare. He described it as a measure to boost the country’s “labor market efficiency” or labor flexibility, on which the World Bank claims the country is at a low rank.
The labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) lamented that no sooner had the sessions in the Senate and Congress reopened and here, “they are already rushing the passage of the law on Compressed Workweek strongly opposed by the workers.”
Elmer Labog, chairperson of KMU, warned that President Duterte has more sinister plans for the people that he may now force through more easily with the proclamation of “fake winners” of the senatorial elections.
With the likes of new Senator Imee Marcos, and new Senator Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa who implemented Duterte’s bloody drug war as former police chief, “what do you expect will happen with our human rights,?” asked Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan.
Palabay urges the Filipino people to support their call for the enactment of a law protecting human rights defenders. She warned that we are in for a Martial Law “reload.”