05/13/2019, 09.18
PHILIPPINES
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Mid-terms in the Philippines: Duterte aims for Senate majority

A victory would give him legislative support for anti-crime proposals and to rewrite the Constitution. The opposition denounces: risk of revocation of presidential mandate limit, tightening of the war on drugs and restoration of the death penalty. Polling stations opened with some isolated episodes of violence.

 

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - About 61 million Filipinos today vote in mid-term elections. Nearly 43,000 candidates are competing for more than 18,000 positions in local administrations. Added To these are half of the seats in the Senate (the upper house), which in recent years has been a bulwark against some of the most controversial policies of President Rodrigo Duterte (photo). 

Voting  opened at 6 am and will end at 6 pm. Polling stations opened with some isolated episodes of violence. According to authorities, at least 20 people were killed and 24 injured in election-related crimes. Military sources report that nine people were injured this morning in a gunfight on the southern island of Jolo.

Winning a Senate majority, which independent polls indicate is likely, would give Duterte legislative support for its anti-crime proposals and its plan to rewrite the Constitution. Historically, the nation's 24 senators - who remain in office for six years - have had the reputation of being more independent than the lower house parliamentarians.

The opposition warns that this possibility could allow Duterte to lift the limit on presidential terms; it would also allow him to tighten up his controversial drug war; finally, to reinstate the death penalty, a commitment announced by the president that the UN Human Rights Council has called "alarming". The Philippines declared the death penalty illegal in 1987, restored it six years later and then again abolished in 2006.

Subject of repeated attacks since the rise of Duterte in power, in the past few days the Filipino bishops have responded to some press rumors that they would like the bishops "on the front line" in the political debate. The president of the national episcopal conference, Msgr. Romulo Valles, declared that the Catholic Church in the Philippines "does not make politics and does not support any candidate in the elections. Bishops and priests are not allowed to give endorsements, because it would clearly be an interference in national politics".

The results of the administrative elections are expected a few hours after the polls close, while the winners of the senate and congressional seats will be declared starting next May 17th.

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