Duterte gains grip on Senate as most loyalists win seats

The Philippines may see the return of death penalty and fiscal and constitutional changes as President Rodrigo Duterte, above, has gained control of the Senate after a landslide win for his loyalists in last week’s midterm polls.

Despite ruling the country for nearly three years, Duterte could not push ahead with his reforms since Senate had acted as a stumbling block. Now the passage of bills may become easier.

Duterte’s allies won nine of 12 Senate seats. The other three seats went to nominally unaligned politicians.

The opposition has now only four seats in the 24-member upper house.

The House of Representatives, which is dominated by Duterte’s allies, has already approved legislation to bring back capital punishment and re-write the constitution after his election in 2016.

Poll winner Ronald dela Rosa, former national police chief who led Duterte’s deadly war on drugs, said that as a senator, his first priority would be to re-impose death penalty for drug trafficking.

Official figures say more than 5,000 people were killed in the narcotics crackdown while rights activists claim as many as 16,000 were killed.

Among the new senators is Imee Marcos, the daughter of late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Cynthia Villar won by garnering the highest number of votes.

The opposition fears Duterte may destroy the unitary structure of the government by giving regions more powers to deal with local problems.

They also resent his dynastic politics. In elections held earlier this month, his three children won. His daughter Sara retained her post as Davao mayor, son Sebastian won as vice-mayor and the eldest son, Paolo, won a seat in the House of Representatives.