Duterte allies win big in mid-term elections

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds a press conferences at Manila International Airport in Manila on May 24, 2017. Xinhua/Wang Yu

MANILA (AFP) – Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte stormed to a landslide victory in midterm polls, final results showed Wednesday, dissolving a last check on his controversial rule.

Loyalists won both houses of the legislature, shutting out all opposition candidates in the Senate, which had served as a buffer against Duterte’s most contentious plans.

The results open a path for Duterte – who has remarkably high approval ratings – to make good on his call to bring back the death penalty and advance his project to re-write the constitution.

“It’s a clear signal that the people will be behind him as he pushes bills and processes that went nowhere previously,” political analyst Ramon Casiple told AFP.

With nine Duterte backers and three nominally unaligned politicians taking the 12 seats at stake in the 24-member Senate, only four oppositions members will remain, results from the elections authority showed.

Duterte allies kept control of the lower House of Representatives, which has approved legislation to bring back capital punishment and re-write the constitution since Duterte’s 2016 election.

Among the new senators is former national police chief Ronald dela Rosa, the first enforcer of Duterte’s narcotics crackdown that has killed over 5,300.

Campaigners say the true toll is at least triple that and may amount to crimes against humanity.

“Number one on my agenda is the reimposition of the death penalty for drug trafficking,” dela Rosa told reporters. “I will focus on that.”

The pro-Duterte electoral tsunami was also a win for the Duterte family.

Daughter Sara, touted as a possible 2022 presidential candidate, retained her post as mayor of the southern city of Davao, with sibling Sebastian winning as vice-mayor. The eldest son, Paolo, won a seat in the House of Representatives.

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