As the Filipinos go the polls for the mid-term elections on Monday (14 May), they face not only the ballot box but also possibilities of more terrorist attacks.
This mid-term election is carried out between two rival coalitions. The pro-Arroyo coalition is called “Team Unity.” The anti-government coalition, aptly named Genuine Opposition or “GO”, is endorsed by former presidents, Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada. While the election is pitched between the two broad coalitions, there does not seem to be much policy difference between the two.
Instead, one columnist, Isagani Cruz pointed out that the ‘real issue’ that the voters would be deciding on is whether there would be sufficient anti-Arroyo senators and House of Representatives members to impeach, convict and remove Arroyo. Arroyo has already faced two impeachment actions for her alleged part in rigging the 2004 Presidential elections. However, both attempts failed because of her allies’ dominance in the House of Representatives.
What is at stake in the elections are 12 of the 24 senatorial seats, all of the 236 House of Representatives places and 17,500 governors, mayors and other local official positions. The pro-government coalition is likely to continue to dominate the House of Representatives though the opposition is likely to dominate the Senate. The pro-government coalition is aided by the buoyant Philippine economy which is at its strongest in a decade.
The campaigning has been significant thus far, in the lack of mention of several key political issues. There have been few mentions of the possible change in the constitution, moving the Philippines from a presidential system to a parliamentary system of government. There has also not been much mention of concrete policies or visions of how thePhilippines economy should be organised. Indeed several political analysts do not expect any major power shift.
One columnist, Randy David lamented the lack of stability in the political party system in the Philippines, resulting in the flourishing of ‘dynasties’ in the Philippines political scene. Instead of ‘program based political parties’, the political parties are generally distinguished by candidates with ‘money and celebrity appeal.’
The elections have been thus far been marred with violence. Since January, at least 111 people have died and 120 others injured in 167 election-related violent incidents. Political killings have been common.
Militant groups are expected to take advantage of the election period to attack undermanned military and police outposts, oil depots, power stations and telecommunication facilities. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) deputised 20,000 soldiers to perform election-related duties in areas where ‘strong armed threats have been monitored’. However, that has only further spread thin the already stretched the police and military.
The government has raised the terror alert to its highest level in two Southern regions but for the people, it is yet uncertain as to whether the threat from the terrorists or simply the day-to-day travail caused by uninspired politicians is more terrible. (15 May 2007)
No Peace at these Polls, Philippines Terror Alert Raised to Highest Level Amid Wave of Attacks (Today, 14 May 2007)
A Formidable Weapon or a Rusted Blunderbuss? (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 May 2007)
Parties of the Future (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 May 2007)
Pro-Govt Candidates Likely to Keep Grip on Philippine House (Straits Times, 12 May 2007)
Cory, Erap Give GO Final Boost (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 May 2007)
Plenty At Stake For Arroyo in Philippines MidTerm Elections (Associated Press, 12 May)
Comelec Deputies 20,000 Troops on Election Day (Philippine News Agency, 12 May 2007)