Duterte seen ‘consolidating his power further’ as allies sweep Senate race


Duterte seen ‘consolidating his power further’ as allies sweep Senate race

(Philstar.com) – May 15, 2019 – 1:42pm

MANILA, Philippines — With his allies dominating the Senate race, President Rodrigo Duterte is poised to “consolidate his power further” and “gain control” of the upper house, which could mean smooth sailing for his legislative priorities, a Fitch unit said.

Partial and unofficial tally showed Duterte’s chosen senatorial candidates dominate the race. Meanwhile, opposition candidates are struggling to gain a seat.

In a commentary, Fitch Solutions said the strong show of support for Duterte will give him both the confidence and ability to push ahead with his reform agenda.

Among Duterte’s key reforms are shifting towards a federal system of governance, cutting corporate tax rates and reinstating the death penalty.

However, Fitch Solutions warned that reduced opposition within the Senate could erode the potential for “checks and balances” on Duterte’s administration.

It added that Duterte will likely face increased domestic pressure over his relations with China and slowing economic growth, which could pose challenges for him “over the final half of his term as he looks to secure his legacy via an appointed successor.”

“The Senate has proved a sticking point for Duterte, as seen by the delay to the passing of the 2019 budget. Duterte will hope that with increased support in the Senate, his reforms and fiscal plans will face less obstacles,” the Fitch unit said.

Half of the 24 senators and all 297 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as hundreds of mayoral and gubernatorial posts were up for grabs on Monday’s election.

According to Fitch Solutions, the May polls also reinforced the “significance” of family dynasties within Philippine politics, highlighting the still large influence they have over the country.

“Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte, will have increased her chances of succeeding her father’s presidency after her [Hugpong ng Pagbabago] alliance-backed Senate candidates performed well,” it said.

“Similarly, Imee Marcos stands eighth in the Senate vote based on current results, which will mean she will gain a seat, and is the daughter of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos,” it added.

Separately, Japan-based Nomura said the outcome of the election is likely supportive of political stability and the government’s reform agenda.

“Fiscal reform, which has been delayed and has lost some visibility, is likely back on the radar screen as a result of Duterte’s stronger support base in Congress after the mid-terms,” Nomura said.

“Specifically, we believe the next package on fiscal incentive rationalization combined with corporate income tax cuts may now have a more realistic chance of enactment than not within this year,” it added. — Ian Nicolas Cigaral