Hontiveros vows to strive for independent Senate

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Hontiveros vows to strive for independent Senate

MANILA, Philippines — As results of the 2019 midterm polls continue to trickle in, Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said that senators in the minority will continue to work for Senate independence.

“We will continue to strive for an independent Senate and introduce electoral reforms, particularly in the partylist system and for campaign finance reform,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros stressed that the Senate serves as the public’s “last line of defense within the government against continuing attempts to undermine our democracy and attack our human rights.”

She added: “We will persevere… If anything, we will work harder, strive further and serve better.”

While the partial, official Comelec results released late Tuesday night showed reelectionist Sen. Bam Aquino as the lone opposition candidate landing a spot in the winners’ circle, the partial, unofficial tally—with more than 96% votes reported—has administration-backed candidates dominating the top 12.

In the partial, unofficial tally as of 11:27 a.m., Wednesday, Aquino is at the 14th spot.

Of the handful in the Senate minority bloc, the terms of Aquino and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV will end on June 30.

In the likely event that the Duterte allies fill up the Senate’s chamber, the president’s clout in Congress would strengthen and bolster the country’s policy-making process.

Political analyst Dennis Coronacion however cautioned that the scenario would likely weigh on the system of checks and balances in the country.

“In the event that President Duterte’s allies dominate the Senate, it’s very likely that the institution will lose its touted independence,” Coronacion, a political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, told Philstar.com in an interview.

“The worst case scenario is when the Senate becomes a rubber stamp for the executive,” Coronacion added.

Sotto: Senate to maintain independence

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a radio interview Tuesday that a Senate of even more administration allies will not mean that it will lose its independence. 

He said that the political opposition does not have a monopoly on criticizing the administration’s policies.

“Si Nancy, hindi pro-administration yan, independent-minded yan. Yung number 11, si Bong Revilla, independent-minded din yan. Lalo na si Grace Poe,” he said.

(Nancy is not pro-administration. She is independent-minded. The one at Number 11, Bong Revilla, he is also independent-minded. Grace Poe is even more so)

He said that the Senate will not hesitate to oppose policies that will not benefit the public.

“Public office is a public trust, so publiko ang bida, hindi ang Pangulo. Pag tama ‘yung pangulo, (unclear) dahil gusto ng publiko yun. Suportahan mo, ika nga. Huwag yung tama ang pangulo, kokontrahin mo dahil hindi mo gusto,” he also said.

(Public office is a public trust, so the public is at the center, not the president. If the president is right… support it. But it’s not right that even if the president is correct, you will oppose it because you don’t like him.)

Palace expects Senate to stay independent

The Malacañang earlier allayed fears of the Senate losing its indepedence as it expressed hope that the incoming senators, including former officials of the Duterte administration, to be independent and rise above partisanship when tackling issues involving national interest.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Tuesday that Senate history showed that the members of its chamber have been “independent ever since.”

“We expect them (senators) to be fealty to the duties imposed to them by the constitution and the laws. They have to support the president when the agenda of the president is for the good of the people and they will have to oppose it if they feel in their conscience that it ran counter to the interest of the nation,” he added. 

READ: More allies in Senate bring new hope for delayed priority legislation

Probe into alleged irregularities in 2019 polls

Hontiveros also said that while they would accept the results of the polls “for now,” they would “question the irregularities and we will never give in to despair.”

“As we vigilantly wait for the remaining votes to be counted and for the Comelec to address the serious cases of massive vote-buying in the partylist system, the seven-hour delay in the poll body’s transparency server and the breakdown of many vote counting machines (VCMs) that disenfranchised a large number of voters, we will continue to meet every challenge and work for the protection of our democracy, no matter the circumstances,” the senator added.

As of early afternoon of election day, the Comelec said there were already around 400 to 600 cases of malfunctioning vote counting machines. Despite the staggering rate, however, Commission on Elections James Jimenez downplayed the figure. He said that with around 85,000 VCMs in use nationwide, the number is not outside of the expected number.

Several progressive groups on Tuesday also gathered before the Commission on Elections to protest the alleged rigged elections.