By ELLEN T. TORDESILLAS
WHEN 17th Congress opens on July 25, the Senate will have a new set of 12 legislators -winners of the senatorial race in the recent May 9 elections.
Not all are new faces in the Senate because there were re-electionists like Franklin Drilon, Tito Sotto, and Ralph Recto. There were also the balik-Senado, former senators who ran again like Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, Francis Pangilinan, and Miguel Zubiri.
The first timers are boxing champ Manny Pacquiao; Risa Hontiveros, who is dubbed as the Senate’s Pia Wurtzbach because like the 2015 Miss Universe, she made it to the Senate on her third attempt; TESDAman Joel Villanueva; former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima; and former Valenzuela (1st district) Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian.
They join the 12 other senators whose term will be ending in 2019. Four of the last termers ran for vice presidebt last election but lost: Alan Peter Cayetano, Franciz Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, and Antonio Trillanes IV. One, Grace Poe, was not successful in her presidential bid.
The rest of the members of the 17th Senate are Loren Legarda,Aquilino Pimentel III, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito ,Sonny Angara,Bam Aquino, and Nancy Binay.
Missing from the Senate rosters are Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III, who had never lost a senatorial contest in his 18-year political career except the last one, and Teofisto “TJ” Guingona III. Osmeña ran as independent and Guingona was with the Liberal party ticket.
Guingona’s loss was not surprising because in the pre-election surveys he was already struggling to be in the Magic 12. In fact, in the May 3, survey of Social Weather Station, a week before Election Day, he was number 14.
It was Osmeña’s loss that was unbelievable.
In all the SWS pre-election surveys, Osmeña was in the top six. He was number six in the May 3 SWS survey.
Surveys of course are different from Election day votes but the credible ones like SWS are snapshots of realities on the ground.
Since elections in the country became automated in 2010, we are told that cheating has been completely eliminated and the only means of distorting the people’s will is through vote buying. Indeed, vote buying has reached dizzying levels in the last election. In some areas where election was hotly contested, the cost reached P7,000 per voter.
But automation gave rise to another rumored racket by unscrupulous Comelec personnel through a pre-loaded election results of the Secure Digital (SD) card. Allegedly the asking price runs to six figures.
Difficult to believe but we were shown an analysis of vote manipulation in the 2016 Senate Election done by Reform Philippines Coalition and the coincidences are hard to ignore. The percentage of the increase of senatorial candidates who paid was almost the same – in the range of 6.6 percent with one getting the highest boost of 10.4 percent.
There was talk that an administration stalwart had to complain to Malacanang when it looked like that he would be pushed down.
Two of those who allegedly paid did not make it. The pre-loaded figures were not enough to put them in the wining circle.
There’s no question about the electoral victory of President Rodrigo Duterte. He was too far ahead; no SD card operation could have pulled him down.
However, it’s a different case in the vice-presidential contest. The Liberal party’s Leni Robredo won the vice presidential contest by only 260,000 votes. It’s good that Ferdinand”Bongbong” Marcos Jr. filed an election protest. Maybe some of the questions about the senatorial contest would also be answered.