The Philippines held elections yesterday seen as crucial for President Benigno Aquino III’s bold reform agenda, as deadly violence and graft-tainted candidates underlined the nation’s deep-rooted problems.
Aquino called for the mid-term polls, in which thousands of local leaders plus national legislators will be elected, to be a referendum on his efforts to transform a corrupt political system and an underperforming economy.
“The president is asking voters to put their confidence in those on the administration slate to help him carry out the rest of his reform agenda,” presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.
Aquino swept into power in 2010 on a promise to fight corruption that he blames for the country’s crushing poverty.
Opinion polls show he remains one of the country’s most popular presidents, with the Philippines enjoying faster economic growth than every other nation in the Asia-Pacific except for China.
However, with presidents only allowed to serve one term of six years, Aquino is in a rush to implement more ambitious reforms and make an enduring impact on graft.
Yesterday’s elections — in which more than 18,000 positions, from town councillors up to provincial governors and members of the legislature, were being contested — are vital to shore up support for his efforts.
Most crucial is control of both houses of Congress.
Aquino is confident of securing big majorities in both houses from an alliance of a wide range of parties, enabling him to pass legislation much more easily than his first three years when he did not have control of the Philippine Senate.
One of Aquino’s biggest reforms is a planned peace deal with Muslim rebels to end an insurgency in the south of the country that has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.
The peace accord would require parliamentary endorsement.
Aquino’s aides have also said he is focused on passing legislation that would expand the tax base, including from the mining sector, to pay for more social security services.
Nevertheless, amid the hope, the elections highlighted the enduring nature of many of the darkest traditions that affect Philippine politics.
Yesterday, seven people were killed in the south as politicians’ security forces battled each other or launched attacks on voters. More than 60 people were killed in pre-poll violence.
EIGHT-YEAR WINDOW: Avril Haines said that Beijing is closely watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine, although Moscow’s actions have not sped up Beijing’s timeline The threat posed by China to Taiwan until 2030 is “critical,” US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Tuesday while testifying on worldwide threats at a hearing of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services. “I think it’s fair to say that it’s critical, or acute,” Haines said when asked by US Senator Josh Hawley if she viewed the threat facing Taiwan to be acute from now until 2030. “It’s our view that they [China] are working hard to effectively put themselves into a position in which their military is capable of taking Taiwan over our intervention,” she said, without
NO CONSENSUS YET: Local governments and the CECC have agreed to change the ‘3+4’ self-isolation policy, but are still mulling what to replace it with The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and local governments have agreed to ease restrictions on close contacts of COVID-19 cases, although the details are still being discussed, the center said yesterday. The discussions follow Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Saturday approving a proposal to shorten the “3+4” policy — three days of home isolation followed by four days of self-disease prevention — for close contacts who have received booster doses. “We did not reach a consensus on how to revise the current restrictions, but we all agreed that the administrative burden must be reduced and the intensity of restrictions must be eased,
OPPOSING CHINESE ‘HOSTILITY’: The bill orders the state secretary to create a plan to regain observer status for Taiwan, saying Taipei is a model contributor to world health US President Joe Biden on Friday signed a bill into law to help Taiwan regain observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), demonstrating Washington’s support for Taiwan’s international participation. Friday was the deadline for Biden to sign the bill (S.812), which directs “the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization (WHO), and for other purposes.” The 75th WHA, the decisionmaking body of the WHO, is scheduled to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday next week to May 28. The bill, introduced by US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the US Senate
‘DAMOCLES SWORD’: An Italian missionary said the arrest of cardinal Zen is a blow for the church in Hong Kong, China and the world, signaling great danger ahead China yesterday defended the arrest of a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, a move that triggered international outrage and deepened concerns over Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in the territory. Retired cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君), one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, was among a group of veteran democracy advocates arrested on Wednesday for “colluding with foreign forces.” Pop singer Denise Ho (何韻詩), veteran barrister Margaret Ng (吳靄儀) and cultural studies academic Hui Po-keung (許寶強) were also arrested, the latter as he attempted to fly to Europe to take up an academic post. Cyd Ho (何秀蘭), a democracy