I am voting to keep the Senate as the last bastion of checks and balances

We are now less than a month away from the May 13 Philippine elections. There is now a frenzy of last-minute campaigning everywhere as candidates try to reach as many voters as they can within the remaining days of the official campaign period.

I found myself, these last few days, checking my tentative vote list. There were people on the administration’s ticket that I think deserved my vote. There were also people on the opposition’s list who I was iffy about.

What was my deal breaker? Given the current state of governance, what, in my view, was the priority that would determine who I should vote for?

Here’s how I came up with my present list of candidates and it is by no means final, given that we still have a little less than 4 weeks to go.

A democratic system needs an authentic check and balance system. Under our presidential system of government, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are SUPPOSED TO be independent, with each one checking the other two. More importantly, BOTH the judicial AND the legislative should balance out the executive.

It has not been happening, in my view.

The Lower House is a super majority, in favor of the current administration.

The Supreme Court, composed of Duterte, Aquino, and Arroyo appointees, has shown a voting pattern that leaves me very uncomfortable that they can be a truly independent Supreme Court. In this article by Interaksyon in 2018, the concurring votes on major cases brought before the Supreme Court (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s acquittal, Enrile out on bail, Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at Libingan ng Mga Bayani, legality of Sen. de Lima’s arrest, extension of martial law in Mindanao, and validity of former SC Chief Justice Sereno’s appointment) were dominated by Duterte and Arroyo appointees.

I found these infographics online and am posting them here, with permission from Interaksyon.

Supreme Court Voting Patterns, Figure 1 (Infographics by Interaksyon)


Supreme Court Voting Patterns, Figure 2 (Infographics by Interaksyon)

Now, the latest surveys show that those in the Top 12 are largely candidates running under the administration slate. Only two opposition candidates, so far, have the potential of penetrating the Magic 12.

Will the Senate also be transformed into a super majority just like the lower House? If that happens, all 3 branches of government would then be dominated by administration-appointed or administration-sympathetic public officials.

The critical number I see is 17. If you have 17 senators on your side, you can easily influence the Senate vote for both simple majority (12 + 1) and two-thirds (16 + 1). But of course, all these incumbent, and soon-to-be-elected, senators will all insist that they are independent, that their decisions are not influenced by anyone. But really….all one has to do is look at how votes on issues as well as passing or non-passing of laws have been justified lately in both Congress and the Supreme Court and even a non-lawyer like me has rolled my eyes more than once.

The Otso Diretso ticket is far from perfect. In fact, if this were a different kind of election, some of them would not be on my list. I had criticized some of them, at one time or another, when they held public office. I did not vote for Mar Roxas in 2016 for several reasons but that is a different story.

But this is not the time to quibble.

I WANT A SENATE THAT WILL BE TRULY INDEPENDENT. Its composition has to have a reasonable representation from the opposition to be able to carry this out. In a real democracy, we should welcome opposition, not snuff it out. If all branches of government were dominated by administration-sympathetic public officials, we lose check and balance.

As a former auditor who examined numerous companies in different industries, I have been trained to look for one of the musts of good internal control — an effective check and balance system. If there is a body right now that can still check, question, investigate and decide, with some semblance of independence from other branches, IT IS THE SENATE.

I am throwing my lot with the opposition this time. They do not have the machinery nor the resources that the sitting powers have but I want to give them a fighting chance. Looking through their background, I can also say that they are highly competent to serve as senators.

My list is composed of the Otso Diretso lineup plus two other candidates. That leaves me with room for 2 more to fill till election day. Here’s my vote list so far (in alphabetical order):

ALEJANO, Gary @GaryAlejano
AQUINO, Bam @bamaquino
COLMENARES, Neri @ColmenaresPH
DE GUZMAN, Leody @LeodyManggagawa
DIOKNO, Chel @ChelDiokno
GUTOC, Samira @SamiraGutoc
HILBAY, Florin @fthilbay
MACALINTAL, Romulo @attyromymac
ROXAS, Mar @MARoxas
TANADA, Erin @erintanada

To these people in my list, let me say this:

Voting for you means I am placing my trust as a citizen in YOU. I expect you to be a servant leader who puts public good ahead of self interest. If you get elected, I will personally hold you to account and will either praise you for good work or call you out. This is my duty AND RIGHT as a citizen in a democracy where participative governance is encouraged.

If you still haven’t made up your mind who to vote for, please give my reasons some thought. As they say, you get who you vote for. Think…what will you get with your choice of candidates? Good luck in deciding. If you are prayerful, PRAY for discernment. And may God bless our country and its people with truth, justice, and peace.


For the Filipino version, CLICK HERE.