(EXCLUSIVE) It has long been an old boys’ club all right, but some changes have transpired in Philippine politics that saw fresh faces partly dismantling generations of political machinery by successfully securing seats of power in the Senate.
In the 2016 elections, or 29 years after Congress was restored, there were five first-time elected senators--Manny Pacquiao, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian, Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, proving that new faces had a place in the august halls of the Senate. (It was Hontiveros’ third run; she lost in her first two attempts).
This year, among those trying their luck as a first-time senator are Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, daughter of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos; former Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada;
Christopher “Bong” Go, former Special Assistant to the President; former Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Francis Tolentino, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Moro civic leader Samira Gutoc, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, and election lawyer Romulo Macalintal. (This is Tolentino’s second try. He lost in the 2016 elections.)
While reelectionists with name recall have higher probabilities of winning, term limits ensure that old faces would have to go and give new faces a fighting chance of making it to the lawmakers’ club.
After the EDSA Revolution of 1986, the Cory Magic—or the influence of President Corazon Aquino— paved the way in 1987 for first-time senators--“promdi” politician Aquilino Pimentel Jr and former UP President Edgardo Angara. Actor-turned-San Juan Mayor Joseph Estrada also secured a Senate seat during that time.
The names of these politicians have since become so familiar that their sons who followed in their footsteps are the old names the new kids on the block are now trying to beat.
But it has always been an uphill battle to topple the reelectionists in recent years.
Except in 2010, there have been at least five new senators in every election from 1995-2016. On the average, close to half of the winners were neophytes. (See graph below, the prominent orange bar represents new senators.)
In the May 2019 midterm elections, however, a particularly intriguing scenario looms.
Among the senatorial candidates are seven reelectionists and seven returning senators from previous Congresses. Or make it 14 previous winners vying for only 12 available slots.
In recent years, the closest thing to a shutout of new senators happened during the 2010 elections when all six reelectionists maintained their seats while four of the five returning senators won.
As a result, only two newbies made it to the top 12--Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, son of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late strongman.
Looking at the roster of candidates, most of the returning senators gunning for a seat on May 13, 2019 fared really well in previous elections.
Two presidential aspirants in 2016--Mar Roxas and Grace Poe--topped the 2004 and 2013 senatorial races, respectively.
Five former senators-- Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Pia Cayetano -- are staging a comeback this year. They were barred from seeking another seat during the last election after completing two consecutive six-year terms from 2004-2016.
Estrada is the son of former President Joseph Estrada. His half-brother JV is also running. Revilla is the son of another former senator, action star Ramon Revilla Sr.. Cayetano is the sister of former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. Their father is the late Sen. Renato Cayetano.
Another former senator, Serge Osmeña III, also finished two successive six-year terms from 1995-2007 although he lost in 2016. He is the son of the late Sen. Sergio Osmeña.
For the reelectionists, Poe included, all six of the new faces in 2013 are now targeting a second term in May. The other five are Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay, JV Ejercito, and Cynthia Villar -- all from prominent political families.
Twenty-three reelectionists sought a second term in the last four elections. Only three failed to secure another term: Ralph Recto in 2007, although he won in 2010 and 2016; Serge Osmeña, and TG Guingona in 2016.
Potentially, this year’s elections can be one of the most competitive ever given the field of candidates. This makes it more challenging for the new faces to crack the Magic 12, compared to previous elections.
The full list of all the candidates for the 2019 senatorial elections can be accessed here:
Harry Roque withdrew his candidacy last February 1.
Witness some other new faces in the senatorial race in the third ABS-CBN Harapan Townhall Debate on March 3.