May 2007
Elections 2007

An abnormal return to normality

HAVING COME so close to not having elections at all, there was enormous pent-up political energy in the runup to the recently concluded polls. The elections released all that pressure and actually improved the prospects for political stability. This is also due to public opinion finally being clarified once and for all: After 2004, which should have settled the questions of legitimacy and a mandate definitively, the country had stumbled along with only public-opinion polls serving as a rough guide to the public mood.

Still, the local and House elections only proved the durability of old ways, in particular, of patronage. The senatorial results signaled the end of one fad — the showbiz candidate — and a return to older, but tried-and-tested themes in our political history. The election sounded the death knell for an older generation of candidates, and the entry into the national arena of a younger generation of leaders.

Most of all, though, it sent a series of signals virtually impossible to ignore: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lacks a national following; her machinery could not counteract the national tide; the public expressed itself firmly in favor of checks and balances between the executive and the legislative and between the two chambers of the legislature; the military itself, which resisted the call to decide matters in February 2006, also revolted against its commanders and voted as it pleased.

But it needs to be pointed out that what we just had were also rare midterm polls.

We overlook the fact that prior to 2007, the last midterm elections the Philippines experienced took place in 1995. And that the 1995 midterms were the first a presidency had experienced since 1971. The 1995 elections themselves may have signaled the beginning of a new era of political turbulence. If the late 1970s to mid-1980s had been marked by efforts to restore democracy, and the mid-1980s to the early 1990s a time when democracy was under threat from force of arms, the late 1990s inaugurated the confrontation between populism with mass appeal, and middle class defined-and-defended people power.

The 1995 midterms had produced results favorable to the Ramos administration — indeed so favorable that there was a serious attempt to amend the 1987 Constitution to permit President Fidel Ramos an extension in office. It floundered due to public protests. The elections after that, in 1998, included presidential polls, which resulted in the Estrada administration. That government’s populism was resented, then openly challenged, by middle-class moralism and upper-class contempt. What should have been the Estrada midterm elections of 2001 instead became a referendum on Edsa Dos that had led to President Joseph Estrada’s ouster.

Yet the 2001elections came in the nick of time, regardless of whether one feels Edsa Dos was a coup or genuine people power, or thinks of Edsa Tres as mob rule or a failed populist power. Those May polls defined an arena and established parameters of political confrontation and even engagement, with which nearly all Filipinos were comfortable. It’s significant that in those elections, the newly elevated Arroyo administration contested the senatorial race, as all senatorial races have always been contested. That is, as a proxy war between the incumbent president and the opposition.

Then came 2004, another presidential election year. As other presidential contests before it, the 2004 polls had their own dynamics, nationally and locally, that are peculiar to any race in which the Palace is up for grabs. Contesting the position, with Arroyo up for reelection, was itself an unusual exception (the 1987 Constitution generally didn’t contemplate a president running for office), but the participation of the opposition was a kind of pledge of loyalty to the political order. A pledge that Fernando Poe Jr., even after his defeat, adhered to: the revelations that the election had been stolen wouldn’t surface until he died, but even then his widow always shrank from calling for open revolt.

From July 2005 to August 2006, from the resignation of a portion of her cabinet to the second rejection of articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives, the Arroyo presidency fought for survival. The president’s countermoves focused on holding the line and then waging a war of attrition for which the presidency, with its patronage and powers of compulsion, were ideally suited. In her 2005 State of the Nation Address, Arroyo put forward federalism and a transition to a unicameral parliamentary system as the means to galvanize local government and House support for her administration. The defeat of the second effort to impeach her gave way to a counteroffensive meant to accomplish the abolition of the Senate, and quite possibly the postponement, if not outright cancellation, of the 2007 midterms.

The gambit failed in December 2006 — and spectacularly so. Having expended a tremendous amount of energy and resources, both the administration and the opposition then prepared to duke it out in the midterm elections. They did so, having made certain assumptions, and with certain political calculations in mind.

THE ADMINISTRATION had resources aplenty, but lacked a president with prestige and political capital to spend on boosting the chances of her slate. This was a highly unnatural position for a president to be in, and particularly during a midterm poll. In 2001 and 2004, Arroyo herself had gone on the stump in a manner similar to her predecessors; in 2007 she could not do so, and besides a few appearances in known bailiwicks, she neither campaigned in person nor appeared in the collaterals of her slate’s campaign.

The gamble was that pirating candidates from the other side would foster squabbling within the opposition, and fill out an administration slate that was virtually impossible to fill: The administration had preached for so long that the upper chamber was superfluous, it seemed incongruous for anyone to suddenly put himself forward for election to it. And so it was that Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto, Edgardo Angara, and Tessie Aquino Oreta became part of the administration’s Team Unity. This was further fortified by replacing a Visayan local leader with action film star Cesar Montano, on the (by now) old rule of thumb that celebrity was a selling point in politics.

Most of all, the administration had a reputation for going for broke; it had the money and the will to put up a tough fight. Local kingpins unfriendly to the administration (Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay being the most obvious example) were kept on their toes through a combination of brute force (there would be efforts to suspend Binay, even practically on the eve of elections, and similar moves would be attempted against Naga City Mayor Jess Robredo) and lavish logistical spending.

The opposition, to borrow a phrase first coined by Sergio Osmeña, Jr. in 1969, was “outgooned, outgunned, and outgold.” It was disunited, and at times, dispirited. It conceded the Lower House to the administration virtually from the start, except in the districts the Palace had identified as areas it would contest to set a political example and put certain candidates in their place. But the opposition had certain advantages: through surveys, the campaign directorate identified opposition leaders with enough residual clout to be useful as endorsers; and it did research on political messaging to know that “a vote for the opposition is a vote against the incumbent,” to paraphrase its campaign slogan.

And it had martyrs such as the jailed Navy Ltsg. Antonio Trillanes, or Congressman Allan Peter Cayetano, who became the target of an unprecedented demolition job — one in which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) came to be perceived as a willing accomplice. The opposition had more youth, and (ironically, because of Palace-sponsored defections) a more cohesively anti-administration slate than might otherwise have been the case. It was also one less patently Estrada-influenced because of the last-minute shifts in alliances (only John Osmeña remained, an aging relict of the old Estrada crowd).

Most of all, as with all political contests, it had the eminent advantage of having the public mood on its side. But the depths — and breadth — of this public mood would end up surprising even the opposition itself.

BOTH SIDES, however, failed to take into account four factors: the Roman Catholic Church as a whole; citizens’ groups pledged to guard the voting and the counting; an antagonized media; and, it seems, an antagonized armed forces, or at least its rank and file.

While the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy remained timid and indecisive about the level of political confrontation it would assume, preparations had begun for what would have been the last-ditch fight of the Constitutional Change experiment: a national plebiscite. Therefore, if bishops couldn’t agree on much, they could agree on the need for vigilance. The Catholic Church had experienced a growing gulf between the impatience and at times, more radical instincts of the clergy and religious, and the temporizing and pliability of the prelates. The priests and religious were always the main force making up citizens’ electoral watchdogs like the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV); it would step forward to play a significant role in the voting and the counting.

The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), too, under new leadership, was eager to restore a reputation severely tarnished by the 2004 polls. Other groups, such as the lawyers’ organization Lente, were organized, willing, and ultimately able to confront the Comelec and other officials during the counting.

Turnout became another factor affecting the results. Since many local contests weren’t exciting, that may account for the lower-than-usual turnout. An election where everyone knows the results leads to a depressed turnout: the 1935 and 1953 presidential elections, with a widely-assumed landslide result even prior to the polls, are good examples.

The media as well proved to be particularly difficult to cow during the polls. Resources were marshaled and deployed to conduct quick counts with the help of computer schools and student volunteers. The Comelec eventually ordered them stopped. But even then traditional playground of political operators — the provinces of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), whose remoteness often served as a means to keep the areas free of media scrutiny — were covered thoroughly this time around.

The armed forces, said to have pledged to deliver a 12-0 victory for the administration senatorial slate, voted for its own.

It also has to be said that the sudden illness of the president’s husband, a key player and preeminent broker of Kampi, had an effect on the conduct of the campaign. Indeed, other candidates have echoed boxing champion and congressional candidate Manny Pacquiao’s complaint that funding dried up during the campaign.

And there was the weight of history — of precedent. Whether anyone likes it or not, or acknowledges it or not, both House and Senate elections have been going on long enough to represent their own set of political dynamics, often incredibly resilient over time.

THE 2007 elections represent only the third time in a century that the elections for the Lower House coincided with a president’s midterm. The other times were in 1938 –incidentally the only time in Philippine history that a ruling party or coalition achieved total control of the Lower House — and in 1995. (See Table 1)

Table 1. Elections for the House of Representatives, 1907-2007
Includes Philippine Assembly (1907-1916), House of Representatives (1916-1935), National Assembly (1935-1941), House of Representatives (1941, 1946-1973), Batasang Pambansa (1978-1986), House of Representatives (1987-present)

Presidential election years are in bold
* Years House was retained by party that lost presidency
Midterm elections are underlined
Unicameral elections are italicized
(Note that exact number of party affiliations for 1987-onward cannot be guaranteed, because of changing affiliations over time.)

(Philippine Assembly: upper house appointed)
59 NP 16 PP
5 Independents
1909 62 NP 17 PP
2 Independents
1912 62 NP 16 PP
(House of Representatives)
75 NP 7 PP
2 Terc.
6 Independents
1922 33 Col. + 22 NP 25 Dem.
1934 70 Anti 19 Pro
(National Assembly)
Coalition: 64 Anti, 19 Pro 6 Independents
1938 98 NP (100%) 0
(House of Representatives)
95 NP 3 Independents
1946 68 LP (all ex-NP) 24 NP
6 Democratic Alliance (unseated with 1 NP representative)
(NP admin elected)
59 LP 31 NP
1957 77 NP 25 LP
(LP admin elected)
74 NP 29 LP
(NP admin elected)
61 LP 38 NP
5 others
1969 88 NP 18 LP
(Interim Batasang Pambansa)
151 KBL 13 Pusyon Bisaya
1 Mindanao Alliance
(Regular Batasang Pambansa)
123 KBL 60 Unido/PDP-Laban
(House of Representatives)
149 Admin coalition:
53 LNB
37 PDP-Laban
26 Unido
19 LP
9 Reg’l
5 Independents
49 Opposition coalition:
17 Independents
12 NP
10 KBL
5 Reg’l
1992 136 Admin coalition:
86 LDP
40 Lakas
30 NPC
1995 126 Lakas
28 LDP
6 LP
2 NP
28 NPC
9 others
(LAMMP admin elected)
111 Lakas elected;
became: 135 LAMMP, 13 LP
55 LAMMP elected;
became: 37 Lakas, 35 others
2001 People Power Coalition:
82 Lakas
53 NPC
21 LDP
21 LP
19 others
10 Independents
2004 K4 Coalition:
(As of election: 93 Lakas, 53 NPC, 11 LDP, 29 LP)
(after realignment: 79 Lakas, 40 NPC, 34 LP, 26 Kampi, 7 LDP, 5 NP)
(As of election: 19 others, 5 Independents)
20 others: 4 KNP, 2 PMP, 1 KBL, etc.
90 Lakas
47 Kampi
18 LP
17 NPC
5 Independents
5 NP
3 PDP-Laban

House elections have never been considered as being decided by the popularity of the incumbent president. The reason is simple: From 1907 to 1935, there were no presidential elections; after that, the 1935 Constitution was amended in 1941, to extend Lower House terms from three to four years, making representatives subject to the same terms as presidents. Lower House elections then became part and parcel of the bigger contest for control of Malacañang. Each Lower House election was therefore timed to take place during a presidential poll, which has its own set of dynamics.

What did emerge, from 1941 to 1969 and beyond, to the Batasang Pambansa and to the present, is that House elections have always resulted in an overwhelming administration victory. Without any exceptions. Even if the president running for reelection lost, his party would still win the House; and in cases where presidents were elected from the opposition, they would swiftly ensure that by the next poll, their minority would be an overwhelming House majority. In a sense, the House is so adaptable, so pliable, so dependent on the presidency’s patronage powers that it ends up supporting whoever occupies the Palace — until, that is, the presidency passes on to someone else.

And so not only did the opposition almost totally concede the House and local races — no real precedent existed to declare the House and local polls as material to the contest that tradition, experience, and the actual setup of the government dictated as the one to watch: that of the Senate.

NATIONALLY ELECTED, the Senate was deliberately designed to foster presidential ambition. As the only set of officials with the same electorate — a national one — as the president, senators aspired for election to a chamber that would be the penultimate step to the presidency itself.

The Upper House has 24 senators with six-year terms, elected on a staggered basis of eight every three years. Its members are elected both during presidential election years, and midterms.

Thus, from 1941 to 1971, the only midterm polls were senatorial elections. And because their results had proven to be so clearly indicative of an administration’s standing (or lack thereof), senatorial elections have become a referendum on the sitting administration.

The nature of the electorate also meant that each Senate has been expected to be a counterfoil to an unpopular president or to end up in the pocket of a popular one. This is where the midterms came in: the midterm served as the initial salvo in an incumbent president’s efforts either to secure reelection (under the 1935 Constitution) or to anoint his or her successor (under the present charter). When President Arroyo was able to run for reelection, the old dynamics — involving as the elections did, enough veterans of the premartial law era for them to operate instinctively, and comfortably, under such a situation — ensured a continuation of the old expectations that a vote for the administration slate was a vote of confidence in the sitting president. (See Table 2)

Table 2. Elections for the Senate of the Philippines

Includes national elections: 1941, 1946-1973, 1987-present

+ Bloc voting in place
Presidential election years in bold
Midterm elections underlined

1941+ 24 NP 0
1946+ 8 LP 7 NP
1 Independent
1947+ 7 LP 1 NP
1949+ 8 LP 0
1951 0 8 NP
1953 3 LP 5 NP
1955 8 NP 0
1957 6 NP 2 LP
1959 5 NP 2 LP
1 Independent
1961 2 NP 6 LP
1963 4 LP 4 NP
1965 2 LP 5 NP
1 Independent
1967 7 NP 1 LP
1969 7 NP 1 LP
1971 2 NP 6 LP
1987 22 Lakas ng Bayan Coalition 2 Grand Alliance for Democracy
1992 2 Lakas 16 LDP
1 LP-PDP-Laban
1995 10 Lakas 2 PRP
2001 8 PPC 5 PnM
2004 7 K-4 Coalition 5 KNP
2007 2 TU 8 GO
2 Independents

So ingrained is this approach to senatorial elections that the administration itself couldn’t resist the urge to put up a fight, one in which it invested a significant amount of resources. It may even have ended up believing its own propaganda. Why else would it have spent 2005 to 2007 pooh-poohing the senate as an institution, only to invest time and effort into putting up a slate and then thundering that slate would win — because of “machinery” and “command votes”?

THE NATURE of the two contests — a House no administration ever loses, a Senate that is won or lost depending on the standing of the administration with the people — was, and remains, obvious enough to political observers, even those who only looked as far back as the Marcos years for examples to validate the distinction between the two.

Still, the administration believed that with the vast majority of House and local races being contested by members of its coalition, local leaders would have the luxury of time and enough logistics to deliver the vote, in turn, to the administration senatorial slate. But the members of its two main factions, Lakas and Kampi, were themselves pitted against each other, and shortly before the elections the rivalry between the two had become so intense that last-ditch efforts had to be made to calm things down. A visibly anxious Speaker Jose de Venecia of Lakas had to shepherd his loyalists to the Palace, where an uneasy, public truce between his party and the President’s own Kampi, was brokered.

And yet the damage had been done — and continued to be done — both by means of Kampi’s pirating erstwhile Lakas members, and the president proving either unwilling or incapable of marshaling one of the greatest powers of her office: refereeing intramurals within the ruling coalition to keep the partnership whole and direct its energies to keeping the opposition at bay.

No less than 58 congressional races ended up as Kampi vs. Lakas fights. These contests, incidentally, took place in extremely “vote-rich” provinces ranging from Batangas, to Bulacan (four districts), to Pangasinan, (two districts in that province), to Cebu (four districts in that province alone) and Iloilo, and even in what would become controversial areas like Lanao del Sur.

The intramurals, we should recall, took place at a time when local candidates still had the liberty to devote their energies to helping national candidates. After the local races began in earnest in February, time and attention for national candidates was scarce, as has always been the case. Bad blood between both Lakas and Kampi, and local candidates competing for the attention and support of their national patrons, not all of whom could be attended to (either because the party leader, in the case of Lakas, was facing the fight of his political life, or the president, in the case of Kampi, was distracted by her husband’s hospitalization) and who therefore had to fend for themselves.

This would have been bad enough on its own, even if the popular mood was not anti-administration. Local leaders have highly sensitive political antennae, and they would have known just how their local constituents were inclined to vote in terms of the Senate. It generally makes little practical sense for local candidates eager to maintain their networks of supporters and committed votes, to dissipate local goodwill for the sake of national candidates. It makes no sense at all to do so, if local leaders know their constituents are inclined to vote for the other side.

But it also makes no sense for local leaders — and that includes candidates for the House — to inform the source of their patronage, the Palace, of the feelings of people on the ground. It would simply tempt the Palace to divert its resources to a more obliging candidate. And so local candidates took Palace resources, promising, of course, to deliver, but carefully avoided the temptation to use up their own political capital giving instructions that would be ignored anyway.

AND SO the shocker of election day (and in the days of counting that followed) was the revelation that so-called Palace bailiwicks were non-existent. By June 4, a report was citing a Malacañang statement that said TU bets had “emerged unopposed in 34 towns, including 17 towns in Maguindanao, and 17 others in the Visayan provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Northern Samar and Eastern Samar and in the Mindanao provinces of Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Sulu, and Zamboanga Sibugay.”

This is a far cry from the administration’s relentless optimism prior to, and in the wake of, the polls. Entire regions had been expected to deliver votes to the administration. Then it became entire provinces, and finally, as of the most recent reckoning, it’s a mere 34 towns. The scale of the administration rout, in national terms, can be gleaned from the diminished claims of where the administration obtained its vaunted 12-0 Senate votes. Just as the machinery had collapsed spectacularly for President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, for Ramon Mitra Jr. in 1992, and Jose de Venecia in 1998, it also did so now.

It’s possible that the administration, fixated on governors and congressmen over the past years, forgot that the national vote was now a highly urban vote. The majority of the Philippine population now resides in urban areas, which means that people are more likely to vote in a similar manner, when it comes to national issues, as Metro Manila. While the basis of political power in the provinces may still hark back to traditional rural relationships, this is less the case in urban areas. A situation where an administration clashes with local leadership might resonate strongly with similar urban areas: Malacañang versus Makati City or the Palace versus Naga City would reinforce not only each other, but the anti-administration sentiments of those casting their votes for senators.

Media and the public also combined to resist fraud in the periphery: the Mindanao vote in particular unraveled in terms of certain areas (such as the ARMM) being easy targets for manipulation. Maguindanao was only the most stunning example of electoral shenanigans being exposed — and exposed to the extent that the province’s votes were taken out of play at a time when the administration needed to give the impression of a regional bandwagon for its slate. A combination of Namfrel, PPCRV, and Lente obstinacy prevented the Maguindanao and later, Lanao del Sur, elections from simply being tabulated; vigilance in other parts of Mindanao also led to such intense public and media pressure that the administration slate simply ran out of places to eke out a victory.

There is also enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that in many places, schoolteachers simply refused to participate in fraud. The most interesting theory concerning this might account, for example, to the stronger-than-expected showing of Allan Peter Cayetano. There may have been a significant number of schoolteachers who found the Comelec’s conflicting orders concerning the crediting of his votes too offensive to implement. The depths of public antipathy toward the president were also demonstrated by the strong (and unexpectedly so, even to his supporters) showing of Trillanes, and the Pulse Asia Exit Poll’s findings of a 6-4-2 final result. With the recent capitulation of Team Unity’s Mike Defensor and Ralph Recto, the best the administration can hope to achieve is a 7-3-2 result, though the counting has remained remarkably consistent at 8-2-2.

IN THE end the House race, taken as a whole, did result in a big victory for the ruling coalition. But it was a mixed victory: 94 Lakas and 46 Kampi won overall; 26 seats went to the Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC (generally in alliance with the administration). The party affiliations remain fluid, though: a Sun-Star report on May 30 placed the results at 92 for Lakas and 65 for Kampi! The opposition in its various manifestations thus garnered anywhere from 20 to 40 seats.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita claims the administration has 209 out of 230 seats. Whatever the eventual realignments within the ruling coalition, it did have a showing far better than those of administrations in 1987, or even 1992 and1998. But it’s debatable if the results represent a substantial improvement for the coalition compared to previous contests under the president’s watch in 2001 and 2004.

Of the House district contests that had Lakas candidates locked in battle against rivals from Kampi, nine ended up with neither party winning. Lakas did clinch the lion’s share of the seats over which it fought against Kampi: 33 of 56 (59 percent). Kampi took 14 (25 percent). These figures, however, can only hint at the political momentum, and resources, squandered in such intramurals. They were so extreme as to suggest that they may eventually prove unprecedented. (See Table 3)

Table 3. House Races Contested Between Lakas and Kampi

courtesy of PCIJ research

Seats occupied (partial): 220
Districts contested by Lakas vs. Kampi: 56 (25% of 220 seats)
Lakas victories: 33, or approximately 59% of 56
Kampi victories: 14, or approximately 25% of 56
Districts where neither won: 9, or approximately 16% of 56

1 Agusan del Norte 1 AQUINO, Jose III JIMENEZ, Angelo AQUINO, Jose III Lakas
2 Agusan del Norte 2 PLAZA, Democrito Alberto III AMANTE, Edelmiro AMANTE, Edelmiro Kampi
3 Batangas 2 CABIGAO, Orestas MENDOZA, Edgar MANDANAS, Hermilando I. LP
4 Batangas 3 REYES, Victoria H. COLLANTES, Nelson REYES, Victoria H. Lakas
5 Bohol 3 JALA, Adam Relson BALITE, Dionisio JALA, Adam Relson Lakas
6 Bulacan 1 SY-ALVARADO, Victoria OPLE, Felix SY-ALVARADO, Victoria Lakas
7 Bulacan 2 PANCHO, Pedro M. CRUZ, Ambrosio Jr. PANCHO, Pedro M. Lakas
8 Bulacan 4 NICOLAS, Reylina G. PLEYTO, Salvador NICOLAS, Reylina G. Lakas
9 Bulacan, San Jose del Monte City Lone BARTOLOME, Felipe ROBES, Arturo BARTOLOME, Felipe Lakas
10 Caloocan City 2 BAGUS, Tolentino DIVINA, Nilo CAJAYON, Mary Mitzi LP
11 Camarines Sur 4 BELZA, Diones ALFELOR, Felix Jr. R. ALFELOR, Felix Jr. R. Kampi
12 Capiz 2 CASTRO, Fredenil H. BULILAN, Ernesto CASTRO, Fredenil H. Lakas
13 Cebu 2 KINTANAR, Carmiano (Lakas-NPC) GARCIA, Pablo GARCIA, Pablo Kampi
14 Cebu 3 YAPHA, Estrella GARCIA, Pablo John GARCIA, Pablo John Kampi
15 Cebu 4 MARTINEZ, Celestino III SALIMBANGON, Benhur SALIMBANGON, Benhur Kampi
16 Cebu 6 QUISUMBING, Gabriel SOON-RUIZ, Nerissa Corazon SOON-RUIZ, Nerissa Corazon Kampi
17 Compostela Valley 2 AMATONG, Rommel CABALLERO, Jose AMATONG, Rommel Lakas
18 Davao del Norte 2 LAGDAMEO, Antonio STA. ANA, Rolando LAGDAMEO, Antonio Lakas
19 Davao Oriental 1 PALMA-GIL, Maria Sophia DAYANGHIRANG, Nelson DAYANGHIRANG, Nelson Kampi
20 Guimaras Lone ESPINOSA, Edgar T. NAVA, Joaquin Carlos Rahman NAVA, Joaquin Carlos Rahman Kampi
21 Iloilo 4 BIRON, Ferjenel G. DISTURA, Rolando BIRON, Ferjenel G. Lakas
22 La Union 1 ORTEGA, Victor MAGSAYSAY, Milagros ORTEGA, Victor Lakas
23 La Union 2 EUFRANIO, Eriguel DUMPIT, Thomas Jr. DUMPIT, Thomas Jr. Kampi
24 Laguna 3 AQUINO, Florante ALAVA, Adoracion; VELASCO, Enrico ARAGO, Evita LP
25 Lanao del Norte 1 DIMAPORO, Imelda BACAREZA, Angelique BELMONTE, Vicente UNO
26 Lanao del Norte 2 BALINDONG, Pangalian LANTON, Makabangkit BALINDONG, Pangalian Lakas
27 Leyte 4 CODILLA, Eufrocino Sr. M. CODILLA, Eufrocino Jr. CODILLA, Eufrocino Sr. M. Lakas
28 Marikina City 1 TEODORO, Marcelino PAZ, Eva TEODORO, Marcelino Lakas
29 Masbate 2 KHO, Antonio ESPINOSA, Maria Lourdes Lilia KHO, Antonio Lakas
30 Misamis Oriental 1 LAGBAS, Danilo PADERANGA, Michael LAGBAS, Danilo Lakas
31 Negros Oriental 1 SY-LIMKAICHONG, Jose PARAS, Olivia SY-LIMKAICHONG, Jose Lakas
32 North Cotabato 1 TAN, Luzviminda TALIÑO-SANTOS, Emmylou J. TALIÑO-SANTOS, Emmylou J. Kampi
33 North Cotabato 2 ANDOLANA, Gregorio; PIÑOL, Bernardo Jr. JUBILAN, Solema PIÑOL, Bernardo Jr. Lakas
34 Northern Samar 2 VICENCIO, Cesar ONG, Emil ONG, Emil Kampi
35 Nueva Ecija 2 VIOLAGO, Joseph Gilbert FELIMON, Jose VIOLAGO, Joseph Gilbert Lakas
36 Nueva Ecija 3 UMALI, Czarina CHUA, Voltaire UMALI, Czarina Lakas
37 Nueva Ecija 4 PADIERNOS, Gay ANTONINO, Rodolfo W. ANTONINO, Rodolfo W. Kampi
38 Pangasinan 2 AGBAYANI, Victor BENGZON, Jose III AGBAYANI, Victor Lakas
39 Pangasinan 3 ARENAS, Ma. Rachel TULAGAN, Generoso Jr. ARENAS, Ma. Rachel Lakas
40 Pasay Lone SANTOS, Ricardo PANALIGAN, Allan ROXAS, Jose Antonio PDP-UNO
41 Quezon 1 PASAMBA, Eladio ENVERGA, Mark ENVERGA, Mark Kampi
42 Quezon City 2 SUSANO, Mary Ann L. MATHAY, Ismael III SUSANO, Mary Ann L. Lakas
43 Rizal 2 GARCIANO, Dionisio RIVERA, Rolando RODRIGUEZ, Adelina NPC
44 Romblon Lone MADRONA, Eleandro RIVERA, Rolando MADRONA, Eleandro Lakas
45 Sorsogon 1 DURAN, Jose Vicente BANARES, Jerry ESCUDERO, Salvador III UNO
46 Sulu 1 JIKIRI, Yusoph ABDURAHMAN, Jamasali; JADJULIE, Jupakkal; LOONG, Tupay JIKIRI, Yusoph Lakas
47 Sulu 2 ARBISON, Abdulmunir M. CALUANG, Al-Hussein ARBISON, Abdulmunir M. Lakas
48 Surigao del Norte 2 BARBERS, Robert Lyndon ANDANAR, Wencelito ROMARATE, Guillermo Jr. Partido Padajon Surigao
49 Taguig City 2 DUEÑAS, Henry REYES, Angelito DUEÑAS, Henry Lakas
50 Tarlac 2 YAP, Jose TABAMO, Guillermina YAP, Jose Lakas
51 Tarlac 3 LAPUS, Jeci AQUINO, Herminio LAPUS, Jeci Lakas
52 Tawi-Tawi Lone JAAFAR, Nur ABUBAKAR, Anuar JAAFAR, Nur Lakas
53 Western Samar 2 FIGUEROA, Catalino TAN, Sharee Ann TAN, Sharee Ann Kampi
54 Zamboanga del Norte 2 LABAD-LABAD, Rosendo RANILLO, Matias LABAD-LABAD, Rosendo Lakas
55 Zamboanga Sibugay 1 CABILAO, Belma A. PABLO, Ferdinand CABILAO, Belma A. Lakas
56 Zamboanga Sibugay 2 RAMBUYONG, Richard HOFER, Dulce Ann (Kampi-LDP) HOFER, Dulce Ann Kampi-LDP
57 Shariff Kabunsuan Lone SEMA, Bai Sandra DILANGALEN, Didagen DILANGALEN, Didagen PMP

The senatorial results, whether pegged at 6-4-2, 7-3-2, or 8-2-2, are simply unprecedented for a sitting administration since the bicameral system was reestablished in 1987. They are on the scale of the two biggest repudiations endured by a sitting administration in senatorial elections: while not a total defeat on the scale of the Quirino Liberal Party (LP) slate in 1951, the 2007 results approximates the debacle experienced by Marcos’s midterm Nacionalista Party (NP) slate in 1971. In 1961 the NP, and in 1965 the LP, did as badly, but those were also years in which the NP and LP administrations, respectively, lost the presidency.

It can even be argued that the two administration candidates who secured a comfortable victory — Joker Arroyo and Angara (who, while veteran legislators, have never been known as partisans of the administration) — won despite, and not because of, their Palace affiliation. Known partisans of the president did poorly, such as Defensor and Congressman Prospero Pichay, though not as miserably as the likes of Ilocos Sur Governor Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson, whose pro-provinces platform failed to resonate.

On the whole, after the extremes the country has oscillated between since 2000-2001, the country expressed itself firmly in favor of the familiar. The parameters couldn’t be clearer, and they firmly hem in Arroyo, who can labor to redeem herself by means of economic performance, but who would be playing with fire if she revives charter change. The country has already been planning for the post-Arroyo years, which actually begin in a year or at most two, when the 2010 presidential campaign starts in earnest.

The 2007 elections did prove, however, that even in a midterm election in which the public isn’t deeply engaged, the country’s institutions were hard-pressed to conduct a credible election. The recent round of polls was barely credible. And there is little sign an administration that gave up all its previous chances to implement serious electoral reform will do so in its remaining years. Which means, if this election was chaotic, expensive, and costly in terms of lives and institutional reputations, 2010 promises to be a lot worse.

Manuel L. Quezon III is a columnist and contributing editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and hosts a weekly show, “The Explainer,” on ANC.