Philippine opposition lawmakers are poised to retain control of the Senate in mid-term elections. The election commission has formally declared winners in 10 of the 12 senate races, with opposition politicians taking six seats, independents two, and supporters of President Gloria Arroyo another two. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.
After three weeks of counting the ballots by hand in this nation of 85 million, the winners were announced in Manila. Two remaining Senate seats will be announced later, after the final results are completed from the southern Philippines, where both the opposition and the administration said there was vote rigging in the May 14 balloting.
The opposition is on its way to retaining the majority in the 24-member Senate, only half the seats were up this time. In the House, allies of President Gloria Arroyo say they won in most of the 220 districts. Final official results are awaited.
This means President Arroyo will be protected from another impeachment attempt. The opposition has twice tried to impeach her on charges of corruption and cheating in the 2004 presidential election, but her supporters in the House defeated the moves. President Arroyo denies the allegations.
One of the new senators, Alan Peter Cayetano, a leading opposition figure, told ABS-CBN television the priority of the new Senate is clear.
"First things first," said Cayetano. "What is most important to our country is to stop the abuse, stop the corruption. The World Bank said for every one peso that the government collects, 40 cents goes to corruption. "
Other prominent opposition figures that won Senate seats include Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Benigno Aquino and Manuel Villar. Administration candidates Joker Arroyo and Edgardo Angara won along with independents Francis Pangilinan and Gregorio Honason.
Honason, a colorful former army colonel, is out on bail while battling charges of involvement in several coup plots. The Senate is considered the training ground for future presidents so elections there are closely watched. Analysts say the opposition is looking ahead to the 2010 presidential race, when President Arroyo's term expires.