Philippines midterm elections lay groundwork for expansion of presidential powers

The controversial President, now at the halfway point of his six-year term, enjoys a 79% approval rating, according to an

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Photo: Reuters

The controversial President, now at the halfway point of his six-year term, enjoys a 79% approval rating, according to an April poll. His popularity stems partly from a brutal crackdown on drug dealers.

Mr Duterte’s centre-left PDP-Laban party-led bloc is expected to increase its 248-seat House majority on current polling while in the Senate, Duterte’s allies are also expected to take 10 of 12 seats.

Such a dominant mid-term win would give Congress a strong mandate to push through Duterte’s plan to turn the country from a unitary system—rule from Manila—to a federal political system where 18 state governments share power with Manila.

As part of the transition to Federalism, Duterte’s loyalist Congress could give the president power to rule by decrees; executive orders and proclamations—make laws without congress—like giving police extra use-of-force powers in his “war on drugs”.

Long-time ruler and dictator Ferdinand Marcos used similar powers to make himself President-for-life in the 1970s. Duterte has denied he seeks such power but the powers under consideration could theoretically allow him to stay in office indefinitely beyond the 2022 constitutional term-limit.

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