Philippine youth losing faith in political system

Philippine youth, who make up more than half of their country's population, are generally anti-establishment. Their failure to make an impact on the mid-term polls raises many questions about the future of the country.

Bernise Tan, an 18-year-old college student, was casting her vote for the first time, and she wanted to make an informed opinion about all candidates. She researched about the backgrounds and manifestos of all candidates. She wanted to know whether the candidates supported issues that were important for her, such as LGBT rights and climate change.

But the results of the elections were disheartening for Tan. Candidates supported by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte won most of the seats in a key midterm senatorial election, according to unofficial results released on May 14. Duterte allies were on track to take nine of 12 open seats in the country's upper house.

None of the opposition candidates Tan had voted for managed to win a single senatorial seat. Instead, a former dictator's daughter, a former senator charged in a corruption case and a police chief involved in President Duterte's brutal drug war were among the winning candidates.

"These are the people who will wield power. They're likely to protect the interests of the Duterte administration," Tan told DW.

The midterm election was billed as a referendum on Duterte's popularity. Analysts say that the victory of his allies will consolidate the firebrand president's grip on power and allow him to pass controversial laws through parliament.

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DW News | 13.05.2019

Election in Philippines seen as referendum on Duterte

Youth vote

According to the Southeast Asian country's election commission, Filipinos born after the 1980s make up over half of the more than 60 million registered voters. That is why some analysts had hoped that the youth vote could be decisive against Duterte in the midterm polls.

Vincent Cano feels disillusioned. "I think it doesn't matter who I vote for because candidates backed by the administration always win. The government won't do anything for me; I can only depend on myself," said the 20-year-old student.

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Leloy Claudio, an associate professor at De La Salle University in Manila, told DW that the youth vote did not make an impact at the national level. The situation was somewhat different at the local level, as some candidates supported by powerful political clans were toppled by their younger counterparts. It is, however, unclear whether the youth vote was responsible for this change.

"Overall, the electorate voted overwhelmingly for pro-administration candidates," Claudio said. "Political 'brands,' or political dynasties, may not appeal to the youth, but they are still powerful in the country," he added.

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Accusations of rigging

But some political observers say that the election was rigged in the administration's favor. Last Friday, thousands of protestors rallied in the capital Manila to protest the May 13 vote. They accused the Duterte administration of election fraud.

Vic Crisostomo, a representative of the Kabataan (Youth) Partylist, told DW that they have received numerous reports of fraud, intimidation and harassment during the election.

"The rigging is obvious," Crisostomo said.

Joshua, who lives outside of Manila, told DW that days before the election, people were invited to a pro-administration meeting and were "encouraged" to vote for certain candidates in exchange for money.

"To be honest, I don't even remember who I voted for. It was like taking an exam unprepared. But my vote would not have made any difference. All these politicians are the same," said the 21-year-old citizen.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Daunting challenge

Mimi Garcia holds the pictures of her son Richard and daughter-in-law Robilyn who were killed by masked vigilantes on motorbikes at their shanty home in Camarin, Caloocan city, on October 7, 2016. She faces the daunting responsibility of taking care of her two grandchildren while being jobless at the same time.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Brutal incidents

Andres Fernandez and his son Wesley rest at an altar inside the family home in Bagong Silang, Caloocan. On October 4, 2016, two armed men in masks went inside the Fernandez home and pointed a gun at Wesley. They made him kneel as Andres tried to help. They responded by shooting at Andres first before killing Wesley.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Suspicious killings

One of the children of alleged pusher Kenneth Trasmano lights a candle during the wake of his father in Manila. Kenneth was killed in a police undercover operation after allegedly fighting back on February 2, 2018. His family and neighbors claim the police forced them to leave their homes and get out of sight, and thereafter heard the gunshots.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Left alone

A child holds the pictures of her deceased father Joseph and grandfather Marcelo. Marcelo was killed in a police operation inside their home on July 22, 2016. Her father was rounded up and taken by the police. His lifeless body was later found "salvaged" along a roadside.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Last message

The picture shows letters written by children who have lost either one of their parents in the drug war, as part of their counselling session at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Camarin, Caloocan city.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Funeral march

Family and friends walk the funeral procession of Rogelio Gilbuena and his common law wife Jenny Royo, who were both found dead (several hours apart) in different locations in Navotas city, Manila. Prior to their death, the couple were taken from their house in Navotas by 10 men who introduced themselves as police.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Remembering the dead

Families of victims of drug-related extrajudicial killings offer flowers to their departed loved ones during the Holy Eucharistic Mass Action in Bagong Silang, Caloocan.

Philippines' war on drugs — Remembering the dead

Calling for justice

Her husband Luis and her son, Gabriel, were killed in September 2016. During their burial, she was stoic. The days after she had laid them to rest were different. "I began looking for them and could not stop crying." MA nowadays attends protest rallies calling for a stop to drug-related killings and justice for those who have died. She hides her face as she doesn't want to be identified.