On election results

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Notes on the results of the US Midterm Elections and how it can be related to our dear country. The Democrats have taken over the US House of Representatives but the Senate remains Republican. This means that US President Donald Trump has lost control over the US Congress and that an impeachment proceeding is more possible.

In the US, congressmen are almost at the same footing of senators since both are elected by their specific constituents. More specifically, congressmen are elected by their district while senators by the state. In our country, senators are all nationally elected, making them nearly as popular as the President and the Vice President.

The scope of work of US senators and congressmen is more clearly defined, less duplicity of duties. In our country, senators and congressmen perform mostly similar things, except for a few such as the initiation of the impeachment complaints and budget (House), approval of treaties (Senate), constituting of impeachment court (Senate).

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) is the frontrunner to become Speaker of the US House of Representatives and she would have a free hand on who to appoint as chairpersons of the House committees. This is highly important as it would be determinative of the President’s legislative agenda. The chairpersons would be the ones that would handle the investigation hearings against the Trump administration and they could possibly subpoena confidential documents incriminating to President Trump.

To relate to the Philippines, much has been said on who will be the Speaker of the House of Representatives after our Midterm Elections in 2019. Since former President now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will term out in 2019, the House would have no choice but to elect a new one. If we may recall, DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano previously manifested that he will be Speaker with the blessing of President Rodrigo Duterte. Thereafter, Mayor Sara Duterte proclaimed that it will be reelectionist Marinduque Rep. Alan Velasco who would be the next Speaker.

We also cannot discount the entry of new high-profile politicians, should they win in 2019, that may have a good chance in becoming Speaker, such as former Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Loren Legarda. And we cannot likewise remove former Speakers from the picture, such as Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, as returnee Speaker is not uncommon in the House (i.e., Rep. Sonny Belmonte).

But what is great about elections in the US is policy questions that are included in the ballot, such as legalization of marijuana, allowing felons to vote in elections/restoration of civil rights, healthcare expansion, among the more notable ones. However, these at times can be used in politicking.

At the Midwestern leg of our International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the US State Department, we met with Chris Beutler (D) of Lincoln, Nebraska the day before the elections.
For some perspective, Beutler is on his 3rd term and there are no term limits in Nebraska.

Among the questions included in the ballot, upon the initiative of the Republicans of the red state of Nebraska, was whether there should be a term limit of three consecutive terms, but specific only to the incumbent mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska. To add, the Republicans decided on this strategy since they could not field anyone that could beat Beutler.

During the meeting, this writer asked Beutler on his reaction to the inclusion of said question, despite all that he has done for the city of Lincoln. He answered in a somber manner, depicting a grim image of dirty politics. When we checked on the results of the vote, the Nebraskans unfortunately voted to impose term limits on the mayor of Lincoln. As such, Beutler can no longer run for reelection for his fourth term — a reelection that he was sure of winning.

Each state is indeed a laboratory of democracy. The Philippines does not have Federal States, but the country itself has had a vibrant democracy. Despite this, we as a people have not had much chance in voicing out our concerns in terms of policy and law revision. Our voter turnout is very high (84 percent) as compared to the US (48 percent — a record in their midterm elections), yet we end up voting only the most popular candidates to high government positions. It is time for us to exercise voting on amending the Constitution and on specific policies, not just candidates and (gasp) a single partylist. Then again, is the electorate ready to use their brains on election day?

Email: darren.dejesus@dejesuslegal.com

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