Filipinos vote today, Duterte leads race
FILIPINOS vote for their new president today, after three months of campaigning by five candidates which wound up over the weekend with Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte leading far ahead of the rest in opinion polls, the Philippine media reported.
Ending his campaign in a rally in Manila's Riza Park on Saturday night, the tough-talking Mr Duterte promised his supporters that he would do to the whole country what he had done to Davao, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
"There must be food on the table that is available and affordable… I promise you a comfortable life," Mr Duterte, currently in his seventh term as Davao's mayor, told the crowd, which according to the police numbered about 300,000.
But Mr Duterte, 71, once again laced his speech with an ominous threat that he would "kill everybody" who exploit the ordinary people - presumably using extrajudicial death squads as he has done in Davao.
Mr Duterte maintained his 33 percentage-point lead in most polls, followed in sequence by Senator Grace Poe, Liberal Party's Manuel Roxas II, Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
President Benigno Aquino told Filipinos in a statement on Saturday that they must not believe peace and progress would come through a strongman rule and should instead choose Mr Roxas, the Philippine Star reported.
"Today, we see these same promises being dangled before us by those who would seek to cast aside our hopes and instead take advantage of our fears," the statement added, referring to Mr Duterte.
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post on Saturday, the camp of Ms Poe, 57, called on Mr Roxas to quit the race so as to enable the senator to beat Mr Duterte, reported the Philippines' Rappler social-networking website.
Earlier, Mr Roxas, 58, subtly pressured Ms Poe to withdraw from the race.
Mr Binay, 74, who held his Saturday rally in Makati, the Philippines' foremost financial district, also said he would not give up his presidential bid.
Local analysts say the political elite had hoped for a smooth handover to Mr Roxas so as to preserve a status quo where the fruits of several years of robust economic growth are shared among a few, Bloomberg reported.
Mr Duterte has portrayed himself as a frugal, anti-establishment politician who is tough enough to take on the elites, reported the Agence France-Presse.
But, recently, Mr Duterte, who earns less than US$2,000 (S$2,700) monthly as mayor, was hit with allegations that millions of dollars had poured into secret bank accounts.
Ms Poe, who has been in politics for just three years and presents herself as a lily-white poster image of change and probity, has also been widely rumoured to be backed by some rich families.
A mere 308 Filipinos funded the 2010 presidential election, playing political venture capitalists seeking returns through electoral meddling, according to a study by the Manila-based Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism.