Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to challenge China over the South China Sea. Source: YouTube
Outspoken Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte has a commanding lead in the general election with more than half the vote counted.
Duterte, 71, the mayor of the southern city of Davao who has attracted comparisons to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, held 38.9 per cent of votes counted with 60 per cent of precincts reporting their results. Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of Philippine movie stars, held 22.2 per cent and Manuel “Mar” Roxas, backed by the outgoing President Benigno Aquino, had 21.6 per cent.
Around 55 million out of the 100 million Philippine citizens were expected to vote. Plenty of electoral officers were on hand to help voters manage the complex ballot papers, listing dozens of candidates for the various municipal and national posts.
Duterte’s campaign has been littered with boasts about his womanising ways, revolting jokes about gang rape and murder, and curses about Pope Francis causing congestion. He has fed off weariness with familiar political leaders, who have delivered economic improvements but little real change in the levels of poverty and corruption.
As mayor of Davao on the unstable southern island of Mindanao, which has been battling an Islamic insurgency for decades, Duterte has won praise from supporters for cleaning up the city’s drug and crime problems, but is associated with brutal death squads. Human Rights Watch claims he is responsible for 1,000 extrajudicial killings.
“If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because as the mayor, I’d kill you,” Duterte told a rally on Saturday. He vowed to execute 100,000 “criminals” and dump them in Manila Bay.
On Monday Duterte said his top priority in his first 100 days would be fixing government and stopping corruption. “I can do that immediately as president,” he told the media. “Then I have to go after the drug problem and, of course, the criminals in this country.
“I will do everything to serve the interests of the Filipino people, even if it would cost my life, honour and the office of the president,” Duterte said.
The vice-president, senators and about 18,000 municipal appointments, including mayors, are also being elected.
Among the vice-presidential candidate is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, son of infamous, late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
According to the PPCRV he has a slim lead with 36 per cent of the vote compared to 34 per cent for Maria Leonor Robredo with three-quarters of the votes counted. There are four other vice-presidential candidates.