Polls give Duterte solid lead

Rodrigo Duterte is offering simple solutions to the Philippines’ many problems. Source: Wikimedia

Rodrigo Duterte, the outspoken mayor running for the presidency of the Philippines, has kept his double-digit polls lead days before the May 9 vote, although the surveys were conducted before it was alleged that he had millions of dollars undeclared in hidden bank accounts.

The so-called “Punisher” was the choice for around 33 per cent of Filipinos in the Pulse Asia survey conducted from April 26 to 29, the same numbers from a similar survey among 4,000 respondents a week earlier.

Manuel Roxas, outgoing President Benigno Aquino’s choice, moved into second place for the first time since last June after rising 2 points to 22-per-cent support.

Senator Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of movie stars, fell to third after falling to 21 per cent.

Vice President Jejomar Binay was in fourth place with 17 per cent, with Senator Miriam Santiago on 2 per cent.

Filipinos are frustrated with the government’s inability to address Manila’s congestion, crime and other factors while Duterte straight talk has appealed to the masses.

The traditional political elite is in shock with Duterte promising to end drug crime in three to six months and pardon members of security forces who kill criminals. Last month, “Duterte Harry” said his presidency “will be a bloody one”.

Since the polls were taken, Duterte, 71, has been hit by further scandal over allegations he had not declared 211 million pesos (US$4.5 million) in several bank accounts.

It remains to be seen if the allegations will harm his popularity.

Senator Antonio Trillanes, a vice-presidential candidate, made the allegations about the undeclared money last week with Peter Lavina, a Duterte spokesman, dismissing the allegations as “nothing but a publicity stunt”.

About 54 million Filipinos, including expats, are eligible to vote in next Monday’s elections.

The motorbike enthusiast was mayor of the southern city of Davao for two decades, where he drastically reduced crime with rights groups accusing him of allowing vigilante death squads to kill hundreds.

Duterte popularity comes from his promises to be break from the norm with many comparing him to Donald Trump, although Duterte dismisses Trump as a bigot.

The former mayor, when not making jokes about gang rape and murder, is also openly supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, a sensitive topic in the predominantly Catholic country.