Candidates fret over mouthy frontrunner ahead of Philippines election

The Philippines' presidential campaign on Saturday drew to a close with frantic calls for rival candidates to unite against the frontrunner candidate, amid fears he would be a threat to democracy.

Five candidates have spent the past three months criss-crossing the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands in the hopes of convincing Filipinos to vote for them as the next president in elections on Monday.

On Saturday, the candidates were to hold their final rallies in various parts of Manila, forcing road closures and causing heavy traffic.

Rodrigo Duterte, the foul-mouthed, tough-talking mayor of the southern city of Davao, is leading the race with 33 per cent, according to the last survey ahead of the vote.

He is followed by administration candidate Mar Roxas at 22 per cent and first-time Senator Grace Poe at 20 per cent.

Lagging behind in the polls are Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

On Friday, Roxas called on Poe for "unity talks" to possibly discuss one of them withdrawing from the race, while outgoing President Benigno Aquino urged rival candidates to "get together and have a united front" against Duterte.

Poe, however, rejected the calls and vowed to continue the fight independently.

"Only a man on the verge of defeat can issue such frantic calls," said Leancio Evasco Jr, national campaign manager of Duterte. "It also further unmasks the true character of the Aquino regime – one in the face of debacle will abandon ship and run like a headless chicken."

Evasco urged Duterte’s supporters, who gathered at Manila’s Luneta Park for the final rally, to make their call for change heard on Monday by going out to vote.

Duterte has vowed to eradicate crime and corruption within six months of his presidency under a government of “courage and compassion.” He has also promised take firmer action against problems that affect ordinary citizens such as traffic, slow internet and poor public transport.

He is pushing for federalism to resolve the decades-old Muslim insurgency in the southern region of Mindanao, and promised to end unfair business practices against workers’ welfare.

However, his tough talk during the campaign has raised concerns his presidency could morph into a dictatorship.

More than 54 million Filipinos are registered to vote Monday for a president, vice president, 12 senators, more than 200 congressional representatives and tens of thousands of local officials.

Analysts said candidates should reiterate their platforms during the final rallies and urge voters to think over the weekend before casting their vote.

“Each candidate should assure that they are still in the fight and not giving up and that voters should chose them,” said political analyst Aries Arugay. “The real survey is still on Monday.”

Last update: Sat, 07/05/2016 - 13:08

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