Millions of Filipinos vote for next Philippine president

Millions of Filipinos cast their votes Monday for a new president of the Philippines, as public frustration over the outgoing administration propelled a tough-talking mayor to the front of the race.

More than half of the predominantly Catholic country's estimated population of 100 million - or 54 million people - are registered to vote, and they have until 5 pm (0900 GMT) to choose among five presidential candidates on the ballots.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has cursed, vowed to butcher criminals, threatened to dissolve parliament to avoid impeachment for human rights violations and joked about rape, is leading the presidential race, according to surveys.

Administration candidate Mar Roxas and first-time Senator Grace Poe are in a statistical tie at second place, while Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Miriam Santiago are trailing behind.

Outgoing President Benigno Aquino, who has been credited for largely lifting the economy to be one of the fastest growing in South-East Asia, urged Filipinos to ensure that the elections are peaceful and credible.

"In a democracy, everyone makes a decision," he said. "In the end, after the elections, may the bickering end. Let us respect and heed whatever the decision of the majority."

Aquino earlier called on rivals of Duterte to work together to defeat him amid fears his administration would turn into a dictatorship,  some 30 years after late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.

The dictator's only son and namesake, popularly called by his nickname "Bongbong," is tied with administration candidate Congresswoman Leni Robredo in the vice presidential race, according to surveys.

Analysts said the strong support for Duterte was a manifestation of public dissatisfaction over slow progress in the Aquino administration to combat poverty, crime and corruption.

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

The 71-year-old mayor of more than 20 years 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.

Last update: Mon, 09/05/2016 - 10:57

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