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54M Pinoys elect leaders today

Philippines – It all comes down to one vote, one ballot.

After six months of heated and divisive campaign, national and local candidates leave their fates to 54 million voters who will troop to the polling precincts across the country today to elect their leaders.

Five candidates, two of them women, are vying for the presidency while six are in the vice presidential race.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has emerged as the top favorite to become the country’s 16th president. Duterte has kept double-digit leads in pre-election surveys and is poised to become the first president from Mindanao.

The tough-talking local executive has caught the imagination of Filipino voters for his no-nonsense drive against crime and corruption.

His promise to get rid of crime and corruption in six months resonated to a people who shun continuity and have grown tired of the regular politico.

Duterte drew the biggest crowd in Saturday’s miting de avance or final rally at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. Police estimated that up to 300,000 supporters showed up for the rally.

Sen. Grace Poe, who trails Duterte by 11 percentage points, held her own rally at the historic Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila while Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel A. Roxas II was at Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay was at his element in Makati City where his family has ruled for over three decades while Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago joined a street party organized by her young supporters in West Triangle, Quezon City.

Before Poe entered the picture, Binay dominated the pre-election surveys, but his numbers went down dramatically after allegations of corruption were thrown against him.

The Vice President has lagged behind in latest surveys, but Binay is still confident of pulling off an upset on Election Day. After all, four percent remained undecided and that 25 percent could still change their minds on polling day.

Poe, a neophyte senator, used to dominate the surveys until her eligibility was questioned before the Commission on Elections. Although Poe, an independent, eventually won her case before the Supreme Court, the controversy has derailed her momentum.

Roxas is the anointed candidate of President Aquino who has batted for continuity of their “Daang Matuwid” or Straight Path program. The United States-educated banker has managed to improve his survey numbers, climbing into a statistical tie for second place with Poe.

But Roxas, a former senator and many-time Cabinet secretary, may have to rely on LP’s vast machinery to be able to put up a good fight.

In what many viewed as an admission of impending defeat, Roxas tried to reach out to Poe on Friday in an effort to form a united front against Duterte. But the overture was flatly rejected by Poe who blamed the LP for the string of disqualification cases she faced.

Miriam, despite languishing in the bottom of surveys, has rejected offers to withdraw her candidacy, claiming that she has the youth vote on her side.

Slowed down by her battle against cancer, Miriam was less visible during the campaign and skipped one of three presidential debates organized by the Comelec.

In the vice presidential race, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. and LP bet Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo are locked in a tight race.

The other contenders are Sen. Francis Joseph “Chiz” G. Escudero, Sen. Alan Peter S. Cayetano, Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV, and Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan II.

Also at stake are 12 seats in the Senate, congressional posts, and thousands of local positions.

The polling precincts open at 6 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. The Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police have mobilized their personnel to provide security.