DAVAO CITY – Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte cast his vote here yesterday, as an excited hometown crowd bet the country’s future on his tough leadership style.
Dozens of supporters waited under searing temperatures in suburban Matina district, where the 71-year-old mayor voted in a high-school classroom as supporters ogled him from behind steel bar windows.
Sixty-one-year old Nora Sacedo took a break from work in Washington state, USA just to vote for Duterte as president and his daughter Sara as mayor of the southern city.
“I experienced what a good man he is,” the mother of five, who was wearing a red shirt and cap, told ABS-CBN News.
Sacedo said Duterte paid for her policeman husband’s medical bills after he was severely injured in a bomb attack in the city in 1992.
“He even gave me money to buy milk for my newborn son. He saw the money I had in my pocket was soaked in blood,” she said.
Sacedo said her son who got the milk money from the mayor voted for him as president via overseas balloting in Seattle.
Telephone repairman Vermont Mendoza said he came home to the Philippines in December to help campaign for Duterte. The Sydney-based 60-year-old said he was not qualified to vote because of his Australian citizenship.
“He is very transparent. He says what he wants to say, unlike others who are plastic,” he told ABS-CBN News.
A self-described reformed thug from Manila’s rough neighborhood of Tondo, Mendoza said he helped organize campaign rallies for Duterte in Australia, including one in the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Duterte held a comfortable lead in the last surveys before Monday’s balloting and was poised to be elected the first president from the southern island of Mindanao, which has been mired in decades of poverty and conflict.
He has promised to wage “bloody war” against crime, has a “socialist” bent, and vowed a shift to the federal government system to decentralize power which, he said, was traditionally concentrated in Luzon.