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Millions of Filipinos jammed into schools and other voting stations to elect a new president yesterday, with anti-establishment firebrand Rodrigo R. Duterte the shock favorite after an incendiary campaign full of profanity-laced threats to kill criminals.
The elections saw Filipinos choosing more than 18,000 other positions, from vice president to municipal councilors, in another milestone for a nation that has struggled to cement democracy after emerging from dictatorship three decades ago.
Duterte, the longtime mayor of the southern city of Davao, has hypnotized millions with his vows of brutal but quick solutions to the nation’s twin plagues of crime and poverty, which many believe have worsened despite strong economic growth in recent years.
The candidate’s critics have warned he will plunge the country into another dark period of dictatorship and turmoil, after a People Power Revolution ended the regime of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Duterte, a pugnacious 71-year-old, surged from outsider to the top of surveys with cuss-filled vows to kill thousands of criminals, threats to establish one-man rule if lawmakers disobey him, and promises to embrace communist rebels.
He also boasted repeatedly about his Viagra-fuelled affairs, while promising voters his mistresses would not cost a lot because he kept them in cheap boarding houses and took them to short-stay hotels for sex.
Duterte caused further disgust in international diplomatic circles with a joke that he wanted to rape a “beautiful’’ Australian missionary who was killed in a 1989 Philippine prison riot, and by calling the pope a “son of a whore.”
Departing President Aquino, whose mother led the democracy movement that ousted Marcos, has warned repeatedly the nation is at risk of succumbing to another dictatorship.
“I need your help to stop the return of terror in our land. I cannot do it alone,’’ Aquino said in an appeal to voters in a final rally on Saturday in Quezon City for his preferred successor and fellow Liberal Party stalwart, Manuel A. Roxas II.
Across town, Duterte was outlining to thousands of cheering fans his plans to end crime within six months of starting his presidency.
“Forget the laws on human rights,’’ Duterte, who has been accused of running vigilante death squads in Davao, said in his final campaign rally.
“If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men, and do-nothings, you better go out. Because as the mayor, I’d kill you.’’
At least 10 persons were killed while several others were wounded as shooting incidents, explosions, arson, and snatching of vote counting machines yesterday’s elections.
Despite these, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police said the elections can still be considered peaceful and orderly as polls were still able to continue.
In a press briefing at the AFP National Election Monitoring Center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said that as of 2 p.m. yesterday, they have monitored 22 election-related violent incidents in different parts of the country.
“These reports (came) from our area commands stationed all throughout the country,” Padilla said, noting that the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command recorded the most number of ERVIs.
The Central Command, which has jurisdiction over Visayas, recorded one harassment and one shooting incident, while the Southern Luzon Command, which has control over Southern Tagalog, reported two indiscriminate firing incidents and one shooting incident. The Northern Luzon recorded one gunfight between two parties vying for a mayoral post and arrest of eight individuals for possessing eight unlicensed pistols.
Padilla said no ERVIs were reported in the Western Command, Eastern Mindanao Command, and Joint Task Group-National Capital Region.
Duterte went into polling day with an 11 percentage point lead over his rivals, according to the latest survey.
Roxas, who is promising to continue the slow reform process seen under Aquino, was tied for second place.
Aquino, who is limited by the constitution to a single term of six years, has overseen average annual economic growth of six percent and won international plaudits for trying to tackle corruption. (AFP and Elena L. Aben)