Duterte man to beat
The race for Malacañang ends in national balloting today with mass murder advocate Rodrigo Duterte the man four other candidates need to beat to become the next President of the Philippines.
Duterte’s promises of aggressive, even deadly, measures to wipe out crime have alarmed rivals, who warned at their final campaign rallies on Saturday night of danger should the Davao City mayor clinch the presidency.
Outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, making a final pitch for straggling administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas, warned that voting for Duterte carried dangers similar to Hitler and would bring terror to the nation.
“I hope we learn the lessons of history. We should remember how Hitler came to power,” Mr. Aquino said at the final rally for Roxas at Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
“If you allow them to oppress your fellowman and you do not speak up, you will be the next to be oppressed,” Mr. Aquino said.
Duterte, the front-runner in all the voter preference polls for the presidential election, has hypnotized millions of voters with his promises to eradicate crime and corruption.
At his final rally in Rizal Park in Manila on Saturday night, the trash-talking mayor of Davao City repeatedly warned more than 300,000 supporters that there would be mass killings under his presidency.
In his 90-minute, well-applauded speech, the last of his campaign, Duterte vowed to forget human rights if he won the election and “butcher” criminals.
“Forget the laws on human rights,” Duterte said, as he boasted of killing criminals during his more than two decades as mayor of Davao.
“If I make it to Malacañang, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, holdup men and do-nothings, you better get out because I’ll kill you,” he said.
Duterte said he was prepared to butcher a criminal even in front of human rights campaigners or other critics.
“I will butcher him in front of them if they want,” he said.
“Duterte! Duterte!” the crowd chanted every time the brash mayor used the word “kill.”
Duterte, 71, has made his threats to kill criminals outside the justice system the centerpiece of his campaign strategy, outraging critics but winning the hearts of millions in an electorate who are fed up with rampant lawlessness and official corruption.
He has used foul language, including calling the Pope a “son of a bitch,” to cast himself as an antiestablishment politician, capturing the admiration of millions who have brought him from the political backwaters of poverty-ridden Mindanao to the forefront of national elections dominated by the elite.
His rivals and critics have been alarmed by his campaign promises of ending crime within six months of his presidency by ordering the military and the police to kill tens of thousands of suspected criminals, then pardon himself if he is found guilty of mass murder.
Duterte has been accused of running death squads in Davao that have killed more than 1,000 suspected criminals. At times he has boasted about his involvement but on other occasions denied any links to the vigilantes.
Not a communist
He has also warned that as President he will shut down Congress and establish a revolutionary government if lawmakers do not endorse his policies or move for his impeachment.
But at his final rally on Saturday night, Duterte said he would not declare martial law except if the people rose against him.
“I won’t declare martial law. But if you mutiny, I will do it. I have to protect the government,” he said.
He promised to replicate throughout the Philippines his achievements in Davao City, bringing not only peace and order but also food on every table by making basic goods always “available and affordable.”
Duterte said he would be the country’s first “left-leaning President,” but denied he was a communist, though he was a student of Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison.
“I am not a communist. But I am a socialist. I belong to the left of center,” he said.
Duterte has most recently caused disgust in international diplomatic circles with a joke that he wanted to have been the first to rape a beautiful Australian missionary who was gang-raped and murdered in a prison riot in Davao in 1989.
Called out by the Australian and American ambassadors on the joke, Duterte told them to “shut up” and dared them to sever ties with the Philippines.
As the campaign went into its last two weeks, Duterte was accused of concealing millions of pesos in undisclosed bank accounts and charging for 11,000 nonexistent employees in the Davao municipal government.
No dent on popularity
The accusations, however, failed to dent his popularity and the campaign ended on Saturday with the thuggish political outsider keeping a huge lead in the polls.
A last-minute attempt by President Aquino to unify the other presidential candidates to prevent the election of Duterte failed as soon as it became known on Friday, with the mayor’s other rivals refusing to give way to Roxas, who failed to gain traction with the voters during the three-month campaign.
Duterte’s closest rival, Sen. Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of the late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., is seen as the most likely to challenge him in today’s ballot.
The principal target of Mr. Aquino’s call for an alliance against Duterte, Poe refused to withdraw from the race, calling such as a decision a “subversion of the people’s will.”
Poe’s propoor platform has resonated among Filipinos, as her life story: abandoned in a church shortly after birth and adopted by movie stars.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, the early favorite, has fallen to fourth place under the weight of a barrage of corruption allegations.
Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago, battling lung cancer, finished the race but never got past the last spot. With reports from AFP/TVJ
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