Why It Matters

Filipinos hoping for a miracle

For over 100 million Filipinos, today's vote will determine the path their nation will take in the next six years - and it promises to be a bumpy one.

Mr Rodrigo Duterte, the 71-year-old tough-talking mayor of Davao city, has been feeding off the rage building up over three decades because - despite a people's uprising in 1986 and five presidents in its wake - prosperity has yet to trickle down to the masses, and corruption and crime still blight daily life.

His message is simple: This is an "us-versus-them" fight, and I am your champion. I will fix the system. He claims to have done this before, pointing to his rule of the southern city.

His message has resonated with millions, and he is now on the verge of becoming the Philippines' next president.

So, what awaits Filipinos under a Duterte presidency? For now, uncertainty.

In tapping into the public's anger, Mr Duterte may have set the bar too high for himself. He has made grand promises, among them breaking up local cartels by amending the Constitution to give foreign investors more leg room and turning the government into a union of semi-autonomous regions.

The devil is in the detail but there is hardly anything to pore over, just more tough talk.

Mr Duterte has vowed to "butcher" criminals and dissolve an obstructionist Congress.

If faced with a coup, he says, he will create a "revolutionary government". Mr Duterte is also laying out a foreign policy that is as vague as his domestic agenda.

Still, there is hope that Mr Duterte - despite the vulgarities, crass jokes and over-the-top threats - will be able to pull it off, the way he did when he transformed his city from a "murder capital" into one of the Philippines' safest and most prosperous.

Many Filipinos believe miracles do happen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Filipinos hoping for a miracle'. Print Edition | Subscribe