Philippine presidential election

4 candidates lead race to be next Philippine leader

Leading contender Senator Grace Poe (top, right) waving to supporters after filing her certificate of candidacy in Manila on Thursday. The presidential election is scheduled for May next year.
Leading contender Senator Grace Poe (top, right) waving to supporters after filing her certificate of candidacy in Manila on Thursday. The presidential election is scheduled for May next year.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Two senators, a vice-president and a former minister formalise bid for contest

The Philippine presidential election will be a four-way race.

Four candidates leading in opinion polls - Senators Grace Poe, 47, and Miriam Santiago, 70, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, 72, and former Interior Minister Mar Roxas, 58 - formalised their bids during a week-long registration period that ended yesterday.

One of them will be the Philippines' next president, succeeding Mr Benigno Aquino, 55, whose term ends next June.

Some 56 million Filipinos will go to the polls on May 9 next year to vote not only for the president but also 18,000 other public office bearers from local councillors to national lawmakers.

Ms Poe, adopted daughter of Filipino movie icon Fernando Poe Jr, and Mr Roxas, Mr Aquino's choice as candidate, are considered the top contenders.

CONTINUE LEGACY

This is about the dream of all Filipino families to live a life of dignity, to rise up through hard work and to live with a future filled with opportunities.

MR MAR ROXAS, current President Benigno Aquino's choice, who said he will continue the latter's agenda

The latest survey conducted last month by polling firm Pulse Asia showed Ms Poe leading Mr Roxas by 26 per cent to 20 per cent.

Ms Poe has a crucial edge in a country where many are swayed by personalities rather than issues. Her late father still resonates with millions of voters, having lost by only a slim margin when he ran for president in 2004.

But Ms Poe lacks the backing of a major political party and is plagued by persistent challenges to her eligibility to run for president.

A lawyer yesterday asked the election commission to throw out Ms Poe's candidacy, insisting that she is not a natural-born Filipino and has not been a Philippine resident for 10 years, a requirement for presidential candidates. Ms Poe had moved to the United States in the 1990s and settled there, re-acquiring Philippine citizenship in 2006. Her senator candidacy papers show she has been a resident in the Philippines from end-2006 - a mistake, she says - and that she would be short of the required 10 years come election day.

Mr Roxas, meanwhile, is riding on the resources of Mr Aquino's Liberal Party and the president's popularity. He had been ranked low in opinion polls, but his standing has improved since Mr Aquino endorsed him on July 31.

Mr Aquino continues to enjoy high approval ratings in his last year, having been credited with turning around a moribund economy and setting it on a path of long-term growth, and with mounting a credible anti-graft drive.

Ms Poe said Mr Aquino had made big strides in battling corruption but that "there should be more programmes for the needy so all of us can rise together at the same time".

Mr Roxas said he would continue Mr Aquino's "straight path" agenda. "This is about the dream of all Filipino families to live a life of dignity, to rise up through hard work and to live with a future filled with opportunities," he told reporters.

Mr Binay, the vice-president, had long led the polls. But his numbers have plunged following a months-long Senate probe into allegations that he made billions of pesos from transactions he abetted when he was mayor of Manila's main financial district of Makati.

Mrs Santiago, a former judge who ran for president in 1992 and 1998, is known for her feisty grilling of witnesses at Senate hearings and for zany quotes like: "I eat bullets for breakfast."

But her critics have pounced on her choice as running mate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the late dictator.

She revealed in June last year she had Stage 4 lung cancer, but that she had beaten the disease.

Up until registration closed at 5pm yesterday, expectations had been high for a fifth candidate: Mr Rodrigo Duterte, 70, mayor of the southern Philippine city of Davao known for his tough-guy, no-nonsense ways. However, he said yesterday: "Give the presidency to the one who wants it… I want to retire. I am tired."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2015, with the headline '4 candidates lead race to be next Philippine leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe