MANILA • A tough-talking, seven-term mayor, who has built a reputation for fighting crime in the insurgency-plagued southern Philippines, has become favourite to succeed President Benigno Aquino in the May elections, an opinion poll has shown.
Mr Rodrigo Duterte, 70, mayor of Davao City, was the top-rated contender for 38 per cent of 1,200 respondents, according to the Social Weather Stations poll yesterday.
Senator Grace Poe, who topped surveys in June and September, slid to second spot with 21 per cent in a tie with Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who led opinion polls early this year. Ms Poe had 26 per cent support in September and Mr Binay had 24 per cent.
Ms Poe last week was barred from running because she failed to meet the 10-year residency requirement, but she is hopeful that decision will be reversed on appeal.
Mr Aquino's chosen successor, former interior minister Manuel "Mar" Roxas, was fourth in the poll, falling from 20 per cent support in September to 15 per cent.
The elections will be closely watched by investors, who fear the political succession in one of Asia's fastest-growing economies could derail gains made during Mr Aquino's rule. Under Mr Aquino, the Philippines has seen annual economic growth of more than 6 per cent on average, its best five-year record in four decades. He has also battled to rein in corruption.
About 54 million Filipinos are eligible to vote for a president, vice-president and about 18,000 local government executives and lawmakers in the elections.
Political analysts said the rise in support for Mr Duterte could be attributed to his anti-crime crusade.
As mayor, he has turned around the reputation of Davao, once one of the most crime-plagued cities in the country. He has said drug addicts should be executed, despite capital punishment being outlawed in the Philippines.