Security forces on alert as Filipinos pick president

Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, 71, led in the last survey conducted prior to the election.
Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte, 71, led in the last survey conducted prior to the election.

Over 20,000 security personnel have fanned out across the Philippines, as some 54 million Filipinos vote today to chart the course for their nation over the next six years.

"All systems are go," said Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, the Philippine military spokesman.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body is more prepared now than during the last general election in 2013.

 
 
 

"What I hope to happen is whoever wins will be acceptable and respected by the people," he said.

Still, the election has been marred by reports of violence, rampant vote-buying and intimidation.

Comelec commissioner Luie Guia told reporters: "We are receiving reports that everything is being used to buy votes, not only money. It could be (plastic) basins, groceries."

At least 15 people have died in election-related violence.

Five candidates are running for president. They are Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, 71; Senators Grace Poe, 47, and Miriam Santiago, 70; former interior minister Mar Roxas, 58; and Vice-President Jejomar Binay, 73.

Mr Duterte, a tough-talking populist candidate, is favoured to win the presidency. He led in the last survey conducted prior to the election, with 33 per cent. His closest rival, Ms Poe, had 22 per cent, with Mr Roxas chalking up 20 per cent.

In all, 44,872 candidates are competing for 18,082 posts, from president to councillors. The Comelec has said a new president may be declared as early as Wednesday.

The new leader will have to deal with several challenges. Despite strong economic growth and resurgent foreign investment, the country is still saddled with high levels of poverty and unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and a deteriorating security situation in the southern part of the country riddled with insurgents and kidnap-for-ransom gangs.

The new president must also grapple with territorial claims by China in the South China Sea.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2016, with the headline 'Security forces on alert as Filipinos pick president'. Print Edition | Subscribe