Philippines' Poe vows to thwart 'executioner' Duterte, won't quit race

Philippine presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe gestures during a press conference in Manila on May 5, 2016.
Philippine presidential candidate Senator Grace Poe gestures during a press conference in Manila on May 5, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (REUTERS) - Philippine Senator Grace Poe moved to quell rumours on Thursday (May 5) of her withdrawal from the country's presidential race and vowed to win next week's election and stop the "disturbing" rise of front runner Rodrigo Duterte.

Poe has seen her campaign eclipsed by a surge in popularity of the crime-busting Duterte, 71, mayor of Davao city in the south of the country, and called a news conference to shoot down speculation she would pull out and back Manuel Roxas, the chosen successor of President Benigno Aquino.

Duterte was top choice for 33 per cent of Filipinos in the latest Pulse Asia survey published on Tuesday, with Poe on 21 per cent.

Roxas won 22 per cent and moved into the top two for the first time since June last year. He declared the contest a two-horse race between him and Duterte, which has sparked rumours that Poe would bow out.

"To those who are saying that I should give way, what gives you the right to say that our choices should only be limited to two candidates?" said Poe, a former schoolteacher and adopted daughter of Philippine movie stars.

"I'm not a member of a syndicate who enters into dealings. I will not sell out. I will not sell the dreams of our countrymen."

Poe used a stronger tone than usual and took aim at interior minister Roxas for working in a failed government and said Duterte's "disturbing" talk of extrajudicial killings had to be stopped.

"It is not right that our choices be limited to a failing, callous and slow government... or a government run by an executioner," she said.

The week ahead of the May 9 election has been fraught by speculation of shifting allegiances and a senator's allegations of financial wrongdoing by Duterte. His team dismissed the moves as a "publicity stunt".

Duterte received another boost on Thursday when he won the endorsement of a major Christian sect, which is widely considered as a bloc vote of 1.2 million people.

His commanding lead in opinion polls has dismayed many business chiefs, investors and diplomats who see him as a clown with no clear economic policies and a possible liability for the country.