MANILA - Former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the administration pick for next year's Philippine presidential race, formally registered his candidacy Thursday as election fever heats up in one of Asia's most rambunctious democracies.
President Benigno Aquino III heard mass with Roxas, along with Rep. Leni Roberedo who is running for vice president, family members and supporters clad mostly in yellow shirts at the Manila Cathedral before they filed their candidacy papers at the Commission on Elections office across the church.
Roxas, who is running under Aquino's Liberal Party, comes from a wealthy and political clan — his grandfather was a former president and his father wa a former senator.
The election is May 9 and Aquino's six-year term ends in June.
Roxas said he and Robredo were confident of winning because they are fighting for the "straight path'' that shuns corruption.
"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,'' Roxas told reporters.
The elections commission said least 60 candidates have registered for president and 13 for vice president as of Thursday, a day before the filing deadline. But most of them are unknown, and election officials said those determined in an evaluation to be "nuisance candidates'' who cannot mount a national campaign will be stricken from the candidate's list.
Among those wanting to be president is a long-haired man called Archangel Lucifer and another one who wants to make the Philippines the United States' 51st state and to legislate four seasons in the tropical country with only a wet and dry season.
In the Philippines, the president and vice president are picked in separate elections, even though they may campaign as part of a team.
The current vice president, Jejomar Binay, from the United Nationalist Alliance, is running for president and will campaign with Sen. Gregorio Honasan who is running for vice president. Honasan, an ex-army officer, is best known for helping lead a number of failed coup attempts in the 1980s.
A former human rights lawyer and city mayor, Binay topped popularity polls for years, but faces an ongoing investigation for alleged corruption. He has denied any wrongdoing and although his survey standing has dipped, analysts consider him among a top contender.
Senator Grace Poe
Another contender, Sen. Grace Poe, also file her candidacy papers on Thursday. The adopted daughter of a famous movie couple who lived for years in the United States has been leading popularity polls but faces questions about her citizenship. She is also running as an independent, she lacks party support that is behind Roxas.
Nearly three decades after the country emerged from a dictatorship through a 1986 "people power'' revolt that catapulted his mother to the presidency, Aquino said the Philippines is back on the road to prosperity and hope after years of political instability. But critics say problems like poverty and corruption remain considerable.
Aside from the presidency, more than 18,000 congressional and local