MANILA - A tough-talking mayor from the southern Philippines is well ahead in country’s presidential race according to unofficial vote tallies from Monday's national elections.
The latest returns indicate that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s vote count is almost double that of the next highest contender, former interior secretary Mar Roxas.
Duterte, 71, has gained support with his profanity-filled speeches pledging to combat crime and corruption - including promises to execute criminals, drawing comparisons to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Philippine Senator Grace Poe, who had until two weeks ago consistently traded for the top spot with Duterte in national surveys, conceded late Monday night after she fell to third place in the unofficial count. In a news conference to announce her decision, she said she would respect the election results and would work with Duterte.
Poe said she would finish out the last three years of her senate term and “fight for the voice of our people” to be heard there.
Former interior secretary Roxas had not made any statement about the voting other than to call the results early on "discouraging."
Problems at polling stations
In early counting Vice President Jejomar Binay placed fourth on a six-candidate slate and remained in that position. He put out a statement less than two hours after most of the polls closed pointing out malfunctioning voting machines and other anomalous incidents in his home city.
In Monday's election, about 8,000 positions from national seats in the legislature, vice president and president to village councilor were up for grabs.
In the vice presidential race, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. son of the late dictator is ahead of his most formidable rival Congresswoman Leni Robredo by less than half a million votes. Robredo, who was picked by President Benigngo Aquino to run, said in a Facebook message that she would see the race through until the count is complete.
Pacquiao could score senate seat
With nearly 80 percent of the vote unofficially counted, world boxing mega star Manny Pacquiao secured a spot among the 12 seats for Senate.
Throughout the day officials have reported scores of electronic voting machines breaking down and being replacement, delays in voting because of technical difficulties. The Commission on Elections announced it would extend voting by one hour because of the problems.
The Philippine military said it has monitored shootings, explosions and other violent acts that resulted in 10 deaths and three injuries in western Mindanao, the central Philippines and northern and southern Luzon Island, in the upper third of the country.
The Catholic church’s non-government poll watchdog group said it pulled volunteers from Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat town, both in Maguindanao province in central Mindanao out of concern for their safety after they observed widespread cheating.
Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Manila-based Institute for Political and Electoral Reform pointed out this election with a larger number of registered voters (at 54.4 million) than in years past and turnout expected to be 80 percent, he expects to see higher incidences.
“Of whatever, violence, cheating, the breakdown of machines, and so on,” he said. “It’s really a question of whether these are isolated incidents or part of a pattern. At this point in time we don’t know yet. This is too early but the key here is to have credible results that can be accepted by the people.”
Casiple called the races for top offices “hotly contested” and that if the “process is compromised” by cheating, “that would mean the failure of democracy.”