Maverick mayor Duterte set to clinch Philippines presidency

World Monday 09/May/2016 12:57 PM
By: Times News Service
Maverick mayor Duterte set to clinch Philippines presidency

Manila: Firebrand city mayor Rodrigo Duterte looked virtually certain to become the Philippines' next president as election results poured in on Monday, confirmation that the political outsider's pledges to crush crime and corruption had resonated with voters.
Five hours after polling stations had closed, a rolling ballot count by an election commission-accredited watchdog showed that Duterte had about 39 per cent of the votes cast. An exit poll of a small number of voters showed a similar lead.
Asked by a television interviewer what he thought about his apparent victory, Duterte gave a puzzling answer.
"Sometimes I'm victorious and the winner, sometimes there's always losing and being sad, sometimes being sick and healthy," he told CNN Philippines, slouched in a chair and dressed casually in a checked, short-sleeve shirt.
"That is how the universe is being played every day."
The 71-year-old's truculent defiance of political tradition has drawn comparisons with US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, as have his references to his libido.
His man-of-the-people demeanour tapped into popular disgust with the political establishment over its failure to tackle poverty and inequality despite several uninterrupted years of robust economic growth.
His incendiary rhetoric and advocacy of extrajudicial killings to stamp out crime and drugs have, however, alarmed many who hear echoes of the Southeast Asian country's authoritarian past.
The election numbers reported by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) had, by 1420GMT, accounted for about 70 per cent of the 54 million registered Filipino voters.
Duterte had 12.1 million votes, with Senator Grace Poe and the government's candidate, Manuel Roxas, far behind with about 6.8 million each.
The PPCRV count is not official so confirmation of Duterte's victory looked likely to come from his rivals conceding defeat.
In an early indication of his unorthodoxy, Duterte told reporters on Monday that if he became president he would seek multilateral talks to resolve disputes over the South China Sea.
The outgoing administration has asked a court of arbitration in The Hague to recognise its right to exploit waters in the South China Sea, a case it hoped could bolster claims by other countries against Beijing in the resource-rich waters.
Duterte said negotiations should include Japan, Australia and the United States, which is traditionally the region's dominant security player and contests Beijing's development of islands and rocky outcrops in the South China Sea.
The presidential race was one of the most divisive in years, with outgoing leader Benigno Aquino and rival candidates warning of a disaster if Duterte makes good on his promises.
Duterte talked of making peace with his rivals after a "virulent" campaign and reiterated that, as president, he would give police a green light to use deadly force against criminals.
"If they put up a good fight and refuse to surrender and if you feel your life is in jeopardy, shoot. You have my authority," he said in Davao City, where he has been mayor for 22 years.
At least 11 people were killed in violence before voting started, but otherwise the election was mostly smooth with voting machine problems at only a few dozen polling stations.
Voters also cast ballots for the vice president, 300 lawmakers and about 18,000 local government officials.
"Bongbong" Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, looked on course to become vice president with a narrow lead as the votes were being counted.
Duterte's entertaining speeches, often loaded with profanities, have shed little light on his policies beyond going after gangsters and drug pushers.
He has been vague on what he would do to spur an economy that has averaged growth at around 6 per cent under Aquino.
In a report on Monday, ratings agency S&P Global said a Duterte presidency would create uncertainty, especially if he picks fights with the political elite.
"He could take some time getting used to the many compromises required in the national leadership position," it said.
One indication of that came on Monday as Duterte told reporters he planned to loosen restrictions on foreign ownership of companies across all industries, which could meet with resistance from protectionist forces.
One of Duterte's economic advisors told Reuters that spending on education will be lifted to benefit "disadvantaged regions" and agriculture and rural development will be prioritised to spread wealth more evenly across the country.
"Everything seems to be in imperial Manila. He wants to give more attention to the lagging, the backward regions which have been neglected," said Ernesto Pernia, professor emeritus of economics at the University of the Philippines.
Pernia said the pursuit of tax evaders and corrupt officials should bolster government revenues to fund the extra spending.