05/09/2016, 15.31
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Filippinos go to the polls: "concerns" over possible Duterte victory

Polls opened this morning and so far there has been only one violent incident. The mayor of Davao, defined by many as a "new dictator" is still leading the polls. PIME regional superior: "If he wins we are likely to see a return to martial law. If he loses, there will be very violent clashes". The pledge to resolve the security problem in six months "is just populism".


Manila (AsiaNews) - 54 million Filipinos have only a few hours left to cast their vote and elect the next president of the country and the candidates to 18 thousand seats.

As of this morning, polling stations are open in all cities and crowds of people are queueing to cast their vote in a peaceful manner. "So far the situation seems calm, at least in appearance – says Fr. Giovanni Re, regional superior of the PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) - but we have to wait the counting of votes to see if it will remain so". Among the five presidential candidates Rodrigo Duterte, remains the favorite.  He is a controversial character and is defined by many as a "new dictator".

The government has deployed 100 thousand police officers to maintain order in the streets. So far there has been only one incident of violence: this morning in Rosario (Cavite province, south of Manila) seven people were killed by men who opened fire from a car: "It is not yet clear whether the murder is linked to elections or is a personal vendetta – says Fr. Re - the area is one of those most at risk of violence”.

As for the outcome of the vote, the missionary hopes that "people reflect and choose the best candidate from a poor selection. The impression is that Duterte has made most ground pointing all of his campaign on the fight against crime. He has captured the sympathy of many young people and even educated people. Many think that security is a priority, even if they do not have the faintest idea what it means to live under a martial law like in the Marcos era [dictator of the 60s and 80s ed]. Many in those days were not yet born or were very small, and cannot begin to imagine what it means". Moreover, the promise of the candidate of "solve the security problem in six months is nothing but populism".

Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte, 71, is a member of the PDP-Laban Party and mayor of Davao City (southern Mindanao) for more than 22 years, a city that has been transformed from a crime land and gangster paradise  in "safest city in Asia" .

With his iron fist policy, the politician eradicated crime in the territory, imposing a curfew for young people and supporting the right to fire on suspects. On 7 May, the current President Benigno Aquino called for an alliance between the other candidates to stop Duterte, but the appeal fell on deaf ears.

Fr. Re expresses his concern about the possible victory of Duterte: "In the last rally held on Saturday he said that he broke no opposition and not be held to account by human rights laws".

However, the situation would remain tense even if he were to lose, "His vice president - says the priest - spoke as if they had already won. This, coupled with the fact that the polls show him very much ahead [with 33% percent of ed], means that if he does not win people will think that the elections have been rigged, and this could lead to violent clashes". The leader of a religious sect in Davao said that if Duterte does not win, he will lead a popular revolution.

"If he has a majority – says Fr. Re – then we must wait and see who he surrounds himself with: His choice of collaborators is the only way we will know if we can hope for something good or we should start moving to limit the damage".

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