The Philippines national election is underway today.
It has become an extremely divisive election, with families and friends split among which candidate to vote for.
Leading the polls is a tough-talking mayor who has promised to eradicate corruption and crime within six months in office.
Jofelle Tesorio and Ariel Carlos have more from Manila and Palawan, Philippines.
There is no stopping Rodrigo Duterte.
The tough talking mayor of Davao City is the front-runner for the upcoming presidential election on May 9.
Even after his tasteless joke about an Australian missionary being raped and killed during a prison riot, and recent controversy about his bank account, Duterte is still in the lead.
According to the latest polls, Duterte has more than 30 percent of the vote – 10 points higher than his closest rival, senator Grace Poe.
Social activist and political analyst Gerthie Anda explains Duterte’s appeal.
“They sincerely believe that he can improve this country and to them, whatever negative stories raised against him are not true,” Anda said. “It’s too short a time to be able to enlighten them further.”
Seventy-two-year-old Duterte admits to being a womanizer, curses in public, and is linked to a vigilante group in his city that kills drug pushers and criminals.
But his supporters, like Kim Tullo, brush aside criticisms against him.
“In today’s generation, we don’t talk anymore about the moral of a person because the Philippines is already dying.”
Kim Tullo, a young professional, believes that the Philippines needs a strong leader that can act decisively. She thinks Duterte is the only solution to Philippines’ problems.
Also among Duterte’s supporters are conservatives and the religious, an irony because he repeatedly says a president should be capable of killing.
But government worker Marian Ednalyn fears what kind of leader Duterte will be.
“Duterte’s style of leadership is too brusque. We are going back to the Marcos regime. History will repeat itself. We will have another Martial Law because we allow a dictator to become president. “
Ednalyn continued, “He also doesn’t respect women and youth. I believe that as a leader, you cater to all the sectors of the society and you are sensitive to their needs.”
Fighting corruption, solving crime and eradicating poverty have been key issues in the election this year.
But Marian says administration candidate Mar Roxas has her vote.
“I have seen his leadership style. With his track record we know we are in the right direction. Many say he is not the man of the masses but he is a thinking man and his vision for the Philippines is very clear.”
Mar Roxas is third in the polls, lagging behind Duterte and senator Grace Poe.
His supporters think he still has a chance after his impressive performances in debates and the local machinery of the majority party.
In the vice-presidential race, the only son of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, known here as Bongbong, is out in front.
Civil activist Gerthie Anda says the popularity of Marcos reveals a lack of awareness about what really happened during the years of Martial Law from 1972 to 1981 – years marked by severe human rights abuses, including torture and forced disappearances.
“I think we have not been able to mobilize our schools, to teach our children what was Martial law,” said Anda. She is hopeful the victims of Martial Law and civil society will block Bongbong Marcos from winning.
She is banking on administration candidate Leni Robredo, who from the bottom of the survey earlier, is now neck-to-neck with Bongbong.
“For the vice-presidential match, it’s a no-brainer. It should really be Leni. It is really, really embarrassing, shameful, disgusting, sorry for the word, if Bongbong Marcos will win. And if you combine him with Duterte, that will be disaster,” said Anda.
Robredo is the widow of former interior secretary Jessie Robredo who died in a plane crash in 2012.
A lawyer for the poor, Robredo prefers a low-key campaign and still takes a public bus going to her hometown.
“I spent many years as a lawyer for the marginalized sector; many months, many years with farmers and fishermen. Even when I was pregnant with my third child, I was sleeping in boats, in huts, in farms to do community work. I was so happy with that,” commented Robredo.
This election campaign has been one of the most polarizing in the country’s history – with families and friends deeply divided.
On social media, bullying is also at an all-time high.
Young priest Eugene Elivera says the election has brought out the worst in Filipinos.
“Another phenomenon that is considered the reason for this, quote and unquote, special election is the presence of the social media wherein everybody has a say on anybody or in any issue. So it becomes more participative.”
Elivera continued, “When it becomes more participative, sometimes it becomes more abusive. We hurt each other. We throw mud at each other.”
The coming election will make or break the gains of the current administration of Benigno Aquino III, who is constitutionally barred from seeking another term.
While being criticized for mounting traffic, airport woes and a botched peace process in Mindanao, he has been credited with economic success, poverty alleviation and jailing corrupt officials.