Polling begins in Philippines as country decides its next president in polarising race

Candidates include incumbent vice president Leni Robredo, and former dictator Marcos’s son Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr

Arpan Rai
Monday 09 May 2022 19:40
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Polling begins in Philippines as country decides its next president in polarising race

Voters swarmed polling booths across the Philippines on Monday as the presidential elections, which could possibly mark the return to power for the family of legacy dictator Marcos, began.

The presidential candidates include incumbent vice president and former senator Leni Robredo, 54, and 64-year-old congressman Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was overthrown following an uprising in 1986.

Ms Robredo, a human rights lawyer and leader of the “pink revolution”, narrowly beat Mr Marcos in the 2016 vice-presidential contest.

Many citizens thronged voting stations long before polling began at 6am in several parts of the country, as people gathered with their family members waiting for the process to start. Soon after voting began, many Filipinos came out of the booths and showed off their fingers marked with indelible ink, indicating that they have cast their votes.

Talking about the impressive voter turnout, election commissioner George Erwin Garcia said he was “overwhelmed” at the sight of hundreds reaching voting centres despite the Covid threat in a show of democracy.

Officials from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said they had not received reports of any major trouble during the voting process, except for some minor delays in southern precincts in Mindanao.

However, three members of a local peacekeeping force were shot dead by unidentified assailants near a polling station in the precinct’s Maguindanao province.

Long queues were also seen in some regions after vote-counting machines were reported to be malfunctioning.

Voting will be underway till 7pm, following which an unofficial vote count will suggest the likely winner of the presidential seat.

Nearly 18,000 posts, including those of the vice president, senators, congressmen, mayors and governors will be refilled after the election of a president.

Flanked by heavy security, Mr Marcos cast his vote in Ilocos Norte and said the voting process was going “fine”. Ms Robredo cast her vote at a school converted into a polling precinct in Magarao.

The three-month-long campaign ended on Saturday with Mr Marcos and Ms Robredo making a last-ditch effort to win over voters. Although their divisive campaign ended without the incumbent president Rodrigo Duterte openly backing either contender, his party has been pushing its support for his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, the running mate of Mr Marcos.

According to surveys, Mr Marcos and Ms Duterte-Carpio, both of whose fathers ruled the island country with an iron fist, are ahead in the race, despite Ms Robredo’s crowd-pulling pop concert rallies.

Apart from the two clear front-runners, eight other contestants have thrown their hats in the ring for president, including 43-year-old former boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.

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