Philippines 'Donald Trump' likely to win presidency

  • 08/05/2016
Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. (Reuters)
Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. (Reuters)

By Karen Lema and Enrico Dela Cruz

Philippine presidential hopefuls have held mass rallies in a festival-like finale to a divisive campaign and called on voters to block firebrand frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte's path to the presidency.

Pop stars, celebrities and scantily clad dancers entertained big crowds across Manila on Saturday, two days from an election shaken up by a last-gasp appeal from President Benigno Aquino for a united front to stop Mr Duterte converting his runaway popularity into victory.

Mr Duterte, 71, is the alternative candidate, often likened to Donald Trump and considered both an entertainer and a loose cannon.

Police estimated his rally on Saturday drew an estimated 300,000 supporters, far eclipsing the crowds of his rivals.

Philippine politics is no stranger to controversial characters and opponents of the maverick mayor are alarmed by his incendiary rhetoric and advocacy of extrajudicial killings as a deterrent against rampant crime and illegal drugs.

He also caused outrage last month when he joked about the rape and murder of an Australian missionary during a 1989 prison riot.

But there were no signs of Mr Aquino's appeal working after two candidates rejected a pact. Some experts said it could backfire on Mr Aquino's chosen successor, Manuel Roxas, who warned the country was headed towards a Mr Duterte dictatorship.

"They will destroy everything that we have done, everything that has been achieved and we will not let it happen," Mr Roxas told a crowd of some 30,000 people.

"We won't give up this fight. This is the good fight, the fight for our lives."

Mr Duterte, the long-time mayor of Davao City, campaigns with a logo of a clenched fist and has repeatedly vowed to shoot dead criminals who put up violent resistance.

In final opinion polling he had a sizable 11-point lead over Senator Grace Poe, with Mr Roxas a close third.