MANILA: Philippine authorities are expecting a peaceful election on Monday as voters head to the polls to choose a new president in what is shaping up to be a rematch between the son of the country’s late dictator and the human rights lawyer who thwarted his 2016 bid for the vice presidency.
Some 67.5 million of the 110 million Philippine population are eligible to vote in the May 9 general election, which will decide who will succeed President Rodrigo Duterte as well as over 18,000 government posts, including mayors, governors and city councilors.
The main contenders for the country’s top office are Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. — the namesake of his father who ruled the Philippines as dictator until he was overthrown in a popular “people power” uprising in 1986 — and Vice President Leni Robredo, leader of the opposition and the only female candidate in the race.
Three months of divisive campaigning ended on Saturday, with opinion polls ahead of the vote showing Marcos Jr. comfortably ahead, while Robredo came second with over 30 percentage points between them.
“One day before the...actual election tomorrow, we are still considering our preparation and the situation as relatively peaceful,” Philippine National Police Spokesperson Jean Fajardo said in a media briefing.
The police have recorded at least 16 election-related incidents of violence, which authorities say is “a good indicator” compared to incidents during the 2016 general election and the 2019 mid-term polls.
Almost 80,000 security personnel, comprising officers from the police and military, are set to guard the nationwide polls this year.
“Because of all the preparations that we’ve made, we are confident that it will be peaceful,” Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told reporters.
On the eve of the election, Presidential Spokesman Martin Andanar urged voters to choose leaders “who have the interest of the nation and the welfare of the citizens in their minds.”
Saturday’s final campaign push ended without Duterte endorsing any presidential candidate, though members of his political party are endorsing Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is Marcos Jr.’ running mate and also the leading candidate for vice president.
The Philippines allows split-ticket voting, which means the president and vice president are elected separately.
Marcos Jr. spent decades of his political career trying to rehabilitate the family’s name after his father ruled for over 20 years in what has been described as one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history.
The 64-year-old has been campaigning on a national unity platform, promising to lift the country from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Robredo, one of Duterte’s staunchest critics, has consistently condemned his violent approach to drug-related crimes. The 57-year-old is pushing for public sector transparency and has pledged to strengthen the country’s medical system.