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Filipinos began voting on Monday morning to elect their next President and some 18,000 other officials of all levels of government. A total of 37,211 polling centers across the country opened at 6 am local time for the 65.7 million eligible voters and will close at 7 pm local time, said an IANS report.  

Manila: Filipinos began voting on Monday morning to elect their next President and some 18,000 other officials of all levels of government. A total of 37,211 polling centers across the country opened at 6 am local time for the 65.7 million eligible voters and will close at 7 pm local time, said an IANS report.

The voting will also elect the Vice President, 12 senators, more than 300 members of the House of Representatives, and over 17,000 local officials, said the report citing Xinhua news agency.

The presidential candidate frontrunner and former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 64, who is the son of former President Ferdinand Marcos, will cast his ballot in his hometown of Ilocos Norte province, north of main Luzon island. His main rival, incumbent Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, 57, will cast the ballot in her hometown of Naga City of Bocol region, south of Luzon island.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr front-runner for the top post

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the strongman ousted in a 1986 army-backed “People Power” uprising, has led pre-election surveys with a seemingly insurmountable lead. But his closest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo, has tapped into shock and outrage over the prospect of another Marcos recapturing the seat of power and harnessed an army of campaign volunteers to underpin her candidacy, said an AP report.

Eight other candidates, including former boxing star Manny Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and former national police chief Sen. Panfilo Lacson have lagged far behind in voter-preference surveys.

The winner will take office on June 30 for a single, six-year term as leader of a Southeast Asian nation hit hard by two years of COVID-19 outbreaks and lockdowns.

Still more challenging problems include a sagging economy, deeper poverty and unemployment, decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies. There will likely also be questions over how to deal with calls demanding the prosecution of outgoing populist leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose anti-drug crackdown has left thousands of mostly petty suspects dead and sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Duterte’s daughter, southern Davao city Mayor Sara Duterte, has topped surveys as Marcos Jr’s vice-presidential running mate in an alliance of the scions of two authoritarian leaders who concern human rights groups. The tie-up has combined the voting power of their separate northern and southern political strongholds, boosting their chances but compounding worries of human rights activists.

Aside from the presidency, more than 18,000 government posts are contested, including half of the 24-member Senate, more than 300 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as provincial and local offices across the archipelago of more than 109 million Filipinos.

About 67 million have registered to cast their ballot during the 13-hour voting, an hour longer than the midterm elections in 2019 to compensate for the expected slower queues due to social distancing and other coronavirus safeguards.

Thousands of police and military personnel were deployed to secure election precincts, especially in rural regions with a history of violent political rivalries and where communist and Muslim rebels are active.

In 2009, gunmen deployed by the family of southern Maguindanao province’s then-governor massacred 58 people, including 32 journalists, in an attack on an election convoy that shocked the world.

 

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