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FireNews : Philippines election: When is it and who is running for president? #FireNews365

By Howard Johnson
Philippines correspondent, BBC News

Image source, Getty
Image caption,

Bongbong Marcos, son of the ousted president Ferdinand Marcos, is one of the election frontrunners

The Philippines is holding presidential elections on 9 May and they are set to be highly controversial.

Among the main candidates are the daughter of the country’s notorious outgoing president, the son of a former dictator and a world-famous boxer.

Where are the Philippines?

The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country made up of more than 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. It has a population of 110 million.

It was colonised first by Spain in 1521, then by America in 1898 and by Japan in 1942. It gained full independence in 1946.

What kind of country is it?

The Philippines is a developing country with a stark rich-poor divide. The average income is $3,300 (£2,445) a year, and 26 million Filipinos live in poverty, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

There are parts of the densely populated capital city, Metro Manila, where some people have to scavenge to survive. Elsewhere, the rich live in luxurious, gated communities.

Image source, AFP via Getty
Image caption,

People queue for free food in Manila, where almost a quarter of the population lives in poverty

The country is split into three main island groups – Luzon in the north, The Visayas in the centre and Mindanao in the south.

Roman Catholicism is the country’s dominant faith, although there is a large Muslim population in Mindanao.

What are the main issues in the election?

May’s presidential election will take place alongside elections for Congress and regional governments.

The key election issues are how to revive the Philippines economy from a sharp recession brought about by the Covid pandemic, and how to stamp out corruption in public office.

Another issue is China’s increasing military presence in the seas between it and the Philippines, where it has been building strategic bases and using vessels to threaten Philippine shipping.

Who are the main candidates?

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr

The current frontrunner for president is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the former president, Ferdinand Marcos.

President Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and took control of the country’s courts, businesses and media. The army and police arrested and tortured thousands of dissidents.

He, his wife Imelda Marcos and his cronies plundered an estimated $10bn from public funds. He was forced out of power in 1986 and died soon afterwards.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Former president Ferdinand Marcos was forced from office in the “People Power” revolution of 1986

Bongbong Marcos was convicted in 1995 for tax evasion while serving as a public official, and his political opponents say that should disqualify him as a presidential candidate.

Critics also say he has used his wealth to whitewash the history of his father’s dictatorship on social media platforms.

Sara Duterte is the daughter of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte.

She is running for vice-president alongside Bongbong Marcos.

Image source, NurPhoto via Getty Images
Image caption,

Sara Duterte, daughter of the current president, is Bongbong Marcos’ running mate

They brand themselves the “Uni-Team” and have vowed to make the Philippines “rise again”.

While Ms Duterte wants to make military service mandatory for 18-year-olds, Bongbong Marcos says he’s open to imposing the death penalty on criminals who cannot be rehabilitated.

The main opponent to Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte is Leni Robredo, the current vice-president of the Philippines.

Mrs Robredo is a former lawyer and human rights advocate.

Her supporters – who include many celebrities and leading figures in Philippines life – wear pink, her campaign colour.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Leni Robredo is calling for a “pink revolution” to restore family values and the rule of law

They are hoping for a “pink revolution” to steer the country back to family values and the rule of law.

Critics of Ms Robredo say she represents the elitist oligarchs of the Philippines. She is a member of the Liberal party, which has traditionally been connected with the richest and most powerful families in the country.

Also running for president is celebrated boxer Manny Pacquaio, who is now a senator. He is known as “Pac-man” to his fans.

Mr Pacquaio appeals to poor voters because of his rags-to-riches story.

He grew up starving and hungry in the southern city of General Santos and often slept in the streets as a youth. He went on to win 12 major world boxing titles and become one of the wealthiest sportsmen in the world.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Boxing champion Manny Pacquaio appeals to the poorest voters

What is the record of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte?

Rodrigo Duterte is stepping down after his six-year term in office.

When he entered office in 2016 he launched a “war on drugs” which has seen thousands of drug dealers and drug users killed.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,

Current president Rodrigo Duterte is under investigation for alleged human rights abuses

The drug war’s biggest critic, Senator Leila De Lima, was arrested, thrown in jail and subjected to a spurious trial which is still going on after four years.

President Duterte is facing an International Criminal Court investigation into crimes against humanity.

Despite this, he retains the support of many in the Philippines, who see him as the man who tackled street crime and stood up against the country’s rich oligarchs.

President Duterte is close to the Marcos family.

He had the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried in the country’s Heroes’ Cemetery.

Additional Reporting by the BBC’s Virma Simonette

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