A tough-talking Philippine mayor has widened his lead in a poll ahead of May 9 presidential elections, but analysts say his chances will likely be hurt by a storm of criticism over a rape joke and offensive remarks against foreign allies.
Thomson ReutersDuterte delivers a statement during a campaign rally at Pandacan cityMANILA (Reuters) – An outspoken mayor running for the Philippine presidency on promises of a crackdown on crime and drugs has increased his lead in an opinion poll released on Sunday, just two weeks away from the election.
The Singapore Embassy in Manila is seeking legal advice over a false post online that went viral on social media claiming that its head of government, Prime Minister Lee Hsien-Loong, is supporting the presidential bid of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Rodrigo Duterte sparked revulsion among women’s groups, diplomats and the Catholic church when he told an audience that as the local mayor, he should have been at the front of the queue when an Australian missionary was attacked in a 1989 jail riot. The April poll surveyed 1,800 voters.
“It’s a clear lead”.
Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, also said Duterte’s joke could cost him the elections.
Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely tweeted that “rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized” and “violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere”, remarks which were backed up by her American counterpart in Manila. When a reporter mentioned about the Philippines’ diplomatic ties with the US and Australia possibly being cut over the issue, Duterte quipped: “If I become president, go ahead and sever it”.
Another survey of 4,000 voters nationwide, taken by research group Pulse Asia before the remarks hit the headlines, also put Mr Duterte in the lead with 34 per cent ahead of Ms Poe at just 22 per cent.
Human rights groups have accused Duterte of leading vigilante death squads that have carried out over a thousand killings in Davao – allegations he has boasted about.
Analysts credit his appeal to popular disenchantment against the political elite in a nation where one out of four still lives in poverty.
“Duterte’s rise mirrors the revolt of the periphery”, sociologist Randy David wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“It is hard to see how, under a Duterte presidency, the country can avoid entering another period of political uncertainty”.
Duterte had earlier pledged to kill 100,000 criminals and dump so many in Manila Bay that the “fish will grow fat” from feeding on them.