Philippine election front-runner drawing comparisons to Donald Trump

Voters in the Philippines are on the verge of choosing a new president. The front-runner’s brash and profane style has earned him comparisons to Donald Trump. Rodrigo Duterte, longtime mayor of the southern city Davao, has also been accused of the extra-judicial killings of a more than a thousand people. Joining Megan Thompson from Manila is Reuters reporter Karen Lema to talk about the election.

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    Tomorrow, voters in the Philippines will choose a new president.

    The front-runner is 71-year-old Rodrigo Duterte, whose brash style has earned him comparisons to Donald Trump. Duterte gained a tough-on-crime reputation as the longtime mayor of the Southern Philippine city of Davao. But he's been accused by human rights groups of the extrajudicial killings of more than 1,000 people.

    Duterte has also raised eyebrows with his use of profanity, a joke about a gang rape, and a comment about killing his own kids if they ever took drugs.

    Reuters reporter Karen Lema is covering the election and joins me now via Skype from the Philippines' capital of Manila.

    So, Karen, can you first just help put this all in context for us? What have the main issues been in this election?

  • KAREN LEMA, Reuters:

    You know, you have to understand that, in Philippine politics, Filipino voters give more weight on personalities, rather than the platforms of candidates.

    And that partly explains why Mayor Duterte has risen in the surveys, given his man-of-the-people-style approach and, as you can see, that Duterte has won the hearts of the voters because of his no-nonsense stand on crime and corruption.

    That has resonated among voters because they are very frustrated and disappointed with the government's inability to address or at least transform the so-called economic gains into real gains, such as expanding higher-paying jobs and addressing public service and improving mass transport and traffic problems.

    And political analysts also say that his rise is a reflection of people's discontent and the high level of frustration with the political elite, which they think is also weak, ineffective and corrupt.


    Three hundred thousand people attended one of Duterte's rallies yesterday in Manila.

    Can you just talk about who is supporting him? Where does he draw his support from?


    Yes, they're all across social demographics.

    His appeal cuts — his appeal, it across class A, B, C, D and E. And people are contributing out from their own pockets, volunteering to campaign for the — for the mayor. So, his appeal, it's just across the board.


    The U.S. has announced an expanded military presence in the Philippines. It recently announced joint patrols in the South China Sea, where the Philippines has had some territorial disputes with China,

    Can you talk a little bit about how this — the outcome of this election might affect the Philippines' relationship with the United States? In.


    In terms of foreign policy, we have yet to hear these candidates really lay down how their foreign policy would pan out.

    When it comes to U.S., I don't think these candidates would really deviate from the current foreign policy of the current administration, although you did hear some rhetoric from the — from the mayor about the possibility of cutting ties with the United States after the U.S. ambassador criticized him over his rape remarks.

    But, you know, we don't know if we're going to treat it as metaphor or we're going to take it literally. But that has yet to be seen. But, yes, we have really yet to hear from them what their foreign policy would be.


    Karen Lema from Reuters, thank you so much for joining us.


    Thank you so much.

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