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Philippines Votes For President; 'The Punisher' Leads The Pack

Philippines presidential front-runner and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the voting precinct to cast his vote at a high school in Davao City on Monday.

"Forget the laws on human rights."

That's what Philippines presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte had to say on Saturday in his final speech ahead of Monday's elections.

The former prosecutor's nickname is "The Punisher." He brags about loving Viagra and has seemingly joked about rape. Duterte, mayor of Davao City, also has been linked to extrajudicial killings.

According to unofficial results, he's ahead in the race to lead the Philippines, a country formerly ruled by dictatorship. (The apparent vice presidential front-runner is the son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Duterte has said he would resign and hand over control to the man nicknamed "Bongbong" Marcos "if he fails to 'eradicate' crimes, drugs and corruption within six months," Time reports.)

The tough-on-crime message is resonating with voters, NPR's Michael Sullivan tells Morning Edition. Take this exchange Sullivan had with voter Jefferson Lim, a 30-year-old IT manager, at a polling station near Manila Bay on Monday:

Lim: "I think he can instill discipline in people. Here, I live in Manila, I've been pick-pocketed ... a number of times now. I think criminals aren't afraid of the consequences they do."

Sullivan: "You think he'll make them afraid?"

Lim: "Yes."

As a seven-term mayor, Duterte brought down the crime rate in Davao City, located on the southern island of Mindanao, as The Two-Way has reported. But NPR's Camila Domonoske added:

"Human rights groups have accused Duterte of permitting or encouraging death squads to conduct extrajudicial killings of hundreds of perceived petty criminals.

"Duterte has variously denied and confirmed ordering execution-style street killings, but he has consistently said crime should be punished with death."

In Saturday's campaign speech, Duterte promised to "do just what I did as mayor" if elected.

"You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because ... I'd kill you," he said, according to The Guardian.

Supporters see Duterte as an alternative to politics-as-usual, Sullivan tells NPR's Renee Montagne: "The people here want a president who isn't one of the usual suspects — one not beholden to the oligarchs that hold so much power here."

There are four other candidates vying for the presidency. On Friday, candidate Manuel "Mar" Roxas called for unity with rival candidate Sen. Grace Poe, CNN Philippines reports. Roxas said:

"Uncertainty and the specter of a dictatorship are looming over our country once again. I call for unity, I call for decency, I call for democracy, I call for the rule of law."

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