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Hardline mayor set to win Philippines election

Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte is set to win the presidential election, with 39% so far. He wasted no time, saying he will ease foreign ownership limits and called for multilateral talks over disputes in the South China Sea.

Duterte is reportedly heading for a huge win in the presidential elections, with 38.92 percent of the vote after 63 percent of the total had been counted.

According to the PPCRV, a Catholic Church-run poll monitor accredited by the government to ciunt the votes, this was 4.5 million votes, or 16 percentage points more than nearest rival, Senator Grace Poe.

"He's almost a sure winner now," political analyst Ramon Casiple told AFP.

"I want to reach out my hand and let us begin the healing now," Duterte told reporters in Davao, the nation's third biggest city that he has run as mayor for the past two decades on and off.

Poe had 22.14 percent of the vote, with administration candidate Mar Roxas trailing in third, according to the PPCRV.

In the Philippines, a winner is decided simply by whomever gets the most votes.

Violence at polling stations

As the electorate cast their presidential vote on Monday, police reported that - in several isolated incidents - gunmen attacked polling stations, ambushed vehicles and stole vote counting machines.

Chief Inspector Jonathan del Rosario, the spokesman for a national police election monitoring task force, said that in the worst incident seven people were shot dead in an ambush before dawn in Rosario, a town just outside of Manila known for political violence.

Authorities said, however, that the overall conduct of the elections was peaceful, with elections commissioner Rowena Guanzon insisting the violence would not impact the result. The incidents took place in known "hot spots" where extra security forces were in place, Guanzon said.

More than 54 million people are registered to vote across the archipelago of 7,000 islands. As well as electing a new president, Filipinos are also voting for a vice-president, senators and about 18,000 local officials including mayors.

There were also reports on Monday of glitches with electronic voting machines. The service provider said, however that only 64 of the 92,000 devices used in the vote had malfunctioned.

Outspoken mayor remains favorite

Duterte's campaign has largely focused on the country's law and order issues. Political violence is a longstanding problem in the Philippines, fuelled by lax gun laws, corrupt security forces and political "dynasties" that often have their own security forces.

Rodrigo Duterte

Presidential favorite, Rodrigo Duterte, has pledged to end crime within six months of starting his presidency by killing criminals

The tough-talking mayor of southern Davao city has made a series of controversial statements in the run-up to the elections, however, having previously said he would end crime within six months of starting his presidency by killing criminals.

"Forget the laws on human rights," Duterte, who has been accused of running vigilante death squads in Davao, said at his final campaign rally.

"If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because as the mayor, I'd kill you."

Warning against Duterte

Outgoing President Benigno Aquino warned voters on Saturday, however, that electing Duterte could result in a return to dictatorship. Filipinos have remained hypersensitive to potential threats to democracy since they rose in a 1986 "people power" revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who faced allegations of plundering the country and condoning widespread human rights violations by state forces.

In 2001, a similar uprising forced Joseph Estrada from the presidency over alleged large-scale corruption.

Watch video 03:15

Philippines split over Marcos ahead of vote

kb/jbh (Reuters, AFP)

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