Filipinos have headed to the polls to elect a new president, vice president and thousands of other officials amid tight security across the country. Opinion polls favor anti-establishment firebrand Rodrigo Duterte.
Five candidates are vying to succeed outgoing President Benigno Aquino whose mother led the democracy movement that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos then led the nation for six years.
More than 45,000 candidates are contesting 18,000 national, congressional and local positions in elections that have traditionally been tainted by violence and accusations of cheating, especially in remote rural areas.
"Let us show the world that despite our deep passion and support for our candidates, we can hold elections that are peaceful and orderly and reflect the spirit of democracy," said Aquino, whose term expires in June.
Polls opened at 6:00 a.m. Monday (2200 UTC Sunday) and voting was to continue until 5:00 p.m.
Opinion polls favor the populist mayor of a southern city who has captivated millions with profanity-laced tirades promising brutal but quick solutions to the nation's twin plagues of crime and poverty.
'A Filipino Donald Trump'
Rodrigo Duterte, the longtime mayor of Davao, has rocked the political establishment with vows to kill tens of thousands of criminals, threats to establish one-man rule if lawmakers disobey him and even a crude rape joke.
Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to butcher criminals and threatened to dissolve parliament is leading the presidential
But Duterte's critics have warned he would plunge the country into another dark period of dictatorship and turmoil, three decades after a "People Power" revolution toppled Marcos.
Large turnout expected
More than half of the Southeast Asian country's population of 100 million people is registered to vote
Aquino, the outgoing president, is limited by the constitution to a single term of six years. He has overseen average annual economic growth of 6 percent and won international plaudits for trying to tackle corruption.
His handpicked successor, former interior secretary Mar Roxas, is of a prominent political family. She is tied in second place, behind Duterte in surveys.
Senator Grace Poe, the adopted daughter of a late movie star, is also polling second, having seen her popularity slide after critics pointed to her taking US citizenship then later renouncing it
The former dictator Marcos' son and namesake is also a favorite to be elected vice president, which would cement a remarkable political comeback for the disgraced dynasty.
Law enforcement has reported 15 dead in confirmed election-related violent incidents this year although many others have been killed or hurt in incidents that are merely suspected of being linked to political tensions and disputes.
jar/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters)