Philippines' Aquino warns of looming dictatorship

 28 Apr 2016 - 15:41

Philippines' Aquino warns of looming dictatorship



Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao (R) along with Presidential candidate Vice-President Jejomar Binay distribute t-shirts to supporters during a campaign sortie in Calamba town, Laguna province south of Manila on April 28, 2016.   AFP / TED ALJIBE

Manila: Philippine President Benigno Aquino warned Thursday his country was on the brink of another dictatorship, in a thinly veiled reference to controversial politicians leading surveys to win the top two posts in next month's elections.

Tough-talking Rodrigo Duterte has emerged as a clear favourite in surveys for the presidential poll, with voters apparently embracing his vows to kill tens of thousands of criminals outside the judicial system.

Meanwhile, the son and namesake of dictator Ferdinand Marcos is leading the vice-presidential race with a campaign strategy of highlighting the alleged benefits of his father's rule. 

"This is the tragedy poised to befall our nation: that we were oppressed before and yet will allow ourselves to be oppressed again and suffer the same problems that we endured under the dictatorship," Aquino said in a speech in Manila.

"Our successes could vanish especially if my successor would stray from our straight and narrow path. The question is, will you allow these bullies who make enemies each time they open their mouth to become president?"

Aquino did not mention Duterte by name, but it was a thinly veiled reference to him, as the presidential favourite is often called a bully and foul-mouthed by his opponents.

However Aquino did specifically mention Marcos Jnr, criticising him for refusing to apologise for his father's crimes.

Marcos Snr's two-decade rule ended in 1986 as millions took to the streets in a famous "People Power" revolution led by Aquino's mother.

Marcos was accused of plundering billions of dollars from state coffers and overseeing widespread human rights abuses.

However the Marcos family, exiled to the United States after the revolution, has staged a remarkable political comeback that would be cemented if the son is elected vice president.

Duterte is one of the Philippines' most controversial politicians, having admitted to running vigilante death squads that killed more than 1,000 people during his long-time rule as mayor of the major southern city of Davao.

On the campaign trail, Duterte, 71, has promised to pardon himself for mass murder, should he be charged with killing criminals during his time as president.

He has also pledged to fill Manila Bay with the bodies of 150,000 criminals, while regularly using foul-mouth language such as calling the pope a "son of a bitch".

Fuelling concerns about his character, Duterte last week joked about wanting to rape an Australian missionary, who was sexually assaulted and murdered by inmates during a 1999 prison riot in Davao. He also jokes regularly about his adultery.

However Duterte is enjoying broad support across the electorate, largely with his promise to solve all crime within six months of becoming president.

In the Philippines, presidents can only serve a single term of six years. Aquino's preferred successor, Mar Roxas, is trailing in the polls.

Meanwhile, Duterte admitted Thursday to having secret bank accounts after rival politicians accused him of hiding millions of dollars in them.

Duterte, who has portrayed himself as a clean politician who lives a simple lifestyle, had for days insisted he had no secret bank accounts.

A rival politician had made front-page news this week with accusations Duterte hid over 200 million pesos ($4.3 million) in a Manila bank.

Duterte finally admitted Thursday to the accounts after a journalist went to the bank and deposited 500 pesos in it to prove it existed.

After this, Duterte conceded he had two accounts but maintained they did not hold so much money.

"I have deposits... but they are not that large. Just in the thousands (of pesos), not millions," he told reporters during a campaign rally.