The latest Philippines presidential polls show Rodrigo Duterte widening his lead, but a scandal regarding the Davao City mayor’s bank accounts could put his status as frontrunner at risk.
The nation will go to vote next month for a new president, and amid the crowded field, Duterte has emerged on top. Though he and Sen. Grace Poe were once neck-and-neck, a recent poll from Pulse Asia (via the Wall Street Journal) showed that Duterte now has a 12-point lead over Poe, 35 percent to 23 percent.
But Rodrigo Duterte’s place atop the Philippines presidential polls could be in trouble as his bank account scandal grows. He was grilled on Friday about the P2.4 billion in transactions in his alleged 17 accounts in three banks, and as Inquirer noted, gave “flippant answers” that he couldn’t remember how much was in the accounts.
“‘I could not say exactly because of the zeroes,’ he said.
“Asked why he did not declare the bank accounts in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), Duterte replied: ‘I already spent it.’
“He did not say where the money came from, but earlier, he said friends gave him money as birthday gift.”
Duterte later added that he would “shut down Congress” if he were elected and faced impeachment over the bank account scandal.
Rodrigo Duterte has weathered plenty of controversy during the presidential campaign, including video that surfaced showing him joking about the 1989 rape and murder of an Australian missionary in Davao City, where he was mayor at the time.
“I was angry she was raped, yes that was one thing. But she was so beautiful, I think the mayor should have been first. What a waste,” he said (via CNN).
Duterte remained defiant even as backlash to his statements grew. He refused to apologize, and even disavowed an apology issued on his behalf by his political party.
Duterte has been brash throughout his political career, even earning the nickname “Duterte Harry” (a play on Dirty Harry) for his tough-on-crime stances. There were rumors that he was connected to a hit squad in his home city, a group of vigilantes that conducted extrajudicial killings.
Duterte appeared to confirm the allegations in a television interview last year.
“Me? They are saying that I’m part of a death squad? True, that’s true,” he said in a mix of English and Visayan.
The allegations were troubling to watchdog groups including Human Rights Watch, which charged that close to 1,000 alleged criminals were summarily executed in Davao City under Duterte’s tenure.
Duterte has spoken about waging a “bloody war” against criminals, telling the Makati Business Club that he would allow police to crack down on street gangs by shielding them from the human rights watchdogs, Reuters reported.
“I will use the military and the police to go out and arrest them [criminals], hunt for them and if they offer a violent resistance…I will simply say, kill them all so we can finish this problem,” he was quoted by Reuters.
His tough approach showed results, however. Under Duterte’s leadership, Davao City went from one of the nation’s most crime-riddled cities to one of its safest.
Rodrigo Duterte needs to hang onto his place atop the Philippines presidential polls and weather the scandals for just a few more days now. The nation will vote on May 9.
[Photo by KJ Rosale/Associated Press]