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Lead-Up to Philippine Presidential Race

Kathleen Ocampo

Oct. 27, 2015

At the start of the program, we reported on the rising tensions in the South China Sea. China has been raising territorial issues in the region including the Spratly Islands. One country that claims those islands is the Philippines. On The Focus today, we look at the upcoming Philippine presidential election. The constitution fixes the president's term, so Benigno Aquino will have to step down -- even with his high approval rating. The outcome won't just affect Filipinos. The international community will be watching the result as well. The notifications of candidacy closed this month, and the 3 main contenders took the first steps in their campaigns.

Aquino's former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas is one of the people campaigning to replace his ex-boss. Roxas comes from a wealthy family. His grandfather was a president and his father a senator. Many ordinary people see him as out of touch. They say he comes from a good family and he's rich, so he doesn't see things from the people's point of view.

Recent polls put Roxas' support rate at around 20 percent. He's trying to rally support by stressing he's the president's pick.

"As the president's successor, I intend to carry on Aquino's policies. By doing so, we can realize the dreams of all 100 million Philippine nationals."
Manuel Roxas / Presidential candidate

Vice President Jejomar Binay is leading Roxas in the polls. He comes from an opposition party. Posters expressing support for Binay can often be seen in areas home to many poor people.

Binay grew up in a poor family. He struggled to make ends meet while studying to be a lawyer. Many low-income voters believe he could help them benefit more from the country's economic growth.

"Even if the economy grows, it'll be meaningless unless the poor can enjoy the benefits. If I'm elected president, I'll take measures to address the issue right away."
Jejomar Binay / Philippine presidential candidate

The unexpected emergence of another candidate has shaken up the race. Independent Senator Grace Poe announced her candidacy last month.

People who support her say they think she will instigate change. They say she's a humble and clean politician.

Shortly after she was born, Poe was left outside a church. The orphan was adopted by a movie star, Fernando Poe Junior.

Many young and female voters like Poe's clean image and her late father's popularity. Recent polls put her ahead of Roxas and Binay.

"Everyone -- for the bright future of this country -- let's move on together. I'll devote myself to the presidency."
Grace Poe / Presidential candidate

Polls show the 3 contenders are neck-and-neck, each with a support rate in the low-to-mid-20s. Over the coming months, each of them will need to set out concrete policies to try and pull ahead of the pack.