Muscle cars, clenched fists in frenzied Duterte rally

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Rodrigo Duterte. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Muscle cars closed off Manila's main park on Saturday as supporters of presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte raised their clenched fists at a final campaign rally that mirrored public frustration over the outgoing government's shortcomings.

The 71-year-old maverick mayor of Davao City, who has vowed a "bloody war" against crime, will speak before thousands in Luneta after sundown. It will be the culmination of a bruising campaign that saw him as the surprise favorite despite constant controversy.

"I want to live in a safe country, that's why I'm voting for him," 43-year-old Christian pastor Jennifer Cobarrubias told ABS-CBN News.

Cobarrubias said she would vote for Duterte on Monday despite his vow to kill all criminals. "Our God is a God who loves everyone and hates sin. Duterte hates sin, not the sinner," she said.

The mother of two said she lost her wallet to petty thieves while commuting in Quezon City last year. She said her staff had also been mugged on a bus.

"Only Duterte has the guts, the political will to get things done," said Cobarrubias' 51-year-old businessman husband, Jimmy. The couple came to the rally in matching red shirts.

Duterte was poised to be the first president from the main southern island of Mindanao, which is mired in poverty from decades of conflict.

"Life is very hard. We are counting on him to help us," 40-year-old pirated DVD salesman Sowaiv Samporna told ABS-CBN News.

Samporna and his wife fled fighting in their home province of Lanao del Norte more than a decade ago and settled in a Manila slum to raise five children.

"I hope he can help me find a new job," Samporna said, adding he feared Duterte might shut down pirated software stalls in Quiapo district.

Giant pick up trucks and sports utility vehicles plastered with posters of the mayor surrounded a makeshift stage in Luneta, right in front of Quirino grandstand, where the country's last four presidents were sworn into office.

A long row of motorcycles doubled as a security cordon to keep supporters in red shirts in their designated areas.

Vendors hawked baller bracelets and shirts as the mayor's fans crowded beside his cardboard standee to take selfies.

Share prices closed lower for a third straight week on Friday with some investors unnerved over a perceived lack of clarity in Duterte's plans to sustain the economic turnaround started by Aquino.

The mayor has vowed to replicate his anti-crime campaign in Davao that made the city an economic hub in Mindanao.

But human rights groups said the peace was due to Duterte's tolerance of vigilante "death squads" that target even minors.

Duterte answered the death squad criticism with a vow to kill all criminals and pardon himself for murder. He also threatened to shut Congress if he is impeached.

He kept a comfortable lead over close rivals Sen. Grace Poe and administration bet Mar Roxas despite criticism over his cursing at Pope Francis, a revered figure in the predominantly Catholic nation, and joking about the rape of an Australian missionary.

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