Duterte to rivals: Let's begin the healing now

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a press conference after casting his vote in Davao City on Monday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

DAVAO CITY (UPDATE) - Maverick Mayor Rodrigo Duterte held a commanding lead in preliminary results of Monday's presidential elections, as he sought to reconcile a nation fractured by a vicious campaign.

The 71-year-old Duterte had 11.5 million votes as of 9:19 p.m., 4.9 million votes ahead of second-placer Senator Grace Poe, based on 56.98% of registered voters.

He described the grueling campaign that put him on the spot over alleged summary executions as "virulent."

"I would like to reach my hand to my opponents let us begin the healing now," Duterte told reporters after he cast his vote.

But government agents conspiring with criminal gangs and drug lords now have to choose between these: "retire or die."

Duterte also warned criminals that they would be shot unless they change their ways, maintaining the tough rhetoric that catapulted him past rivals who have the backing of powerful political machineries.

Addressing police, he said: "You go out and hunt for them, arrest them and if they put up a good fight and refuse to surrender, if you fear your life is in jeopardy, shoot. You have my authority."

Any government that fails to solve the crime scourge "must go out," he said.

SOCIALIST LEADER

Duterte, who described himself as a "socialist" leader, said he would hasten the overhaul of the country's decaying infrastructure system, that has become a source of daily misery for motorists and commuters.

"I will make it faster," Duterte told reporters, when asked about the Public-Private Partnership program (PPP).

"Everything that is good for the Filipino will be continued," added Duterte.

READ: Duterte wants faster infra push, eyes Dureza in Cabinet

He said Washington would need to follow Manila’s lead in implementing a military pact that aimed to grant American soldiers wider access to Philippine bases.

READ: US must follow Philippines' lead in EDCA: Duterte

Duterte said he was also considering appointing long-time friend and former presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza to his cabinet.

Former presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza. File Photo

MINDANAO'S SON

Duterte was poised to become the first president from the main southern island of Mindanao, which is racked by decades of poverty and conflict.

A swarm of red-clad supporters raised their clenched fists in the air to welcome Duterte in his voting precinct in suburban Matina district.

Crowds who waited under searing temperatures ogled from behind steel bar windows as Duterte shaded his ballot, seated on a wooden chair with his legs crossed.

Sixty-one-year old Nora Sacedo took a break from work in Washington state just to vote for Duterte as president and his daughter Sara as mayor of the southern city.

"I experienced what a good man he is," the mother of five, who was wearing a red shirt and cap, told ABS-CBN News.

Sacedo said Duterte paid for her policeman husband's medical bills after he was severely injured in a bomb attack in the city in 1992.

"He even gave me money to buy milk for my newborn son. He saw the money I had in my pocket was soaked in blood," she said.

Sacedo said her son who got the milk money from the mayor voted for him as president.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

Duterte inherits an economy that has grown at record pace, but whose gains have not been felt by the poorest of the poor.

Analysts predict gross national product will grow by as much as 6.5 percent this year after last year's 5.8 percent growth.

He is also tasked with ending decades of insurgency in the south after a peace pact with the country's largest Muslim rebel group failed to pass in Congress under incumbent Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.

The peace process with Muslim rebels has been stalled for a decade.

But the mayor seemed undaunted by the task. He ended his day Monday to a loud send-off by supporters at a Davao City hotel who chanted his name as he boarded his black sports utility vehicle.

"I am hopeful and I pray to God. If God wants me there, I will accept it. If God doesn't want me there, I will accept it. I will retire from public life," he said.

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