(Reuters) – Campaigning kicked off in the Philippines on Tuesday ahead of an election on May 9 to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte, who is limited to a single term, by law.
Below are details about the key candidates for the presidency, starting with the current leader in poll surveys:
FERDINAND “BONGBONG” MARCOS JR
The namesake of the late dictator, Marcos, 64, is a former governor, congressman and senator who has emerged as a clear frontrunner in opinion polls.
Since returning to the Philippines in 1991 from exile after his father’s overthrow, the Marcos family has sought to rebuild an image tainted by the elder Marcos’ often brutal rule and the plunder of billions of dollars of wealth.
Known as “Bongbong”, Marcos Jr. has named Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte’s daughter, as his candidate for vice president. However, the vice president is elected separately.
Popular with many younger people who were born after his father’s dictatorship, Marcos claims to offer a “unifying” brand of leadership.
Observers have attributed his lead in polls to a strong presence on social media, one that critics say is attempting to rewrite the family’s controversial history.
Vice President Robredo, 56, is the leader of the opposition and the only female candidate.
A former human rights lawyer, she served as Duterte’s housing minister but quit after being excluded from cabinet meetings and has become one his staunchest critics.
After condemning what she called “senseless killings” in his war on drugs, she was appointed Duterte’s “drugs tsar”, but he sacked her after just 18 days.
Robredo is pressing for public sector transparency and has vowed to lead a government that cares for the people and to bolster the medical system.
Should Robredo win, she would be the third woman to lead the Philippines after democracy champion Corazon Aquino in 1986 and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001.
She is running with Francis Pangilinan, a lawyer and senator, and is currently in second place in the polls.
FRANCISCO “ISKO MORENO” DOMAGOSO
The mayor of Manila and former movie heart-throb grew up in the slums, scrapping for leftover food in restaurants and collecting junk to help his parents.
Better known by his screen name Isko Moreno, the 47-year-old was spotted by a talent scout and went on to become a matinee idol.
He became a city council member in 1998 and Manila’s vice-mayor for three terms before an unsuccessful run as senator. He was elected Manila mayor in 2019, beating incumbent and deposed former president Joseph Estrada.
Domagoso has promised zero tolerance of Chinese maritime aggression in the South China Sea and his economic agenda centres on housing, labour, health and infrastructure.
Domagoso has announced his running mate is Willie Ong, a doctor who has 16 million followers on Facebook looking for free medical advice.
Boxing icon Pacquiao, 43, has vowed to jail corrupt officials and has criticised Duterte’s close relationship with China.
The only man to hold world titles in eight different divisions, Pacquiao retired from boxing in September after the sport brought him huge riches to propel him from humble beginnings as a dirt-poor youngster doing odd jobs to survive.
He is a senator who previously served two terms as congressman and is currently tied with Domagoso in the polls.
Pacquiao was until recently one of Duterte’s staunchest supporters, backing his war on drugs and efforts to restore the death penalty, but their relationship has soured.
He has pledged to improve the healthcare system, eradicate corruption, spur economic growth and provide housing for the poor.
His running mate is Jose Atienza, a congressman and former environment minister.
Lacson, 73, is a senator who made an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004 and is currently trailing in most polls.
A former national police chief, Lacson became a fugitive in 2010 for more than a year after being charged as the mastermind in the murders of a publicist and his driver 20 years earlier. He was later cleared by the Supreme Court.
Lacson has promised to rid the government of corrupt officials, invest in healthcare and support small businesses.
Lacson’s running mate is Vicente Sotto, the senate president and a former comedian.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan)