Duterte set to fortify power as allies near poll win

Former Congressman and now opposition senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares addresses the crowd during an election rally in a city northeast of Manila Philippines

Former Congressman and now opposition senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares addresses the crowd during an election rally in a city northeast of Manila Philippines

Duterte's deadly crackdown on narcotics has drawn worldwide censure, but is central to the populist appeal that has buoyed his remarkable popularity among Filipinos since taking the presidency in 2016.

The most crucial race is for 12 seats in the 24-member Senate, which Duterte wants to fill with allies to bolster his legislative agenda that includes the return of the death penalty.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's name is not on the ballot but Monday's mid-term elections are seen as a referendum on his phenomenal rise to power, marked by his gory anti-drug crackdown and his embrace of China.

Historically, the nation's 24 senators - who serve six-year terms - have had a reputation for being more independent-minded than the lower house.

The Philippines outlawed capital punishment in 1987, reinstated it six years later and then abolished again in 2006.

More than 18,000 positions were at stake in the vote, primarily local posts, but also half the Senate and almost 300 seats in the lower House of Representatives.

The opening of the polls were accompanied by isolated outbursts of violence, which is not unusual in the Philippines' frequently bloody competition for elected posts.

"I support their programs, including the anti-drug campaign. but I wish the bloodshed would stop", she adding, echoing many Filipinos' nuanced backing of the crackdown.

Early on Monday nine people were shot and wounded during a confrontation at a polling station on the restive southern island of Jolo, which is home to insurgents and powerful local clans, according to the military.

The 73-year-old hit the campaign trail to get his supporters in the Senate, giving two-hour speeches at late-night rallies and routinely insulting their opponents - calling one a "faggot" and accusing another of lawyering for communist guerrillas. She is now mayor of Davao City, a post previously held by her father, and could follow in his footsteps to run for president in 2022.

Her younger brother Sebastian is seeking, unopposed, the city's vice-mayoral seat, while Duterte's eldest son Paolo is standing for a seat in the lower House of Representatives.

"Now if I'm repudiated by the loss of all candidates coming from the Hugpong slate, that would indicate the majority of people do not like me", he added.