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MANILA, Philippines – Philippine voters on Monday will elect a successor to President Benigno Aquino III, choosing from among a diverse cast of candidates.
A look at the five presidential hopefuls, with their positions on the South China Sea territorial disputes, the U.S. pivot to Asia and ending decades of communist and Muslim insurgencies:
Elected vice president in 2010, Jejomar Binay was a human rights lawyer who helped fight dictator Ferdinand Marcos before serving as a longtime mayor of Manila's financial district. Many regarded him as a strong contender for the presidency, but corruption allegations, which he denies, sullied his image. The 73-year-old may be charged with corruption when his vice presidential term ends.
Binay backs talks with China on territorial rifts and a stronger U.S. military presence. He regards peace talks as the best way to end decades of Muslim and communist insurgencies.
A former trial court judge and immigration commissioner, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer in 2014 but proceeded to run for president after saying she has recovered. Unable to campaign fully due to her health condition, the 70-year-old Santiago has trailed in pre-election polls.
She was elected to serve as an International Criminal Court judge but passed the chance due to illness. The tough-talking senator says the Philippines should not be fully dependent on the U.S. militarily and backs a strengthening of the local military amid the sea dispute with Beijing.
Despite his threats to kill criminals, obscene remarks and cursing of Pope Francis, Davao city Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, 71, has topped the pre-election polls. His pledge to end crime nationwide in three to six months has resonated among crime-weary Filipinos, but has been dismissed by police as undoable. The president has campaigned against Duterte after the latter threatened to close Congress in case he wins and faces impeachment.
Duterte is open to talks with China on the sea feud and describes himself as a socialist wary of the U.S.-Philippine security alliance. Communist rebels, he says, can play a role in his government if he wins.
A political neophyte, Sen. Grace Poe, 47, banks on the celebrity name she inherited from her movie parents, who adopted her after she was found abandoned as a newborn in a church. Her being a foundling and a naturalized American citizen once sparked attempts to nullify her candidacy in legal challenges that she hurdled.
The former preschool teacher backs Aquino's policy on the sea rifts and an arbitration complaint against China, although she says she'll try to engage Beijing constructively. If she wins, Poe says she'll hold talks with communist rebels.
A U.S.-educated investment banker and the richest Philippine presidential aspirant, Mar Roxas, 58, is banking on his clean image in a country where two presidents have been forced out and a third remains in detention on alleged corruption.
President Benigno Aquino III has endorsed the candidacy of Roxas, who in turn vows to continue his "straight path" style of leadership and support most of his policies, including allowing U.S. forces access to local military camps amid the sea feud with China. Roxas, however, doesn't favor the Philippines joining the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership, fearing it will adversely impact local agriculture.