To elect the next president and some 18,000 other officials of all levels of government, a total of 37,211 polling centers across the Philippines opened at 6 a.m. local time for the 65.7 million eligible voters and will close at 7 p.m. local time.
MANILA, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Filipinos began voting Monday morning to elect their next president and some 18,000 other officials of all levels of government.
A total of 37,211 polling centers across the country opened at 6 a.m. local time (2200 GMT Sunday) for the 65.7 million eligible voters and will close at 7 p.m. local time (1100 GMT).
Also to be elected are the vice president, 12 senators, more than 300 members of the House of Representatives, and over 17,000 local officials.
Presidential candidate frontrunner and former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 64, who is the son of former President Ferdinand Marcos, cast his vote in the morning at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Elementary School in Batac City, Ilocos Norte province, north of main Luzon island.
His main rival and incumbent Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, 57, will cast the ballot in her hometown of Naga City of Bocol region, south of Luzon island.
Eight other candidates trail behind Marcos and Robredo, including boxing icon-turned-senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, 43; Manila City Mayor and former actor Francisco Domagoso, 47; and former-national-police-chief-turned senator Panfilo Lacson, 73.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, 43, the daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, leads the vice-presidential race. Senators Vicente Sotto, 73, and Francis Pangilinan, 58, trail Carpio who teamed up with Marcos.
John Rex Laudiangco, acting spokesperson of the Commission on Elections, said before the start of the election that it's "all systems go" and the election would open at 6 a.m. amid reports of two explosions in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Sunday night.
He said the situation is under control. More security forces were sent to the area.
The Commission on Election commissioner George Garcia did not cite a definite date for the proclamation of president and vice president, saying partial and unofficial results for the highest posts will be released before the Congress convenes.
"Usually, before the Congress convenes, partial-unofficial results are being released because there are transparency servers who pass voting results to citizen arms," Garcia said.
Whoever wins the presidential election will have to struggle with problems confronting the country of 110 million people, including the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, widespread poverty, ballooning debt, increasing unemployment, and decades-long insurgencies.
The government has put 45,000 soldiers and 60,000 police officers in charge of maintaining order during the elections. An additional 12,000 police force is on stand-by if violence breaks out in some areas.
Over the weekend, Philippine National Police acting chief General Vicente Danao warned that the police would use the "full force of the law" on groups that plan to destabilize the election.
National police spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said the police has recorded 53 cases of election-related incidents, such as grave threats, life threats, and physical injuries, since the start of the election period in January.
The Commission on Election has tagged 104 municipalities and 14 cities as "hot spots" due to armed groups and intense political rivalry, which could trigger election violence.