MANILA (Reuters) - An outspoken mayor running for the Philippine presidency on promises of a crackdown on crime and drugs has increased his lead in an opinion poll released on Sunday, just two weeks away from the election.
Rodrigo Duterte was the number one choice of 34 percent of Filipinos in the Pulse Asia survey, gaining by two percentage points from last week and widening the gap from his closest rival Senator Grace Poe.
Poe, the adopted daughter of movie stars, slipped from 25 percent to 22 percent support among the 4,000 people polled from April 12-17.
Duterte’s image as a gun-toting provincial hard man who tackles crime by petrifying would-be offenders is endearing him to many Filipinos.
The former prosecutor has promised to end drugs, crime and graft within six months if elected and has voiced support for vigilantism and extra-judicial killing of criminals in Davao City, where he is mayor.
His rating will be a big boost to his campaign as it comes just a few hours ahead of Sunday’s final televised debate between the candidates.
It follows a tricky week for Duterte, who has been trying to manage the fallout from controversial remarks he made at a rally about an Australian missionary murdered and raped during a 1989 prison riot.
A video clip of the comment surfaced online last weekend and caused an uproar. He initially refused to say sorry but later apologized, insisting he was not joking but was simply expressing anger using “gutter language”.
It was unclear whether the rape comment had impacted views of the respondents as news about it emerged on and around the final day the survey was taken.
It showed Vice President Jejomar Binay slipping one point to 19 percent and Manuel Roxas, who is backed by outgoing President Benigno Aquino, staying at 18 percent. About 54 million Filipinos are eligible to vote in the May 9 elections.
Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Christopher Cushing