LA Times

In the Philippines, ‘a government with heart’ versus the rule of the fist

The Philippines’ presidential elections are on Monday, and the country is in the grip of election fever. In Manila, campaign posters flutter from overpasses, newspapers carry breathless headlines about polls, and coffee shops are abuzz with conversations about the country’s future.

On a recent scorching-hot morning, about 30 blue-and-white-clad campaigners for presidential candidate Grace Poe blazed through the New Pritil Public Market — a sprawling bazaar in an impoverished quarter of the Philippines’ capital city — distributing T-shirts, rubber bracelets, aprons and handheld fans bearing the candidate’s smiling visage.

“We’re optimists, we’re very hopeful,” said Malu Gamboa, the 47-year-old head of the group, as vendors and shoppers swarmed the volunteers, grasping for merchandise. “It’s been the most positive campaign. We’re just really, really hopeful.”

Yet the two front-runners in the race could not be more different, and the flurry of colorful, kinetic campaigns belies darker political divides. Poe, a first-term senator and former U.S. citizen, has made compassion and inclusive growth pillars of her campaign; her campaign slogan is “Government with a Heart.”

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