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MANILA, Philippines – Philippine presidential favourite Rodrigo Duterte's vague economic plans and threats to kill thousands of criminals are spooking the financial markets, with one business leader warning on Tuesday, May 3, the trash-talking politician would bring anarchy.
The key Philippine Stock Exchange index fell on Tuesday for the fifth consecutive day, a stretch that began after Duterte made a speech before top business leaders in which he joked about his penis and vowed to pardon himself for mass murder.
Ramon del Rosario, head of the prestigious Makati Business Club that hosted Duterte last week, wrote a column Tuesday in the Philippine Daily Inquirer criticizing the candidate's "distinct lack of respect for the rule of law".
"Without the rule of law, there will be chaos and anarchy, and no confidence in our country. Without confidence, there will be no investments, and without investments, there will be no jobs," del Rosario wrote.
With the key stock exchange index down 1.62% since Duterte's speech, analysts said investors were nervously waiting to learn more about his economic policies.
"They are not sure about his economic platform because Duterte has always emphasised his campaign on corruption and not what he would do about the economy," research chief April Lee Tan of Manila-based securities firm COL Financial told the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"That uncertainty is causing a lot of investors to stay on the sidelines and wait and see how a Duterte presidency would pan out."
Duterte responded to feedback from the Philippines' prominent businessmen by admitting he wasn't an expert on economic policies, which was why he planned to seek the help of the 'economic minds of the country' should he win on May 9. He said he would be willing to match the salaries that these economic experts get in the private sector to entice them to work for government.
Duterte, 71, enjoys a double-digit lead in the polls over 4 opponents ahead of Monday's national elections.
This is despite shocking the political establishment with his profanity-laced speeches, which have included cursing the pope and a joke about raping an Australian missionary who was murdered in a 1989 prison riot.
Analysts say his promises of quick fixes to crime and other deep-rooted problems resonate with voters who feel the six-percent economic growth delivered under President Benigno Aquino has failed to improve their lives.
Duterte has been the mayor of the major southern city of Davao for more than two decades. He claims to have fixed crime and thus enabled businesses to succeed there by a ruthless crackdown on criminals.
His critics say Davao is not the utopian society portrayed by Duterte, and point to vigilante death squads that have killed more than 1,000 people there as an example of what the rest of the country can expect if he becomes president.
Aquino, who is limited by the constitution to a single 6-year term, warned last week in a thinly-veiled reference to Duterte that the country risked falling into dictatorship.
Duterte campaign manager Leoncio Evasco on Tuesday accused the Aquino government of orchestrating a "vilification campaign" against the front-runner. – Rappler.com