The Philippines is heading to the polls amid a tightened security presence, with close to 55 million eligible voters set to choose their next president, vice president and thousands of other officials on Monday (9 May), with outspoken political firebrand, Rodrigo Duterte, widely seen as frontrunner for the presidential post.

Over 100,000 security personnel have been deployed across the country as security is tightened for polling day. According to the BBC, at least 15 people have been killed in the run-up to the polls, including an incident on Monday which saw seven people shot dead in an ambush by unknown gunmen, in the town of Rosario, in Cavite province, south of Manila.

Duterte, the outspoken mayor of Davao city, is fighting against four others for the top post. If victorious, he could be the first president hailing from the southern island of Mindanao, although his campaign has witnessed some dramatic moments, notably over his recent comments on women. Polling stations originally opened at 6am local time and will close later on Monday at 5pm.

The 71-year-old leader had previously been accused of turning a blind eye to the extrajudicial killing of more than 1,000 suspected criminals in Davao. He has promised to kill tens of thousands of criminals if he wins the presidency and has even vowed to establish a one-man rule if lawmakers revolt.

In his final campaign stretch on Saturday (7 May), he said: "Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because as the mayor, I'd kill you." The latest comments follow his proposed mass execution of 100,000 suspected criminals whose remains would be dumped "in Manila Bay", according to a recent report by Al Jazeera

Duterte's closest rivals, Grace Poe and Manuel Roxas - who is backed by current President Benigno Aquina - are lingering in second place in official poll surveys.

Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine presidential candidate
Duterte had previously been condemned for comments about a murder and rape incident from 1989 during his presidential campaign. Romeo Ranoco/Reuters