Millions vote in Philippine elections crucial to Duterte

Millions vote in Philippine elections crucial to Duterte
In this Thursday, May 9, 2019, photo, a man walks past election banners in the slum district of Tondo, Manila, Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's name is not on the ballot but Monday's mid-term elections are seen as a referendum on his phenomenal rise to power, marked by his gory anti-drug crackdown and his embrace of China. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Filipinos have begun voting in midterm elections highlighted by a showdown between President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies who aim to dominate the Senate and an opposition fighting for check and balance under a leader they regard as a looming dictator.

Nearly 62 million Filipinos have registered to choose among 43,500 candidates vying for about 18,000 congressional and local posts in Monday’s elections in one of Asia’s most rambunctious democracies.

The most crucial race is for 12 seats in the 24-member Senate, which Duterte wants to fill with allies to bolster his legislative agenda that includes the return of the death penalty.

Military and police forces are on full alert to respond to any violence, especially in security hotspots and help prevent cheating amid intense local political rivalries.