MANILA : 'Widow Candidate' tradition in Philippines' very deadly polls.

Gertrudes Batocabe never wanted to enter the Philippines cutthroat politics, but after her husband was shot dead, allegedly by a rival in this weeks midterm election, she felt bound to take his place.

''It's not really automatic that the wife takes over, but in this case I cannot see my opponents sitting down [quitting] she told AFP, holding back tears.

''I have a lot of things to do for Rodel, for the people of Daraga,'' she said, referring to her husband and the central city where she is running for mayor.

In taking over the candidacy, Batocabe was among the least half a dozen women standing in for their slain husbands this year - a long tradition in the Philippines notoriously deadly politics.

Dozens of people, including candidates and their supporters, routinely get killed in the fierce competition for elected posts that are a source of wealth in a nation with deep poverty.

Over 18,000 seats, ranging from local councils to the upper house Senate, are up for grabs when the nation's more than 61 million voters are called to cast ballots today, this Monday.

One widow styled her campaign as a quest for justice for her husband, who was murdered last year after announcing plans to run for mayor in Trece Martites, a city of south Manila.

''My name is Gemma Lubigan. I will take up the fight of Vice-Mayor Alex Lubigan,'' she told a cheering crowd at a recent campaign rally.

A political rival, the sitting mayor of Tece Martires, was initially fingered as a suspect, but prosecutors have declined to file charges.

Political-widowhood reached its apogee in the Philippines in 1986, when Corazon Aquino took power after a bloodless popular revolt that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The upheaval was triggered by the 1983 assassination of her opposition leader husband Benigno Aquino at the hands of the security forces loyal to Marcos, forcing her into politics.

In the Philippines, widow candidates carry a powerful aura of suffering and perseverance that resonates with the voters in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation, experts say.

''It works especially in the Philippines context because widowhood has symbolic elements that are very much valued in politics,'' said University of the Philippines political science professor Jean Franco told AFP.


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