Philippine President Benigno Aquino yesterday called on the trailing presidential candidates to unite against front runner Rodrigo Duterte, in a sensational finale to one of the nation’s most divisive election campaigns. Aquino has warned Duterte is a dictator in the making, and made the plea after polling showed the favourite had kept a huge lead ahead of Monday’s elections despite allegations he has overseen vigilante death squads and a spate of controversies over vulgar campaign speeches. The whole point is to get even two of them to unite ... then we have more than 40 per cent Benigno Aqunio Aquino told CNN Philippines in an exclusive interview that he was trying to get the other four presidential candidates to unite to defeat Duterte, who he said was likely to get 30 per cent of the vote. “The whole point is to get even two of them to unite ... then we have more than 40 per cent,” Aquino said. In the Philippines, a president is elected simply by who gets the most votes. Duterte has 33 per cent support, with Senator Grace Poe next at 22 per cent and administration pick Mar Roxas at 20 per cent, according to the latest poll released yesterday. Aquino said he had talked to Roxas, his long-time friend and fellow Liberal Party stalwart, and sent a text message to Poe to try and get them to forge an 11th-hour partnership. If one of the candidates did withdraw, they would ask Filipinos to instead vote for the other, but there are no guarantees they would do so. Roxas gave a short speech yesterday, saying he was ready for talks with Poe. “I call for unity, I call for decency, I call for democracy,” Roxas said, without saying whether he would be prepared to back out. Poe said on Thursday she had no intention of pulling out. Her media team said Poe would release a statement on Roxas’s call for dialogue. Duterte, 71, has gained support across all sectors of society by fashioning himself as an anti-establishment politician who can achieve quick fixes to deep-rooted problems, particularly crime. The mayor of the southern city of Davao has vowed to end crime within six months of his presidency by ordering security forces to go on a killing spree. He has said he would kill tens of thousands of criminals, then pardon himself if found guilty of mass murder. Duterte has been accused of running vigilante squads in Davao that have killed more than 1,000 suspected criminals. At times he has boasted about his involvement but on other occasions denied any links to the vigilantes. A self-confessed serial adulterer, the 71-year-old also generated outrage last month when he joked at a campaign rally that he had wanted to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who was sexually assaulted and murdered in a 1989 Philippine prison riot. Aquino, whose mother led the 1986 “People Power” revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos, said the Philippines was in danger of repeating history if Duterte was elected. “We won’t be able to run if we make a U-turn back to a martial-law style,” Aquino said. “We will go back to a Marcos-style martial law where he will monopolise the decision making.” Duterte’s campaign manager yesterday described the election as a “war of the classes”. “All the innuendos, attacks, and mud thrown at us and our candidate, are acts of desperation, of panic and of cowardice,” Leoncio Evasco said.