Philippines live updates: Polls closed after millions queued for hours

credit…Jess Aznar for The New York Times

Election violence erupted in the Philippines at the weekend and on Monday after a shooting between two groups linked to the mayor’s opponents left four dead and a grenade attack wounded nine others.

The shooting took place on Sunday in the northern province of Ilocos Sur. Separately, local police in the southern town of Maguindanao said five grenades were fired at a town hall, leading to an exchange of fire with police. In Lanao del Sur, videos on social media showed people breaking into a polling station to destroy ballot papers and machines. An election official said the government was investigating the incident.

Violence is rampant during elections in the Philippines, where the government deployed 270,000 police and military personnel on Monday to thwart such attacks.

Tight security measures appeared in primary schools that were converted into polling stations, and there were reports that voting machines had broken down and that there was difficulty in locating their names on voter registration lists. At a press conference, Marlon Caskego, an election official, said the government had counted 143 defective machines across the country. He said these were mostly “individual accidents,” and he blamed old equipment for the problem.

Later in the day, the Elections Commissioner, Jorge Garcia, said that more than 1,800 polling machines were out of order and that there were 1,100 spare machines across the country.

Analysts and election observers have described the race between Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo as an existential battle for the soul of the country, with consequences that cannot be overstated.

Chester Cabalza, founder of the Manila-based International Research Institute for Development and Security Cooperation, said the vote was not just about the next president, but about “the choice between good governance in transparent government or leadership continuity tainted by lies and review history.”

Carl Merincello, a Manila voter who works in a construction company, brought his wife and two young daughters to Ms. Robredo’s last election rally in Manila’s financial district on Saturday. By mid-morning Monday, he said, he had cast his vote for Hope.

“This was definitely for the kids. This was one of the ways, really, for me to ensure a brighter future for children and their generation,” said Mr. Merincello.

It took voters between 45 minutes and an hour to cast their ballots in a constituency outside of Manila, as the line curved about a mile under the scorching tropical sun. Officials tried to enforce social distancing rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but voters were crowded at many polling stations.

Apart from the top job, thousands of local officials, mayors and senators are also running in the Philippines. There are more than 65 million registered voters in the country – a record number – and election officials said polling stations will be open until 7 p.m.