Despite almost daily new outrages over suggestions of killing opponents and participating in rape, opinion surveys show presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte leads among voters across all social classes in the Philippines presidential race.

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MANILA, Philippines — Gina Lopez is hardly the kind of person you’d expect to support a presidential candidate who has endorsed vigilante death squads, made disturbing comments about rape and vowed to kill his own kids if they ever took drugs.

As head of a prominent nonprofit focused on child welfare, education and the environment, she might be expected to back someone more moderate. But when Philippine voters go to the polls on May 9, she’s voting for Rodrigo Duterte, the tough-talking, foul-mouthed mayor of the southern city of Davao.

“What I like about him is that he is fearless — he does not care about anyone or anything, he does not say anything to pander to anyone. It’s why he gets in trouble,” said Lopez, chairwoman of the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation.

Over the past three months, even as Duterte has topped each offense with almost daily new outrages, opinion surveys show he has taken the lead among voters across all social classes and catapulted to the top of a five-way race. His supporters include business leaders, streetwalkers and gay activists — strange company for a candidate who has been denounced by Human Rights Watch and other like-minded groups.

A late entry in the race to replace Benigno Aquino III, who like all Philippine presidents can serve just one six-year term, Duterte wasn’t initially viewed as the favorite. He’s never held a national-level political office and had a relatively small campaign fund. His rivals appeared formidable: two senators, the current vice president and a former Cabinet minister from Aquino’s party who is the grandson of a former president.

Aquino has presided over a period of relative prosperity and stability. In the past few years, the Philippine economy has boomed. In a country long rife with graft, his administration stepped up anti-corruption efforts.

But some say he hasn’t gone far enough. And there have been high-profile blunders, including a deadly bus-hostage crisis, a slow response to a devastating typhoon in 2013, and the death of 44 special-forces troops in a botched terrorist raid. Roads in the capital, Manila, are clogged with traffic. Power outages plague the country.

Duterte has pledged to “solve crime and corruption” in three to six months. He’s vowed to dissolve Congress if it gets in the way. Confronted with accusations that he’s sanctioned death squads in Davao to carry out extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and other criminals, he’s responded by warning lawbreakers: “I would kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable.”

At the same time, he has unleashed a stream of shocking comments, particularly about women. In widely reported remarks, he described himself as a womanizer with two wives and two girlfriends — and said he saves money by housing the girlfriends in a cheap boardinghouse. He also was quoted as describing the gang rape and killing of an Australian missionary in a Philippine jail. The female victim, Duterte said, was beautiful, so he “should have been first.”

Political analysts say they can understand Dutarte’s appeal.

“People are eager to see transformational change. They feel that someone who will take the bull by the horns — that kind of executive is what’s needed,” said Gerard Finin, director and senior research fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu who studies Philippine politics.

Duterte’s appeal comes, in part, because his ideology doesn’t fit neatly in a box. He’s against legalizing divorce, for example, but has said he would consider supporting same-sex marriage. Although many women find his comments offensive, he championed the adoption of a wide-ranging women’s rights ordinance in Davao.

It’s not just on the domestic front that Duterte is pledging bold action. He promised to take on China if the Philippines prevails in an international tribunal over claims in the South China Sea and Beijing doesn’t abide by the decision or open talks.

“I will ride a Jet Ski and plant the Philippine flag there in their port,” Duterte said.

Although the United States and the Philippines are longtime allies, Duterte sees Washington as a less-than-reliable friend. Last year, before announcing his candidacy, he told visiting military attaches from both China and the United States that “America would never die for us.”

Such brashness has earned Duterte comparisons to a certain presidential contender in the United States.

“This guy makes Trump look like an angel,” says Lynn White III, an emeritus professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and author of a 2014 book, “Philippine Politics: Possibilities and Problems in a Localist Democracy.”

To be sure, Philippine voters have long been attracted to strongman-style leaders. Ferdinand Marcos, who was elected president in 1965 and later ruled the country as a dictator, campaigned as a World War II hero and as someone, White noted, who “killed a man and advertised the fact.” More recently, Joseph Estrada, who was president from 1998 to 2001, was an action-film star.