At St. Francis of Assisi church in Manila, parishioners kneel and bow their heads in prayer at Sunday mass as the lector appeals for a safe, peaceful and honest presidential election.

The prayer — recited in Tagalog and English to a nation of some 85 million Catholics — also seeks deliverance from "dishonesty, lies and all distortion of truth."

The May 9 election to pick the nation's president, vice president and senators — and to fill 300 lower house seats and 18,000 local posts — is seen as highly consequential, with the son of an ousted dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, pitted against an incumbent vice president, Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo.