MANILA, JAN. 14 -- The 80-year-old mother of a right-wing warlord, a popular folk singer and a renegade Army colonel are among those seeking local government offices in a violent and bloody election campaign that one newspaper columnist here described as "a survival course."

More than 150,000 candidates are competing for governorships, mayoral offices and town council seats in the Jan. 18 election, which has little to do with issues or policy but instead revives age-old feuds between competing family dynasties and political clans. The Commission on Elections could not say exactly how many positions were at stake, but a spokesman said the number was "probably" between 14,000 and 16,000.

The rivalries between provincial power blocs have resulted in a wave of election-related violence, including slayings, kidnapings, stabbings and a beheading.

Manila's daily newspapers counted at least 68 killed as of late Tuesday, including as many as 34 candidates. Among them was a progovernment mayoral candidate who was found shot, stabbed and beheaded earlier this week shortly after he disappeared in Nueva Vizcaya on northern Luzon island. An opposition mayoral candidate also was gunned down while she was addressing 3,000 people at a campaign rally Tuesday on Leyte island in the central Philippines.

{Gunmen shot and wounded three candidates in a Manila slum Thursday, The Associated Press reported. A pregnant woman was fatally shot in the same attack. Authorities also said three other candidates were killed earlier Thursday.}

{In another incident, the French ambassador to Manila was shot at late Thursday in what was believed to be the first direct attack on a foreign diplomat here, Reuter reported. Ambassador Jacques Le Blanc was not hurt in the incident, police and embassy officials said.}

The death toll from these democratic elections already has surpassed the casualty count from a coup attempt last Aug. 28, in which 55 persons died.

In addition to those killed, 24 candidates have been kidnaped, presumably by communist guerrillas who hold them briefly while extracting concessions or promising support in exchange for favors. Fifteen of the abductees were later freed. At least one candidate has committed suicide.

Max Soliven, publisher of the Philippine Star, decried the violence in a column last week. "If you ask me, this is no longer a local election campaign, but a survival course," he wrote. "The candidate still alive on the day the last ballot is counted is the one most likely to win."

The elections have been postponed in 10 of the country's 73 provinces, and the election commission has taken over direct supervision of the balloting in 30 towns and districts identified as "hot spots."

Nevertheless, officials insist that this campaign is relatively peaceful, at least when compared to previous elections. Gen. Fidel Ramos, the armed forces chief of staff, told reporters Monday that 104 people were slain in last year's congressional elections, 141 were killed in the February 1986 presidential election and 154 people lost their lives during campaigning for parlimentary seats in 1984.

Most Filipinos seem relatively unfazed by the violence. Eleven people were killed and more than 1,400 injured two weeks ago in violent New Year's Eve revelry. President Corazon Aquino inadvertently seemed to sum up the acceptance of at least some violence when, at the end of December, she implored: "Electoral violence and killings must stop. At the very least, they should be substantially reduced."

One Asian diplomat here said the violence "seems to be expected as part and parcel of local elections."

The election, once billed as Aquino's last chance to build a nationwide political base for her remaining four years in office, now seems unlikely to provide a measure of popular attitudes toward her. Almost every candidate running claims to be a supporter of the president. In the meantime, Aquino has endorsed only a handful of contenders and has confined her campaigning mainly to metropolitan Manila.

The results are also unlikely to provide a measure of Aquino's ability to govern this archipelago of 7,100 scattered islands. Candidates endorsed by the main political party in her ruling coalition are likely to win about three-quarters of all the offices, but that result is meaningless because those endorsed include some right-wing warlords whose loyalty to the government is questionable.

Analysts also will be watching to determine the influence of the communist New People's Army, which has stepped up its guerrilla attacks across the country, including murdering right-wing candidates. With the rebel forces said to be active in three-fourths of the country's provinces, some candidates reportedly have been purchasing communist "safe conduct passes" for a total of 10,000 pesos, or about $500 each.

With few issues in the campaign, much of the attention is focusing on a few heated races and on some of the colorful personalities.

In northern Cagayan Province, the home of opposition leader Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the leading candidate for governor appears to be Rodolfo Aguinaldo, a renegade Army colonel who quit the armed forces after endorsing a coup attempt last August. He has remained in command of a force of more than 1,000 loyal troops. One of Aguinaldo's opponents reportedly complained to the election commission that his rival was using intimidation by campaigning from atop an armored personnel carrier.