Philippines set for change

2010-06-09 10:29

Manila - Benigno Aquino will on Wednesday be proclaimed the next president of the Philippines after he achieved one of the most emphatic election wins in the Southeast Asian nation's history.

Aquino crushed his rivals in last month's election after promising to tackle the massive corruption and pervasive poverty that have long afflicted the sprawling archipelago of more than 90 million people.

The 50-year-old bachelor also drew on the enormous public support for his democracy hero parents, who remain revered for their efforts in ending the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

Aquino secured just over 15.2 million votes, or nearly 42% of the total number cast, according to final results released by parliament on Tuesday following the May 10 election.

Former president Joseph Estrada finished well behind in second place with nearly 9.5 million votes.

A joint session of parliament is due to convene at 06:00 GMT to formally ratify the results and proclaim Aquino the Philippines' 15th president.

Leaders seen uniting

He will begin his six years in office on June 30, taking over from the unpopular Gloria Arroyo, who is required by constitutional term limits to step down.

Reflecting the Philippines' chaotic brand of democracy, legislators said that Wednesday's proclamation proceedings could drag on for hours, with members of parliament allowed to voice their opinions.

However parliamentary leaders said they expected all sides of the political spectrum to eventually unite in backing the proclamation.

"I don't think anybody is going to stand up and question the quorum and spoil the party of the president-elect and vice president-elect," Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said on ABS-CBN television.

"It is now time to heal the wounds of the election. It is time to move forward."

Ironically, Estrada had the record for the biggest win in recent Philippine political history when he triumphed in the 1998 elections with 39% of the total votes.

Dramatic political story

He was ousted three years later, just half-way through his term, amid allegations of corruption for which he was later convicted.

But although his re-election bid failed, it offered the 73-year-old some form of personal redemption.
For Aquino, victory is another chapter in his family's dramatic political story.

His father, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, was shot dead in 1983 at Manila airport as he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against Marcos.

His mother, Corazon Aquino, took over from her martyred husband and led the "People Power" revolution that eventually toppled Marcos in 1986. She then served as president for six years.

Her death from cancer last August triggered a massive outpouring of support for the family that turned the son from a low-key politician to presidential frontrunner.

Team player

But his Liberal Party will be hamstrung in its efforts to implement reforms after its choice for the vice presidency, Mar Roxas, lost.

Estrada's running mate, Jejomar Binay, won the vice presidential contest and could potentially be a destabilising force for Aquino.

However Binay insisted on Wednesday he would be a positive influence in government.

"I am a team player and I am willing to work with the president. Whatever is asked of me (I will do)," Binay told AFP.

The Liberal Party will also not have a majority in either house of parliament.

Arroyo's Lakas Kampi CMD coalition will remain powerful in parliament, and the outgoing president won a seat in the lower house, where she could lead opposition to Aquino.