Aquino grabs early lead in Philippine presidential elections


MANILA, May 11 – Opposition Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III surged to an early lead in a nine-cornered presidential race in the Philippines’ first ever automated elections held on Monday, piling up more than four million votes to his closest rival. In the first few hours of counting, Aquino, only son of the late former president Corazon C. Aquino, and assassinated opposition Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., garnered over 12.7 million votes as against former president Joseph E. Estrada who got 8.5 million votes.

On Tuesday, four presidential candidates conceded to Aquino in the hotly contested elections that drew over 40 million Filipinos who cast their votes in the country’s first automated polls.

First to concede was Senator Manuel Villar, standard bearer of the Nacionalista Party. He was followed by independent bet, Senator Richard Gordon; former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro of the Lakas Kampi of the administration party; and JC de los Reyes of Kapatiran Party.

The four presidential bets said they were ready to support Aquino, who at 50 is still single, making him the Philippines’ first bachelor president once proclaimed by Congress as the country’s 15th president.

Both Villar and Gordon said in their separate statements that “the people have spoken” and congratulated Aquino as the nation’s next leader.

"The Filipino people have decided. It is clear that despite our efforts, we were not blessed to win in Monday’s elections]," Villar said in a live televised message reading a prepared statement before members of the press in his headquarters in suburban Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila this morning.

"I face you now to accept this decision, to respect the voice of the Filipino people]," Villar added.

Before the elections, Villar was Aquino’s closest rival until he was dislodged by Estrada.

"I fought a good fight…I congratulate Senator Noynoy Aquino on his victory. The challenges he and our country face are enormous and we should all work together," Villar said.

For his part, Gordon asked his supporters to “support the new government.”

For Teodoro, cousin of Aquino, said he might seek another position “if there would be a new system of government” – apparently referring to the parliamentary form of government.

In a related development, the Philippine National Police (PNP) assessing the just-concluded polls, said the election was generally “peaceful” marred by isolated cases of election-violence during the 200-day campaign to elect a president, vice-president, members of Congress, local officials such as governors, vice-governors, mayors, vice mayors, and councilors throughout the Philippine archipelago composed of 7,107 islands, the second largest archipelagic nation in the world, next to Indonesia. The election violent incidents were attributed to intense political rivalries at the local level.

The PNP reported that during the election period, it recorded 105 incidents, 60 percent decrease compared to the 168 incidents in the 2004 elections and 73.3 percent less to the 2007 polls.

The police said that 27 people were killed and 41 others were wounded in this year’s national elections.

Despite the significant decrease in the number of casualties, the PNP regards each casualty as one too many, thus utmost efforts are being exerted to bring all perpetrators before the bar of justice.

Asia, PoliticsBen Cal