Philippines: Aquino set for landslide win

Benigno Aquino was set to be confirmed as the next Philippine president with overwhelming majority.

Updated: May 11, 2010, 11:40 AM IST

Manila: Benigno Aquino was set to be confirmed as the next Philippine president on Tuesday after steamrolling his rivals in national elections with a promise to fight corruption and reduce poverty.

One of his main rivals, property magnate Manny Villar, conceded Tuesday and Aquino himself was expected to hold a news conference to claim victory after an automated count showed him grabbing 40 percent of the vote.

"The Filipino people have decided," a glum-looking Villar told a news conference. "I congratulate Senator Noynoy Aquino for his victory."

Millions of Filipinos turned out to vote on Monday in the country`s first automated vote, which was rattled by deadly bouts of violence and complaints about problems with ballot-counting machines that led to long queues.

Villar, like Aquino a member of the senate, was running second in the race until a late surge by former president Joseph Estrada nudged Villar into third.

Estrada had just 25 percent with more than half the votes counted, giving Aquino an apparently insurmountable lead.

Aquino, 50, electrified the country during a tumultuous election campaign with his mantra of clean government, following nearly a decade of rule under President Gloria Arroyo marred by allegations of enormous graft.

He is the son of the Southeast Asian nation`s most revered democracy heroes, and he deftly tapped into popular sentiment for his parents by pledging a new style of clean government.

His mother, Corazon Aquino, led the "People Power" revolution that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and then served as president.

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

The bespectacled Aquino was a latecomer to the presidential race, declaring his candidacy only after his mother`s death from cancer last August plunged the country into mourning and demonstrated the power of the family name.

About 75 percent of the 50 million eligible voters turned up at polling stations on Monday, reflecting Filipinos` deep commitment to democracy and their desire to have a say in the country`s future.

But the violence that always plagues Philippine politics inevitably flared.

More than 17,000 positions were at stake -- from president down to municipal council seats -- and local politicians who are infamous for using their "private armies" to eliminate rivals or intimidate voters were out in force.

Ten people were killed on polling day, bringing the death toll from election-related violence over the past four months to at least 40, according to police statistics.

Another six were killed Tuesday by communist guerillas who have been staging sporadic attacks on security forces after being forced into small pockets of activity in the archipelago of 90 million people.

Two soldiers, two government militiamen, an election official and the poll watcher of a local candidate were killed in the attack in the restive Mindanao region, said local military commander Colonel Romeo Calizo.

Despite glitches, analysts said the automated polls has shaken up the political system by delivering quick results for Filipinos, who often had to wait weeks for the winner to be known under the old manual counting system.

The computerisation reduces opportunities to manipulate the vote particularly in outlying provinces, where fake votes were stuffed into ballot boxes and tallies doctored in past elections.

"The amazing thing is that we voted yesterday and this morning, we have a new president," Raul Pangalangan, a prominent commentator and legal expert from the University of the Philippines, said on local network ABS-CBN.

Bureau Report