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NEWS UPDATES 11 May 2010

Philippine Elections: Aquino heads for a landslide

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Sen. Benigno Aquino III, whose parents fought to topple the Philippines' decade-long dictatorship, promised Tuesday to fulfill his campaign promise to fight corruption as he headed for a landslide victory in the presidential elections, theAssociated Press reported.

" I'll have the corrupt arrested," Aquino, 50, told a news conference in his first comments since Monday's polls. Massive corruption has long dogged the Philippines, tainting electoral politics and skimming billions of public funds in a country where a third of the population lives on a $1 a day.

Aquino - whose father was assassinated while opposing Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship and whose mother led the 1986 "people power" revolt that restored democracy - was leading the nine-candidate presidential race with 40.19 percent of the votes from about 78 percent of the precincts, while his closest rival, ousted President Joseph Estrada, had 25.46 percent.

There is no runoff in the Philippines, home to 90 million people, and whoever has the most votes is declared winner.

Despite glitches with new computerized counting machines and violence that claimed at least 12 lives, election officials hailed Monday's vote as a success in a country where poll fraud allegations have marred previous contests. Turnout was 75 percent among about 50 million eligible voters, the Elections Commission said.

Aquino campaigned on a strong anti-graft platform, promising to start prosecuting corrupt officials within weeks of his presidency and restore integrity to Congress and the judiciary.

In a bid to save money, Aquino told The Associated Press that he would avoid foreign trips and trim the Cabinet, adding he hopes the days when Filipinos have to resort to street protests to address government ills are over.

Those promises struck a chord in the Philippines, where Aquino tapped into a national yearning for an honest leader after nine years of outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's scandal-tainted administration that was rocked by coup attempts and protests.

Arroyo was accused of vote-rigging in 2004 and implicated in several scandals that led to coup attempts and moves to impeach her. Calls for her prosecution have been an important campaign issue.

But Aquino's political appeal largely stems from that of his parents.

It was only after former President Corazon Aquino died of cancer last August that her son, a quiet lawmaker and bachelor, decided to run, spurred by the massive outpouring of national grief for the leader who helped oust Marcos in 1986. She had inherited the mantle of her husband, Benigno Aquino Jr., an opposition senator gunned down by soldiers at Manila's airport in 1983 upon return from U.S. exile to challenge Marcos.

Former Education Secretary Florencio Abad, who is Aquino's closest political lieutenant, says he won't be able to rest on his family name.

"This means he really has to deal with the problem of corruption and deal with the people identified with nine years of corruption," Abad told the AP.


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