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3-4 June 2010

Philippines Elections: Estrada ready to accept defeat

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Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada, in remarks broadcast on Friday, said he was ready to concede defeat in the May election, but will wait for Congress to confirm Senator Benigno Aquino III as the country's next leader, reported Reuters.

Estrada trails Aquino by about 5.5 million votes in the official tally by Congress, consistent with unofficial tallies released by the election commission after the election, with around 1.5 million votes still to be canvassed.

The number of votes to be counted is greater than lawmakers had earlier said, but still not enough to change the outcome. They will be tallied on Monday and Congress expects to proclaim the president and the vice president on Monday or Tuesday.

Estrada, who was forced from office in 2001 and subsequently imprisoned and convicted on plunder charges only to be pardoned weeks later, said he was ready to assist the new administration.

"If they will need my help to lift our countrymen from poverty, I'm more than willing to help in whatever capacity," Estrada told ABS-CBN television network in London, where he is to attend the school graduation of his 20-year-old daughter.

Margaux Salcero, Estrada's spokeswoman, said the outcome would not be challenged despite reports of fraud and problems with automated voting machines used for the first time.

"President Estrada is no longer inclined to file any protest. He will respect whatever final outcome is pronounced by the Joint Canvassing Committee in Congress," she said.

An uncontested result would help ensure a smooth transition of power, and would allow Aquino to appoint his cabinet and outline his agenda before he takes office on June 30.

The contest for vice presidency much closer with Estrada's running mate, Jejomar Binay, ahead by more than 640,000 votes over Aquino's partner, Senator Manuel Roxas.

Estrada said he felt vindicated by getting nearly 10 million votes to finish second among the nine presidential candidates.

"I am thanking all those who supported and trusted me," he said. "In spite of all the accusations against me that led me to prison, I'm thankful to the Lord and second to the Filipino people because they did not believe in these lies against me."

Estrada won a landslide victory in the presidential polls in 1998, but was forced from power in 2001 by an army-backed popular uprising over allegations of corruption.

He was arrested and briefly held in a detention facility, before spending six years under house arrest at one of his villas while he was on trial.

In 2007, an anti-graft court convicted him of plunder and sentenced him to life imprisonment, but Estrada was granted clemency weeks later by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who had replaced him as president in 2001.


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