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Aquino on Course to Become Philippine President


As vote counting continues in the Philippines, all indications are that Liberal Party candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino will become the next president.

With more than half the votes counted by mid-day Tuesday, Aquino holds an almost unassailable lead over his nearest rivals.

Former President Joseph Estrada trails a distant second while businessman Manny Villar has conceded defeat in Monday's election.

An Aquino victory is in line with expectations. The son of former President Cory Aquino, who died last year, led the opinion polls throughout the campaign.

Pete Troilo is director of business intelligence for risk consultancy Pacific Strategies and Assessments. He says overall the elections were a great success, despite trouble with a new automated voting system and scattered reports of violence.

However, he adds the country still suffers from extrajudicial killings, corruption, poverty, and attempts to muzzle the media, particularly at the local level.

"The question is, now that Noynoy Aquino and whoever his vice president will be have run on platforms of poverty eradication and anti-corruption, will they be able to take the next step to really prove to the voters and to the international community that they're serious about those platitudes," said Troilo.

Aquino's campaign was helped by his parents' legacy. His father, the opposition leader Benigno Senior, was assassinated in 1983. That sparked a people's power revolution, which steered his wife, Cory Aquino, into the presidency three years later. She was widely beloved for her efforts to fight corruption and heal the nation after the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

If, as expected, final results confirm Aquino's victory, on June 30th he will replace President Gloria Arroyo, She is legally barred from a second term, but appears likely to win a congressional seat from her home province.

The widow of Ferdinand Marcos, Imelda, also looks set to win a congressional seat, while her son, Ferdinand, is expected to win a Senate seat. Daughter Imee is the leader in the gubernatorial race for their home province, Ilocos Norte.

The Philippines' most famous athlete, international champion boxer Manny Pacquiao, also is expected to win a seat in Congress.

Official results are expected to be announced by the end of the week.

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