MANILA, Philippines – With his overwhelming mandate, president-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III declared “a new dawn for the country’s democracy” and said he is open to reconciliation with his political foes but not at the expense of justice.
“It’s really the emphasis that this is a people’s victory,” Aquino said in a speech he prepared but failed to deliver at his proclamation yesterday by Congress.
Also proclaimed was vice president-elect Jejomar Binay.
“We owe the people’s triumph largely to their efforts. There is much more to be done. There are a lot of expectations to meet. We can fulfill these expectations if we work together as one,” his speech read.
“I believe we can transcend party lines. We can prove that reconciliation and cooperation comes easily to those who have the best interest of our people at heart. Just as it is in the dawn that the family gathers to prepare for the day’s coming toil, let us pause to reflect on the new day for our country, a new dawn for democracy,” he said.
Aquino, whose decision to run for president came only after the massive outpouring of grief on the death of his mother former President Corazon Aquino in August last year, was finally proclaimed winner with more than 15.2 million votes or 5.7 million votes ahead of his closest rival, former President Joseph Estrada. The latter won by a landslide in 1998 but was ousted in 2001.
Speaking at a press conference after his proclamation, Aquino said he was “a little anxious, a little eager to start solving the problems still besetting our countrymen.”
Promises to keep
“We cannot say there is total joy at this point. But of course we admire the Filipino nation who stood up and really produced this campaign and this victory despite all of the odds,” Aquino said.
“I have had a lot of promises in the campaign, especially the idea of change. It cannot be business as usual. If we are going to just replace people like in a game of musical chairs, I think I would have disappointed everybody who made this victory possible,” he said.
“Therefore, there has to be closure on so many issues,” he said.
Aquino said he would “really strive” for justice as “we have been striving for it even before we decided to run.”
“As president we will be in a position to effect the necessary changes. With the backing of the people I don’t think anything is impossible,” he said.
Aquino said he was not naïve to think he would not encounter difficulties during his term, citing for instance the staggering projected deficit of P400 billion this year.
“So there is crisis to be inherited immediately. We have to repair institutions and our ability to ensure check and balance,” Aquino said.
“At the end of the day I think I am after the benefits and upliftment of the conditions of the majority of the people. If what I am doing is right, then those who would oppose doing right will be left by the wayside. If they are politicians they will not want to be left by the wayside. So it is a contest, it is a race,” he said.
“Can we do substantial changes at the shortest possible time? There will be some people who will not want us to succeed,” he said.
“I welcome criticism, especially if it is constructive criticism, because I am humble enough to admit I do not possess the perfect knowledge all the time,” he said.
“But at the end of the day we really are focused on doing the best we can for the majority of the people,” Aquino said.
He also said the Arroyo administration’s conditional cash transfers to help the poor would likely continue, but imposing new taxes would be the least priority of his administration despite the huge deficit.
“More food, yes. The conditional cash transfers that will be devoid of politics is high on the priority list. Growing the agriculture sector, enabling them to market their produce most effectively, not just the production side, turning them to higher value crops, irrigation, etc.,” Aquino said.
Aquino also said he is ready to offer his hand of reconciliation to his political foes but would make sure justice would be served.
“The campaign had been bruising, there had really been a lot of below-the-belt attacks that I had to swallow. But I was also the first to say and it was clear in my mind that if the senseless acts could stop and we could all go to the path that would be for the good of the country, why wouldn’t I invite them to join and why wouldn’t I cooperate with all the sectors?” Aquino said.
He said he was heartened by Estrada’s offer to help him.
“To the others who conceded and offered help, I will probably tap their experience and abilities to hasten the solutions needed by the nation,” Aquino said.
Aquino said he would also be praying a lot as president.
“At times when I feel there is need for more resources, more skills and more talent than I possess, I always turn to prayer because I am confident that as far as working for the betterment of our people is concerned, God will be with us,” Aquino said.
“So I want to be focused on that idea that those who have least in life should have the most priority, taking into cognizance that we are our brothers’ keepers,” he said.
“And second, I will not be daunted by the task ahead, because the source of nourishment, strength and support has been prayer throughout the entire campaign. But at the end of the day, being a democratically elected president of a multi-religious country, I cannot impose my religious beliefs on each and every countryman. That will have to be in the conscience of each and every one,” Aquino said.
The Senate and the House of Representatives proclaimed Aquino and Binay in a joint public session after unanimously approving the report of their joint canvassing committee as well as the resolution of proclamation.
Immediately following the approval of the report and the resolution, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles declared before the nation that Aquino and Binay are the “duly elected president and vice president of the Republic.”
Supporters of the top two elected officials shouted “Noynoy, Noynoy!” and “Binay, Binay!” as well as “Noy-Bi, Noy-Bi!” from the gallery every time they heard their candidates’ names.
Enrile and Nograles had to admonish them to observe silence and decorum so the session could proceed.
The presiding officers briefly suspended the session so that Aquino and Binay could enter the session hall.
Aquino and Binay stayed in the office of Nograles while the joint session was tackling the canvassing committee’s report.
They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with lawmakers as they walked into the session hall.
Enrile and Nograles then asked Binay and Aquino, one after the other, to ascend the podium, together with their families, so they could be proclaimed winners.
With Aquino were his sisters Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris, and some members of their families.
Aquino’s girlfriend, Valenzuela City Councilor Shalani Soledad, was in the gallery but was not among those who ascended the podium.
Conspicuously absent was Aquino’s running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas II, who lost to Binay.
Aquino said Roxas, a friend, was having a rest in an undisclosed place and that he would give him space. When asked if Roxas’s plan to file an electoral protest would affect his administration, Aquino said it would remove doubts on the conduct of the first automated polls.
Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. sponsored the canvassing report for the Senate, while Majority Leader Arthur Defensor and Senior Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II were the sponsors for the House.
Gonzales said that although the canvassing committee went through unfamiliar ground since it was the first automated elections in the country, “the results of the canvass are credible, trustworthy and acceptable to the Filipino electorate.”
Defensor said the last elections “have convinced us that we should continue in an automated system.”
“We have proven that we can do it with the commitment that we will do it better in the next elections,” he said.
Pimentel delivered an elaborate sponsorship speech, entitled, “Hail to the Chief, and Blessed be his Vice.”
“Vice does not refer to the Chief’s (Aquino’s) smoking but to Mayor Jejomar Binay,” he said.
He said Aquino’s parents “must be smiling with parental pride” with the “PCOS (precinct count optical scan) meaning President Cory’s Only Son,” he said in jest.
He told his colleagues that he was happy that “we are doing the proclamation in broad daylight, not in the wee hours of the morning when only the witches are the witness.”
He was referring to the proclamation at 2 a.m. on June 24, 2004 of President Arroyo and Vice President Noli de Castro.
The proclamation session took only about an hour and a half, compared to the tumultuous proceedings in 2004 that started in the afternoon of June 23 and lasted until early morning the next day.
Stars shone in the gallery as celebrities, led by Aquino’s youngest sister and popular talk show host Kris, came in droves for the proclamation.
Kris’ basketball player-husband James Yap was in the upper section of the gallery.
Alsoeated on the upper portion of the gallery was Aquino’s girlfriend, Soledad, who was in a black dress with a yellow ribbon.
Kris’ best friend and popular talk show Boy Abunda, singer Ogie Alcasid, actor Dingdong Dantes and movie producer Lily Monteverde were seen in the gallery with Aquino’s and Binay’s cheering supporters.
Members of the Apo Hiking Society also attended the historic event, as did ABS-CBN president Charo Santos-Concio, and even comedian Juana Change, who was in an eccentric yellow attire.
Among the other high-profile personalities who attended were Quezon City Rep.-elect Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada delivered a speech for his father conceding defeat to Aquino.
Militants congratulate Noy-Bi
Left-wing party-list group Bayan Muna, which supported Villar’s presidential bid, congratulated Aquino and Binay.
“It is our most fervent hope that under their leadership, a new government will emerge that embodies our people’s hopes and aspirations for one that is the exact opposite of the previous administration,” the group said in a statement.
“We share in President Aquino’s declared platform of eradicating corruption and instilling good governance in all levels. We are ready to work with his administration in ensuring greater transparency and accountability in government,” it said.
“In particular, we will be re-filing in the next Congress our proposals for an expanded freedom of information act, a whistleblowers protection act, as well as resolutions investigating various irregularities in government.”
“We eagerly await President Aquino’s promise to hold Mrs. Arroyo and her officials accountable for their various crimes against the people,” said Bayan Muna, whose representatives are Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares.
The Social Weather Stations (SWS) said it felt vindicated by the final and official tally by the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC).
In a statement, the SWS said the NBOC count as of June 8 showed that the average difference of the TV5-SWS Exit Poll from the Commission on Elections results is 0.4 percent for president and 0.4 percent for vice-president.
“This resulted in a slight over-estimation of 1.13 percent in the Exit Poll’s Aquino-Estrada lead of 16.96 percent compared to the actual Aquino-Estrada lead of 15.83 percent,” SWS said. With Delon Porcalla, Helen Flores, Rhodina Villanueva and Alexa Villano – By Aurea Calica and Jess Diaz (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com and Yahoo! Philippines News)