Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that he was ready to succeed the scandal-tainted administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as his lead widened over his rivals in the presidential race.
Mr. Aquino was leading by more than 4 million votes after the Commission on Elections tabulated results from 78.55 per cent of precincts nationwide after Monday’s voting, chairman Jose Melo said.
The 50-year-old bachelor remained shy of claiming victory, saying he would wait for the official vote count by Congress, which would be the one to proclaim the winner.
“I would not want to claim victory prematurely,” Mr. Aquino told a press briefing in his northern home province of Tarlac.
“One of the things that has been impressed upon me by my parents and my school was a sense of humility,” he said. “One does not claim victory unless it is a certainty.”
Mr. Aquino said that while he is not yet claiming victory, he was prepared to lead the country should he be proclaimed the winner.
“It has been an honour to share this humbling experience with all of you as we begin to accept the responsibility of leading our nation of over 90 million Filipinos,” he said.
“Today, we feel the weight of the nation’s expectations on our shoulders,” he added. “With God’s grace and your continued support, we shall overcome the divisions that afflict us today.” Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said Ms. Arroyo has created committees to ensure a smooth transition of power.
“We must now move speedily to heal divisions spawned by the campaign and focus on the next task which is the transition to a new national and local leadership,” Mr. Saludo said.
Four of the nine candidates conceded the election to Aquino, including one of his most bitter rivals, real estate magnate Senator Manuel Villar, and his cousin Gilbert Teodoro, who was the candidate for the incumbent Lakas-Kampi party.
“The Filipino people have decided. It is clear that despite our efforts we were not blessed to win last Monday’s elections,” Mr. Villar said. “I congratulate Senator Aquino on his victory.” Mr. Teodoro said he hoped the new administration would be “based on justice, not vengeance.”
“The people have spoken,” he said. “They have made their choice, why should I prolong the division in the country?”
According to the latest tally by the Commission on Elections, Mr. Aquino garnered 12.23 million votes while his closest rival, ousted former president Joseph Estrada, received 7.74 million.
Mr. Villar was in third place with 4.32 million votes and Mr. Teodoro had 3.24 million votes.
At least 14 people were killed during Monday’s elections, and voting was extended an hour after more than 400 vote-counting machines encountered problems.
Despite the glitches, many Filipinos said they were pleasantly surprised at the speed at which the election results were transmitted.