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This article was published 10/5/2010 (3478 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MANILA, Philippines — The son of Philippine democracy icons took an early, commanding lead in presidential polls on a promise to begin prosecuting corrupt officials within weeks to restore credibility to the country's graft-ridden government agencies.
Despite computerized counting-machine glitches and violence that claimed at least nine lives, election officials hailed the vote as a success in a country where poll-fraud allegations have marred previous contests.
Sen. Benigno Aquino III, whose father was assassinated while opposing a dictatorship and whose mother led the "people power" revolt that restored freedoms, was leading the nine-candidate presidential race with 40.58 per cent of the votes from about 57 per cent of the precincts, while his closest rival, ousted President Joseph Estrada, had 25.72 per cent.
There is no runoff in the Philippines and whoever has the most votes is declared winner.
Aquino's sudden political rise bolstered hopes among his supporters for a clean leadership after nine years of a scandal-tainted administration that was rocked by coup attempts and protests.
He campaigned on a strong anti-graft platform, promised to start prosecuting corrupt officials within weeks of his election and restore integrity to Congress and the judiciary.
It was only after former president Corazon Aquino died of cancer last August that her son, a quiet 50-year-old lawmaker and bachelor, decided to run, spurred by the massive outpouring of national grief for the leader who ousted longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 "people power" revolt and restored democracy to the Philippines.
Aquino's closest political lieutenant, former education secretary Florencio Abad, said he rode on the crest of a national yearning for an honest leader after corruption scandals under outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
"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 Associated Press.
"The other thing that he needs to do is to translate the dividends of good governance into direct benefits for the poor — education, health, food, lower prices, jobs, basic services," he said.
Some of Aquino's opponents carried the taint of scandal, all too common in the Philippines. The popularity ratings of Sen. Manny Villar, a real estate developer-turned-politician who was neck-and-neck with Aquino in early surveys, plunged after rivals accused him of using his position to enrich himself and avoid a Senate ethics probe.
Estrada, who largely draws support from the poor, jumped to overtake Villar as No. 2. The former action-movie star was removed from office in 2001 and subsequently convicted on corruption charges. He was later pardoned by Arroyo, and said he decided to run again to clear his name.
Computer problems and campaign-related violence, which has killed more than 30 people in the past three months and an additional nine on election day, were the main concerns in the voting, which officials hope will set a new standard for the country's fragile democracy.
Turnout was 75 per cent among about 50 million eligible voters, the Elections Commission said.
"The people came in droves. The turnout was very encouraging. The machines worked more than we expected," said commission chairman Jose Melo. "I would say it was successful."
— The Associated Press