Aquino headed to poll victory

- Dennis Carcamo, Dino Maragay, Vernadette Joven -

(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines – Election frontunner Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is headed to victory as five of his major rivals for the presidency conceded defeat today.

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar, Ang Kapatiran's JC de los Reyes, Sen. Richard Gordon of Bagumbayan and administration bet Gilberto Teodoro and Bangon Pilipinas' Eduardo Villanueva have called it quits following their consistently low rankings in the partial tally of election returns.

In a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Mandaluyong City this morning, Villar offered his congratulatory remarks to Aquino.

"I congratulate Noynoy for his victory. The people have indeed spoken and I will respect their decision," Villar told reporters.

The latest partial vote tally by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) showed Villar way behind Aquino at third place with 4,329,215 votes against the Liberal Party bet’s 12,233,002.

Villar said he now looks forward to spending more time with his family. He thanked his supporters, especially the poor whom he said he best related to.

The senator has anchored his presidential campaign on a pro-poor platform, having claimed to come from a poor family himself.

"For the rest of my life, I will remain their champion," he said.

Villar likewise expressed his commitment to work with the next administration.

Additionally, the senator looks forward to cleaning up his image, which for the duration of the campaign period had been tainted by allegations of corruption.

"I believe that I will be given the chance to clear my name from the allegations thrown on me. This for me is the most important thing," Villar said.

Of the presidential contenders, Villar, the country’s richest politician, was perceived to have invested the most time, money and effort in his campaign. He has spent millions in radio and television advertisements and other campaign paraphernalia.

Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) national chairperson Tita de Villa  lauded Villar for giving up in the presidential race after consistently placing third in the ongoing count by the PPCRV and the Comelec.

"I would like to congratulate him. It was a nice thing to do. That’s the beauty of automation. There’s no room for cheating," De Villa told reporters at the Pope Pius Catholic Center in Manila where the PPCRV has been conducting a parallel count of the automated elections.

'An act of statemanship'

The Comelec, for its part, also praised Villar for his "act of statemanship."

The poll body said it was a hard-fought race for Villar, having had to fend off many personal attacks and allegations.

"By rights Sen. Villar could have consistently stayed to see this contest to the bitter end, however, he chose not do that. Instead he chose to set aside his personal ambition to speed up the process of political reunification that this country needs after all that happened in this election," it said.

The poll body also expressed its gratitude for the vote of confidence in the automated election system that Villar expressed in his media statement.

4 others follow suit

Shortly after Villar called it quits, it was De los Reyes' turn to bow out of the presidential race.

According to a TV report,  De los Reyes said he has decided to concede after consistently placing last in the partial vote tally of election returns both from the Comelec and the PPCRV.

Delos Reyes, however, stressed he will not concede his "platform." 

"I have conceded as to the electoral count but not as the platform I was tasked to push, which is to finally enact the anti-dynasty law and abolish pork barrel. Senator Aquino is not one with us in these radical reforms we need for our country, but I will support his government in the other reform efforts we have in common," he said in a text message to reporters.

As of 6:15 a.m., De los Reyes is at the bottom of the list of nine candidates vying for the presidency with only 34,833 votes or 0.11 percent of the total votes cast in the Comelec tally. As of 10:32 a.m., he was also last in the PPCRV's parallel tally with only 36,495 votes.

Gordon, for his part, said he has accepted the "will of the people" during the first automated elections in the country.

"Today, we have a victory for democracy with the successful exercise of our first nationwide automated elections despite naysayers and doubters," Gordon said in a statement.

The senator also rallied Filipinos to throw their support behind Aquino. 

"I would like to congratulate Sen. Aquino for his spectacular victory. I call upon the nation to unite and support him," he said.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD's Teodoro, meanwhile, is holding a press conference as of posting time.

Villanueva, for his part, expressed delight over the voter turnout in the country's first ever automated elections.

"Salamat sa lahat ng Pilipinong nanindigan para bumoto at magluklok ng kanilang lider sa pwesto. Yan ang kapangyarihan ng eleksyon (Thanks to all Filipinos who stood up and voted for their leaders. That’s the power of elections)," Villanueva said in a statement.

He said he and his party will rally behind the newly elected President and help in the reforms and nation-building efforts of the new administration.

"With the new President elected, Bangon Pilipinas will find ways to help in nation-building, especially in areas where we could pursue social reforms that would benefit the majority of the Filipino people," Villanueva said.

He said he will also ask the incoming administration to review laws to further reform the electoral system.

"The problem is that the PCOS machines do not issue receipts showing the voter that the ones he voted for are the ones that were counted. We believe that this is an imperfection in the system that should be addressed by corrective legislation," Villanueva said.

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