New Philippines President Elected on Anti-Corruption Promise

May 12, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

Liberal party leading presidential candidate Benigno Aquino listens to a question during a press conference at a restaurant in Tarlac City, Tarlac province north of Manila on May 11, a day after the general elections.  (Ted Aljibe/Getty Images)
Liberal party leading presidential candidate Benigno Aquino listens to a question during a press conference at a restaurant in Tarlac City, Tarlac province north of Manila on May 11, a day after the general elections. (Ted Aljibe/Getty Images)
Benigno Aquino, son of former president Cory Aquino, has been elected successor to outgoing President Gloria Arroyo as the head of the Philippines.

Under the motto “Walang Mahirap, Kung Walang corrupt” (“There are no poor people where there is no corruption”), the 50-year-old Mr. Aquino successfully used the popularity offered him by a glorious family history.

Aquino is indeed the last member of a political dynasty started by his father Benigno Aquino, an opposition leader assassinated during the years of Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship. Marcos was then succeeded in 1986 by Cory Aquino, the “woman in yellow” still acclaimed as liberator of the nation.

Aquino said he had never thought of being a presidential candidate before his mother Cory passed away in August 2009. A former Parliament member for 12 years, he had kept a low-profile—something used by his opponents to argue that the candidate lacked experience.

Aquino, however surprisingly quickly won voters’ hearts with a straight-talking and plain communication style, contrasting that of his two major opponents. He could therefore incarnate the changes expected by Filipinos after years of Arroyo's presidency, marked by corruption, political violence, and the weakening of national institutions.

Alberto Lim, from the influential Makati Club that supported Akina, explained to Le Figaro newspaper that “after nine years of a presidency filled with scandals, Filipinos were looking for a humble and honest person. His campaign focuses on the fight against corruption was efficient. But most of all, we needed a soul for the nation.”

Aquino said he would set a Special Commission to investigate and punish corrupt officials, promote microcredit, reinforce education, and offer medical insurance to all.

His capacity to run the country is challenge by a number of analysts, however. For Benito Lim, political science professor, Aquino “will not be able to resist an environment that will negotiate its political support. Members of the Aquino family have already been accused of corruption. They will try to restore their privileges.”

Juan L. Mercado, from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, reminded that Aquino’s work ahead to restore a governmental power and an efficient economy would be huge. The “Philippines is the only country in South-East Asia where the poverty level has worsened since 1990. The external debt was of 28 billion dollars under the Marcos regime; it is now 61.5 billion dollars.”