Congress proclaims Aquino as president, Binay as VP

After canvassing the votes from the May 10 polls for nearly three weeks, the Philippine Congress on Wednesday finally proclaimed Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III as the country's next president and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay as the vice president.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles made the proclamation at 3:45 in the afternoon.

No one from the Senate and the House of Representatives objected when Congress leaders moved to approve the results of the joint congressional committee's canvass of votes showing Aquino and Binay as the winners in the automated elections.

"Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, the Joint Committee hereby recommends that Congress as the national board of canvassers approve the Report of the Joint Committee and the Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 declaring the results of the national elections held on May 10, 2010 for the Office of President and Vice President proclaiming Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III and Jejomar Cabauatan Binay as the duly elected president and vice president of the Republic of the Philippines, respectively," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in his sponsorship speech of the joint committee report.

House Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. also moved for the proclamation of Aquino and Binay as the country's top two leaders, saying the results showed that they were the "clear choice" of Filipinos.

Automated elections

Defensor said the past elections convinced lawmakers that automated elections should be continued, although he said there should be improvements in the system.

"We shall continue to hold automated elections because we have proven that we can do it, with a commitment that in the next elections we can do it better," Defensor said.

Zubiri reminded his colleagues that their obligation does not end with the canvassing.

“Let this experience teach us how we can improve our automated elections for 2013 and beyond through amendments to the Republic Act 9369, otherwise known as the Automation Law," he said.

He added that they can make the process more efficient by finding a system that would prevent a large percentage of null votes, and also safeguard the election paraphernalia and equipment to avoid situations such as loose accounting of machines and compact flash cards.

After being delayed by inquiries on the credibility of the automated elections, the national board of canvassers finally finished its canvassing Tuesday afternoon.

"We, the members of the committee, did not want to sacrifice accuracy over speed that is why we even waited for the results from the special elections of the province of Lanao del Sur," said Zubiri.

In the final tally, Aquino got 5.7 million more votes over his closest rival, former president Joseph Estrada. Aquino got 15,208,678 votes while Estrada got 9,487,837 votes.

Estrada's son Jinggoy Estrada delivered his father's statement before the proclamation, saying that the former president has conceded to Aquino.

In the vice presidential race, Binay received 14,645,574 votes while his closest contender, Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, got 13,918,490 votes. Binay led the race with a slim margin of 727,084 votes.

'Ninoy and Cory must be smiling'

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said he was happy that the proclamation was being done in "broad daylight." Outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had been proclaimed at dawn in 2004

Pimentel said, "[Aquino's] parents, Senator Ninoy and President Cory, must be smiling with parental pride in their heavenly abode over the electoral triumph of their only son."

"I am certain they are happy that they did not follow the one or two child policy being bruited about today. Otherwise, the President-elect would not be around today to enjoy his proclamation as the next leader of the nation," added Pimentel, whose statements were met with loud applause.

Pimentel and House senior deputy majority leader Neptali Gonzales II also said the next Congress should work on improving the automated election system.

The speeches of Pimentel and Gonzales were slightly marred by brief power interruptions caused by stormy weather outside the session hall.

Present to show their support for the president-elect were Aquino's sisters Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, Viel Aquino-Dee, and Kris Aquino-Yap. His girlfriend, Shalani Soledad, was also seen in the VIP section of the session hall.

Binay's family, including Makati City Rep. Mar-Len Abigail Binay, was also present inside the session hall.

Underdogs rise

Despite his three terms as congressman prior to his election as senator in 2007, Aquino was considered by some observers as a political lightweight until the death of his mother thrust him into the political limelight.

Responding to the clamor for him to seek the country's highest post, Aquino announced that he was running for president in September and has since led presidential preference surveys.

Binay, on the other hand, was a far third in opinion polls until he overtook Senator Loren Legarda, the consistent second-placer, and finally tied with Roxas a few days before May 10.

Political observers have said Binay's long-established ties with other local government units, his influential affiliations, and his infiltration of Aquino's support base were major factors in his victory.

Aquino's running mate Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, the consistent front-runner in opinion polls until Binay tied with him a few days before election day, is is considering the filing of an electoral protest to challenge Binay's victory.

Aquino's inauguration at a still undisclosed location in Metro Manila will be held on June 30.