MANILA, Philippines - Finally accepting defeat, former president Joseph Estrada extended his "whole-hearted support" to President-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III as Congress convened Wednesday afternoon to proclaim the new president and vice president of the country.
"I humbly accept the final verdict... I sincerely offer my congratulations to my good friend and worthy opponent, President-elect Simeon Benigno Aquino III, on his impending proclamation as the duly elected president of the Republic of the Philippines," Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said, reading his father's statement.
In his statement, the former president also erased lingering rumors that he and his runningmate Vice-President-elect Jejomar Binay had a falling out after the elections.
"I join the Filipino people in extending my whole-hearted support to the 15th President of the Republic under whose leadership the country now looks to the future together with my running mate, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, with highest hopes that they will serve our country faithfully and honorably," Estrada said.
During the early tabulation of the votes cast during the May 10 elections, Estrada refused to concede to Aquino. The former president said he would only concede after the real results of the presidential election are counted by Congress.
Aquino crushed his rivals in last month's election after promising to tackle the massive corruption and pervasive poverty that have long afflicted the sprawling archipelago of more than 90 million people.
The 50-year-old bachelor also drew on the enormous public support for his democracy hero parents, who remain revered for their efforts in ending the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino secured just over 15.2 million votes, or nearly 42% of the total number cast, according to final results released by parliament on Tuesday following the May 10 election.
Former president Joseph Estrada finished well behind in second place with nearly 9.5 million votes.
Reflecting the Philippines' chaotic brand of democracy, legislators said that Wednesday's proclamation proceedings could drag on for hours, with members of parliament allowed to voice their opinions.
However parliamentary leaders said they expected all sides of the political spectrum to eventually unite in backing the proclamation.
"I don't think anybody is going to stand up and question the quorum and spoil the party of the president-elect and vice president-elect," Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said on ABS-CBN television.
"It is now time to heal the wounds of the election. It is time to move forward." With AFP