MANILA -- Senator Cynthia Villar was leading a partial count on Tuesday, on course to top the 2019 senatorial elections that is expected to increase her political capital.
Villar, 68, pulled away from fellow Sen. Grace Poe, who is also seeking reelection, to pull off the feat achieved by a former president and vice president. Villar, whose husband, Manuel Villar, lost in the 2010 presidential elections, earlier told ABS-CBN News that she was leaving her political future to "destiny."
Topping the senatorial elections is a traditional springboard for higher office. Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo topped the 1995 senatorial elections. Her vice president, Noli de Castro, led the 2001 Senate vote.
Villar had 24,139,134 votes as of 5:22 a.m., with 92.89 percent of results counted, based on data from the Commission on elections transparency server. Sen. Grace Poe was in second place with 21,122,345.
Poe, the topnotcher of the 2013 senatorial elections, lost to President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 despite leading in pre-election surveys.
Villar suited up for the campaign as "Mrs. Hanepbuhay," a successful mother and entrepreneur. The Villar family controls property giant Vista Land.
"Nainspire ako sa kanya magsipag kasi katulad niya nag start siya maliit tapos dahil sa sipag lumaki," said Josie Whitfield, a 53-year-old eatery owner and mother of 2, who voted for Villar in the family's bailiwick, Las Pinas City.
Beverly Abao, a 45-year-old mother of 6, said she would vote for Villar if she ran for president.
"Mabait sya nakakatulong siya sa lugar namin. Nakatulong siya sa pagtayo ng bahay namin, nagbibigay siya ng mga skills," Abao said.
(She is helpful and has a kind heart. She helped us build our house and helped us learn new skills.)
Villar who pushed for a measure to replace rice import quota with tariffs said she would closely monitor its implementation, including the use of tax revenues for farmers.
"Pagbalik ko sa Senado lalo kong ipagpapatuloy ang pagpapatayo ng livelihood project kasi naniniwala po ako na ang pinakaimportanteng maibibigay natin sa ating mga kababayan ay hanap buhay," she said.
(When I return to the Senate, I will continue establishing livelihood programs because I believe it is very important to provide our countrymen with livelihood.)