Aquino Says Philippine Electoral Fraud Would Trigger Turmoil


By Francisco Alcuaz Jr. and Haslinda Amin
April 27 (Bloomberg) — Philippine presidential frontrunner Benigno Aquino said only fraud can stop him winning next month’s election and any such attempt would trigger unrest comparable with the protests that swept his mother to power 24 years ago.

The 50-year-old son of former president Corazon Aquino, who has led opinion surveys since entering the race last year, criticized how a switch to electronic voting machines is being implemented and said a declaration that he is the loser of the May 10 poll would bring supporters onto the streets.

“If we have a correct counting of the votes, I think we will be very victorious,” said Aquino, whose mother toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos amid protests that followed a rigged election in 1986. If “the people’s will is frustrated,” demonstrations could make this month’s protests in Thailand seem “mild” by comparison, he said in an interview in Manila yesterday.

Aquino, known as “Noynoy,” claims his closest rival, property tycoon and Senator Manuel Villar, is secretly backed by outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and has accused both of corruption. A contested election result might disrupt efforts to tackle a record budget deficit, reduce Asia’s third-highest unemployment rate and increase foreign investment.

“Markets would react negatively to any scenario that puts in question the credibility of the elections,” said Paul Joseph Garcia, chief investment officer at ING Investment Management Ltd. in Manila. ‘There’s going to be selling pressure.’’

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index has risen 7.9 percent this year, lagging behind a 16 percent jump in Indonesia’s Jakarta Composite Index and outpacing a 4.1 percent advance for the SET Index in Thailand, where as many as 26 people were killed in anti-government protests this month.

Coup Attempts

Aquino entered the race following the death of his mother from cancer in August, and was propelled to the top of the polls by an outpouring of nostalgia for the former president. He widened his lead over Villar to 15 percentage points in a survey conducted from April 18 to 20 by the Manila Standard. The survey had a margin of error of 2 percentage points, the newspaper reported yesterday.

Opponents say Aquino has achieved little in 12 years as a legislator. Villar, who rose from poverty to build a fortune estimated at $530 million by Forbes magazine, says he is “up against someone who has no experience, has not demonstrated any managerial ability, and has not led anything.”

Aquino said his lack of legislative achievements reflect his refusal to compromise with vested interests. He cited business experience selling Nike Inc. products and said that helping his mother fend off coup attempts by negotiating with wavering soldiers is evidence of his leadership skills.

Budget Deficits

“I don’t claim sole credit for having withstood the coups,” he said in the living room of his home, decorated with water colors painted by his mother. “But I think I played an important part. They chose our side.”

Aquino has lived in the same house in Quezon City all his life except for three years spent in Boston. Their stay ended when his father, known as “Ninoy,” returned to Manila in 1983 and was assassinated on arrival, triggering the anti-Marcos protests that catapulted his wife to the presidency. Today, Manila’s international airport is named after Ninoy Aquino and his face appears on Philippine banknotes.

Aquino said he intends to increase tax collection to 15 percent of gross domestic product from 13 percent “practically instantly” by targeting tax evaders, raising funds to plough into job creation, education and health care. He also said he may adopt an “open skies” policy to boost tourism.

Budget Surplus

The government has run an annual budget surplus only four times in the past 24 years, constraining its ability to fight poverty in a nation where one in four people live on less than $1.25 a day. The budget deficit was a record 298.5 billion pesos ($6.75 billion) last year, and is projected to stay close to that this year. The unemployment rate stands at 7.3 percent.

Aquino also said he plans to raise judges’ salaries and improve implementation of a law that would reward and punish tax and customs officials based on whether they met targets, part of his strategy to stamp out graft.

Meanwhile, he is seeking to extend his lead in the polls by emphasizing his family’s incorruptible image and painting his main rival as corrupt. Villar, 60, was ousted as Senate leader in 2008 amid allegations he diverted a road to benefit one of his property projects. He has denied any impropriety.

Aquino has also joined opposition politicians who allege that President Arroyo rigged her election in 2004, in part with the help of the country’s election commission. Arroyo, who’s barred from standing for re-election, has spent three years of her six-year term fighting attempts to impeach her on vote- rigging and corruption allegations.

To contact the reporters on this story: Francisco Alcuaz Jr. in Manila at falcuaz@bloomberg.net; Haslinda Amin in Singapore at hamin1@bloomberg.net

Find more like this: Politics

Comments

  1. jacob says:

    H. L. is now in turmoil and it might spread in the city of manila soon.

  2. pinoypen says:

    What an irresponsible statement from a Presidential candidate. Instead of condoning violence, he preaches it. Election has not started yet and he is only basing his assumptions on flawed and questionable surveys.

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