Aquino "seeks God" and finds presidency
Manila - After an arduous nine-month trek, the man who "sought God first” before running for the Philippine presidency is about to have his prayers answered. Vote tallies from Monday's presidential elections continue to be validated. But barring any major surprises, Senator Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III will likely be the Republic’s 15th president.
The only son of the late President Corazon Aquino and martyr Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., Noynoy sensed early on that he needed to be on God’s side if he is to make a difference in a country his late father said was “worth dying for.”
Shortly after his mother's death, Aquino took a prayerful retreat at one of his mother's favorite monasteries. It was there Aquino committed fully to the presidential race, and seemingly made the right choice.
His closest rival, Senator Manuel Villar, has already conceded to Aquino’s victory, after finishing third, according to partial official results released by the Commission on Elections.
Deposed President, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, who dreamed of “recapturing” the presidency which he claims was stolen from him, has yet to accept his defeat even though Aquino is running ahead of him by at least two million votes.
A Four-hour Ordeal
After a grueling nine-month march in the presidential race, Aquino’s patience was tested further when he had wait in line for another four long hours in the summer heat to cast his vote on election day. The only automated counting machine (Precinct Count Optical Machine or PCOS) in his precinct had bogged down, and it took several hours to fix before Aquino and the other voters could use it.
He even managed to hold a press briefing because of the long wait. Despite his “misfortune” he told reporters he was optimistic the breakdown of the machine in his precinct was “an isolated case.”
Unfortunately, it was not an exceptional case at all. At least 300 of the PCOS machines failed all over the country. This was the Philippines first-ever automated polls, and observers weren’t sure whether it was just “birth pains” or whether the poll body and the service provider, Smartmatic, bungled their preparations.
Despite the long wait and the intense heat of day, Noynoy along with other voters finally cast their votes around 2pm, after waiting since 10am.
Victory over Corruption?
Aquino's self-described effort to "seek God" is a reference to a verse in the Bible, Matthew 6:33, which says “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
With this election, Filipinos made it clear that the things they would like added to their lives include economic prosperity, investments and job opportunities.
Voters also decried corruption, which is a particularly devastating problem for Philippine government and which has damaged the country's international reputation.
TIME Magazine sort of prophesied a “Noynoy win” just a month ago, when it made Noynoy the cover story, titled “The Next Aquino. Can Noynoy save the Philippines?"
That story raises the question whether the Senator, or anyone, is capable of preventing the country from lagging behind its neighbors on almost every aspect of national prosperity. Creating a track record of good governance will be an immediate and ongoing challenge from the moment he begins the tasks of president.
It's an open question whether anything less than a miracle can fix the country's problems. But Aquino's reputation and family pedigree are already proving to be inspirational.
TIME reported that at least one campaign volunteer had quit his job and had gone to work for Aquino because this son of the country’s icon of democracy “has a mission of saving the soul of this country.”
Now that the die is cast, Noynoy must use every means to face the gargantuan challenges laid before him and the Filipino people. If, as Aquino said during his spiritual retreat, he and the Filipinos “are in this together,” the proof will be a government that “shines like the noonday sun.”
He has to deliver on his campaign promise of forging a clean and honest government. Only then - and only with the help of God - he might just “save the country’s soul” from the quagmire of poverty and corruption.