Widow of popular Philippine politician could boost ruling party in polls

Widow of popular Philippine politician could boost ruling party in polls
Liberal Party (LP) vice-presidential candidate Leni Robredo (L) speaks beside former Interior Secretary and LP presidential candidate Manuel Roxas during a LP gathering of friends at Club Filipino in Manila, October 5, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

MANILA - The widow of a popular Philippine politician has accepted a ruling party offer to run as vice president in an election in May which should boost the chances of victory for President Benigno Aquino's successor.

More than 54 million Filipinos will vote for a new president, vice president, and about 18,000 lawmakers and local government officials in elections that happen every six years.

"After deep soul searching, broad consultation and fervent prayers, I am accepting the challenge to run as vice president of Secretary Mar Roxas," Leni Robredo told a cheering crowd of supporters in Manila, referring to former Interior Minister Manuel Roxas.

Investors are closely watching the elections, fearing the political succession in one of Asia's fastest growing economies could derail gains made during Aquino's rule.

Aquino has endorsed Roxas, the grandson of the country's first post-war president, to lead the ruling party into the polls and Robredo, a 51-year-old lawyer who won a seat in Congress in 2013, should boost the credibility of the ticket, analysts said.

While Roxas' popularity ratings has jumped, according to the latest surveys, he is still in third place, trailing a novice senator, Grace Poe, and the incumbent vice president, Jejomar Binay.

Separately, Senator Ferdinand Marcos, son of the late dictator also called Ferdinand Marcos, announced his intention to run for vice president though he did not say which presidential candidate he would run with.

"I have decided to put my political fortune in the hands of the Filipino people," Marcos said in a statement.

The elder Marcos was toppled in a democracy uprising in 1986 and died in exile in 1989. His wife, Imelda, famous for her shoe collection, is an 86-year-old congresswoman.

Analysts say Robredo will bring a feeling of warmth and accessibility to Roxas' image as a straightforward, technocrat.

Robredo has earned a reputation as a lawyer who helps poor farmers and fishermen and for being a steadfast opponent of corruption. Her late husband, Jesse Robredo, was interior minister when he was killed in a plane crash in 2012.

"I am offering my whole self to our countrymen, especially those wearing flip-flops out in the streets, at the bottom, and at the edges of our society," Robredo told the crowd, echoing her husband's crusade as a champion of the poor.

Under Aquino, the Philippines has seen annual growth of more than 6 per cent, its best 5-year record in decades. The president, who is limited by the constitution to a single term, has also battled to rein in corruption.

"Investors are looking for a continuation of the overall thrusts of the administration but with more attention to actual performance," Steve Rood of Asia Foundation told Reuters.

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