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Alona Mercado     The new president

Here in Canada, when an election is held, we are accustomed to knowing the results immediately after the polls close on election night. Within several hours of the last polls closing, a winner can be declared. In the Philippines, however, that experience is not the norm. Normally, Filipinos wait weeks, sometimes months to have a winner declared. This is why the first automated elections held in the Philippines on Monday, May 10, 2010 were very closely watched.

I admit that I was one of the many who closely watched the election returns come in. With the wonders of the Internet, I was able to watch live Philippine television, courtesy of ABS-CBN. Incidentally, ABS-CBN actually pre-empted a lot of their regular programming to show the live election results and so did TFC. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ABS-CBN set-up was very similar to CNN’s election coverage and had incorporated a lot of high-tech gadgets into their broadcast.

Prior to the election, there were many fears concerning the use of the automated machines. News reports throughout Election Day certainly did nothing to allay those fears in light of the many glitches that were reported throughout the country. The reports that surfaced during the following days also raised many concerns. However, after the polls closed on Election Day, Filipinos worldwide were amazed as results actually started to come in. Within a day, it was clear that Senator Aquino would become the country’s next President.

In Canada, once the election results are known, our parliamentary system allows the outgoing and incoming governments to arrange the time for the official transfer of power. On the day of the transition, the outgoing Prime Minister provides a formal resignation letter to the Governor General for him and his entire cabinet. This is normally provided shortly before the new Prime Minister and his cabinet are sworn in to office. Thereafter, the Governor General, on the advice of the newly sworn-in Prime Minister, issues a proclamation summoning Parliament to assemble.

In the United States, once a clear winner is determined after an election (which is always held in November), they are immediately referred to as the President-elect. The College of Electors formally meet to officially recognize and “elect” the winners in December and a joint session of Congress is held the first week of January to formally count the electoral votes and declare the winners of the election. The new President is then sworn in on January 20th at noon.

I must admit that I knew very little about the electoral process in the Philippines. This election period has truly been a learning experience for me and I am learning something new every day. After watching the events unfold in the Philippines, it has become very clear to me that the influence of the American system is very prevalent.

As election results began coming in, clear winners began emerging in the various races. However, no one could be “proclaimed” a winner until the various municipal, provincial and national Boards of Canvassers could meet and issue Certificates of Canvass or CoC’s. There is also a ceremony involved wherein the Board officially “proclaims” a winner.

In the case of the presidential and vice-presidential proclamations, this did not happen until the afternoon of Wednesday, June 9, 2010. Ever the political junkie, I stayed up late once again and watched the live feed from ABS-CBN’s website to witness the proclamation of Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as the 15th President of the Philippines by the joint session of the Congress of the Philippines. It was only after the proclamation that Senator Aquino could officially be called the President-Elect.

President-Elect Aquino will be sworn on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at noon. As the son of two of the Philippines’ democratic icons – former President Cory Aquino and the slain Senator Ninoy Aquino Jr. – there is great pressure on the newly elected Noynoy to uphold his family name and build upon the legacy of his parents. Only time will tell if he will be up to the task.

The job of any president is challenging enough under the best of circumstances. However, it is very clear that, given the problems he will inherit from the Arroyo administration, Noynoy’s job will be even harder.

Hindi ka nag-iisa
sa paggising ng bayan
kami ay kasama, hindi ka mag-iisa.
Isasapuso ang dangal ng ating bayan
Sa tulong at biyaya ng maykapal

That was the promise individuals and groups made to Noynoy during the campaign. It is premised on the principle that the journey towards a better Philippines can only be accomplished if both the Filipino people and their government work together to tackle the nation’s many problems. No one man or woman can change the world. However, if Noynoy can become the catalyst for change, and if the Filipino people will give him the opportunity and the support he needs in order to begin that change, then anything is possible.

Patience, understanding and trust are all key factors towards making this change possible. It will remain to be seen if the political capital and goodwill that Noynoy currently enjoys will give him the precious time that is sorely needed to begin the necessary changes. Or will Pinoys immediately turn their backs on him if their world doesn’t improve overnight?

I hope and pray, along with millions of Filipinos worldwide, that June 30th, 2010 will be the dawn of a new era of politics in the Philippines and the beginning of a better future for all Filipinos.

Alona C. Mercado is a lawyer practicing in Winnipeg with the law firm of MONK GOODWIN LLP. She was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1999 and the Ontario Bar in 2003. Her preferred areas of practice include wills and estates, committees, real estate, business and commercial transactions, and immigration law. Alona can be reached at (204) 956-1060 ext. 233 or

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