Benigno Aquino announced Wednesday he would run for president of the Philippines in next year’s elections, looking to continue the work of his famous mother who overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino, 49, made the announcement at the historic Club Filipino, where his mother, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, was sworn in as the Philippines’ 11th president after leading the “people power” revolution that ended Marcos’s 20-year reign.
“I am accepting the responsibility to continue this nation’s fight. I am accepting the challenge to lead this fight. I am running for the presidency in the coming election,” Aquino told a crowd of cheering supporters.
In another symbolic move, Aquino made the announcement at the end of the 40-day period of mourning for his mother’s death.
Aquino will lead the opposition Liberal Party in the May 2010 polls, with President Gloria Arroyo mandated by the constitution to step down after her six-year term.
Although Aquino has been a member of parliament for 11 years, he said he only began seriously considering a presidential bid after seeing the massive outpouring of support for his family following his mother’s death from cancer.
His father, also named Benigno, is held in equally high esteem by many throughout the Southeast Asian nation of 92 million people.
As then opposition leader, Marcos gunmen shot him dead at Manila airport in 1983 as he returned from exile. His assassination led to Cory reluctantly moving into politics and becoming president in 1986.
Next year’s bid gives an opportunity for Aquino, a senator since 2007, to build a remarkable political dynasty and push ahead with his mother’s agenda during her six years in power of slowly rebuilding a stable democracy.
Aquino declared he wanted to empower all sections of society in this largely impoverished nation.
“I want to make democracy work not just for the rich and the well-connected, but for everybody,” Aquino said.
However, his family belongs to one of the powerful clans that have dominated Philippine life for generations.
His decision also opens the tantalising prospect of a two-way race for the presidency against his first cousin, Gilberto Teodoro, who is a leading candidate to run for the ruling coalition.
The first challenge for Aquino, known by his nickname of “Noynoy,” is to unite a fractious opposition.
Former president and movie star Joseph Estrada has said he wants to run again, while property tycoon Senator Manuel Villar has been leading recent polls of potential opposition presidential candidates.
“I have asked former president Joseph Estrada if it’s possible for him to give way for Noynoy,” Liberal party chairman Franklin Drilon said earlier on ABS-CBN television.