MANILA -- A neophyte lawmaker endorsed by outgoing President Benigno Aquino will be the Philippines' next vice president, narrowly thwarting a bid by a former dictator's son to reach the post that stands just a heartbeat from the presidency.
Congresswoman Leni Robredo garnered 14.42 million votes to edge her closest rival, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, by just over 260,000 votes, according to Congress' official tally Friday night. By Monday, Congress is to officially proclaim Robredo and incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as the country's top leaders for the next six years. Duterte won the election overwhelmingly with 16.6 million votes.
Robredo unexpectedly found her way into politics after her husband, Jesse Robredo, a respected politician and former interior secretary, died in a plane crash in 2012. She had a long career as a human rights lawyer defending marginalized groups.
"It's very meaningful that the canvassing finished on my late husband's birthday," Robredo said in a television interview.
Robredo ran as a district representative of Camarines Sur in 2013, her home province some 400km south of Metro Manila. While in Congress, she authored a law that sought greater transparency in the incentives granted to businesses.
She originally planned to seek re-election or pursue a Senate seat. But Aquino persuaded her to be presidential candidate Manuel Roxas' running mate after Sen. Grace Poe declined the offer and sought the presidency instead.
Marcos insists the election results were rigged, and he is expected to protest before the Supreme Court after losing to Robredo by just over 260,000 votes.
The vice president has no official function except to succeed the president when he is unable to serve. But the vice president traditionally is appointed to a cabinet position. Robredo has sought a position closer to her anti-poverty advocacies such as the social welfare department, a post Duterte reserved for the Communist Party.
Robredo has vowed to support Duterte, who promised to eradicate crime and corruption in three to six months. But the vice president-elect also said she will disagree with some of his positions. Duterte's proposed revival of the death penalty for heinous crimes already is dividing the country's next top two leaders.
Marcos, popularly known as "Bongbong," is the son and namesake of Ferdinand Marcos, a former dictator who suppressed freedoms, detained political enemies and looted up to $10 billion in public funds. However, "Marcos loyalists" believe his father was among the country's greatest presidents, and that leader's legacy continues to divide the nation.
George Erwin Garcia, a lawyer for Marcos, said they are gathering evidence for an election protest should Marcos decide to proceed, a process that could drag on for years and cost millions. No presidential protest has succeeded in previous elections.