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Aquino Wins Philippine Senate Seats in Anti-Graft Drive Boost

Candidates backed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino won five of six Senate contests announced today by the election agency, a result that may bolster his anti-corruption drive.

The Commission on Elections, which originally planned to announce yesterday all 12 winners from the May 13 elections, made the partial declaration, rejecting an opposition plea to release all the results at the same time.

Aquino, who has overseen an economic revival during the first three years of his single six-year term, wants a tighter grip on the Senate to push for stronger anti-graft measures, speedier trials and a more efficient procurement system. The 53-year-old leader of the Liberal Party barely won the Senate vote to raise tobacco and liquor taxes in December.

Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and Juan Edgardo Angara -- all Aquino allies -- were declared as senators. Nancy Binay, daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay who heads the opposition, didn’t attend the proclamation ceremony.

The victories gave Aquino nine members in the 24-seat Senate. Unofficial counts by the election commission and other organizations project he may win four of the contests yet to be announced, giving him a majority of 13.

Delays in announcing full results are a concern and may raise doubts about the integrity of the vote, Prospero de Vera, a political-science professor at the University of the Philippines, said by telephone. “The poll body should explain the technical problem and offer a solution that’s acceptable.”

The opposition, which according to an unofficial tally is poised to win three of the dozen seats, cited the manipulation of election data by a vote-machine operator. “This is highly irregular and raises suspicions on the integrity of the ongoing count,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The nation’s poll watchdog also asked the regulator to explain the slow transmission of data from counting machines in 78,000 precincts nationwide, which the election body blamed on a weak wireless signal.

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