Duterte to take over Benigno Aquino on June 30

A joint session of the Philippine Congress on Monday proclaimed Rodrigo Duterte as the new Philippine president, over 20 days after the May 9 elections.

Duterte, 71, will take over from President Benigno Aquino on June 30 as the country’s 16th president.

Both houses of the Congress, which is tasked by the Constitution to canvass the votes for the president and vice president finished Friday canvassing returns and results showed Duterte has won 16,601,997 votes.

Duterte had a lead of almost 7 million votes over second-placer Manuel Roxas, the candidate endorsed by Aquino, in a hotly contested election.

Duterte is the first president who hails from Mindanao in the southern Philippines. At 71, he is also the oldest to assume the presidency.

Maria Leonor Robredo, 51, a member of the House of Representatives, won the vice presidency with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 votes ahead of her closest rival Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, who got 14,155,344.

Duterte, who earned the “The Punisher” reputation for his iron-fisted rule as mayor in the southern Philippine city of Davao, was elected on a platform of reducing rampant criminality, including promises of mass killings of suspected criminals, drug dealers, the restoration of the death penalty with hanging as the preferred mode of execution, and an overhaul of law enforcement agencies.

Duterte has also pledged to stamp out corruption, vowing to nail tax evaders and smugglers in the Philippines, saying widespread corruption in the country is contributing to increased poverty.

“There’s so much expectation with the presidency of Duterte,” said political analyst Edmund Tayao in an interview. Duterte vowed to reduce crime in six months.

“It’s a protest vote,” Tayao said, adding that Filipinos were fed up with the current administration’s inability especially to curb rampant criminality in the country.

Tayao said people voted for Duterte because they think he has the guts to implement any measure even if it’s unpopular.

“This was the message that reached the people — a tough no-nonsense president, a tough leader,” said Tayao.

Duterte, who stays most of the time in Davao, did not attend the proclamation ceremony at the House of Representatives in Manila. He told reporters over the weekend that he is busy completing the members of his Cabinet.

Aside from rampant criminality, he will also have to grapple with a slew of problems including reducing unemployment and under-employment rates, improving the country’s investment climate, corruption, policy instability and inadequate infrastructure.

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