Aquino chooses Roxas as Philippine presidential candidate

MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III announced Friday that he had picked Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II as the administration candidate to succeed him in elections next year.

Aquino made the announcement in the same meeting hall where Roxas declared six years ago that he was shelving his own presidential ambitions to give way to the son of the late democracy icon Corazon Aquino.

The 58-year-old former congressman and senator said he was honored to be endorsed by Aquino as the standard bearer of the dominant Liberal Party.

The grandson and namesake of the Philippines' first post-World War II president promised to continue on the "straight path," Aquino's program to fight poverty and corruption.

Aquino said he picked Roxas because "he has the competence, he has no other boss except the people, who owes no one a debt of gratitude, who has no interest except the nation's."

Aquino cannot run again because the constitution sets a single six-year term for the president and vice president.

Hundreds of party members and supporters cheered Aquino's announcement in the historic Cory Aquino Freedom Hall where his mother took her oath as president after the "people power" revolt ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

"This is such a huge honor," Roxas said. "With this endorsement, you are also endorsing the dreams and the power of each of the 100 million Filipinos.... I will never deviate from the 'straight path.'"

Roxas was Aquino's running mate in the 2010 national elections but was defeated in a separate election by Jejomar Binay, who is now under investigation for alleged corruption during his term as mayor of Makati City, metropolitan Manila's business district.

Binay has already said he will run for president next year, and recent surveys put him ahead of Roxas despite the corruption allegations.

The independent pollster Social Weather Stations said a survey in June showed Roxas in third place behind Senator Grace Poe, who was in the top spot, and Binay. Poe, an ally of Aquino who has not said if she will run for president and has reportedly been asked by Aquino to run in the vice presidential election.

Poe is a daughter of the late popular action movie star Fernando Poe, who lost the fraud-marred 2004 presidential election won by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Aquino's predecessor who is in hospital detention on charges of corruption and election sabotage.