Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. on Tuesday conceded to his rival in the presidential race, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, as he lagged in the partial tally conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“I congratulate Sen. Noynoy Aquino on his victory,” Villar said in a press conference.

As of 9:39 a.m., the Comelec’s partial and unofficial count showed Aquino was leading by a wide margin over former president Joseph Estrada.

Aquino had 12,587,406 votes, followed by Estrada with 8,015,110 votes. Villar came in third with only 4,477,209 votes.

Villar, who used to dominate the pre-election surveys before Aquino belatedly joined the presidential race, also offered to help the latter if he wins.

“The challenges our country face are enormous and we should work together,” Villar said.

But as he accepted defeat, the senator said he remained saddened by the barrage of negative news that surfaced against him in the run-up to the national elections.

“Lubos akong nalulungkot sa mga kasinungalingan at paninira sa aking pagkatao sa kampanyang into (I am greatly saddened by the lies and criticisms hurled against me during the campaign),” he said.

“Ako’y naniniwala na sa darating na mga araw, ako’y mabibigyan ng pagkakataong linisin ang aking pangalan upang mapalinawagan ang ating mga kababayan. ‘Yan ang mahalaga sa akin higit sa ano mang bagay (I believe that in the coming days, I will be able to clear my name. This is the most important thing to me).”

Villar vowed to continue to fight poverty even outside the walls of public office.

“For the rest of my life, I will remain their (the poor) champion. I will do this through other means,” he said.

He concluded his speech by thanking those who had supported and voted for him.

Villar figured in a number of controversies in the past, particularly the C-5 double-insertion scandal that allegedly benefited his business empire, and the sale of his company’s shares to the public wherein proceeds were said to have been channeled to his campaign.

His critics are planning to pursue an ethics complaint against him after the elections. Villar still has 3 more years to serve in the Senate. -ABS-CBNnews

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