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The Philippines: an Aquino makeover on the road to the Presidency.

The Philippines has not yet recovered from its official mourning period for former President Corazon Aquino, the "mother of democracy," who died last month. Monsoonal waves of love are still washing over her family. There has been near hysteric pressure on her only son, Senator Benigno 'Noy Noy' Aquino III to make a tilt for the presidency in next year's elections. "Yes Yes! Noy Noy!" screamed one local newspaper headline.

On Wednesday Noy Noy announced he would "continue the legacy" of his mother and stand in 2010. He trotted out the usual candidate cliches at his announcement. "I want to make democracy work not only for the rich and the well connected but for everyone," he said.

Noy Noy's sister, TV personality Kris, has elected herself as enforcer of her rather dorky brother's makeover. She's encouraging him to use hair regrowth treatment, get a bit hipper in the wardrobe department and has warned any woman interested in her 49-year-old unmarried brother that she will be a total "monster sister-in-law".

Despite the handicap of a sister who hasn't quite mastered the art of appropriate public utterances, the family name will come in handy for Noy Noy because, despite ten years in national politics, there's not much to indicate what he actually stands for. Several young voters I spoke to said they hope he spends the time between now and the election showing what his values are, because quite frankly, they have no idea what he represents.

Although there is one thing. Noy Noy supports the controversial Human Reproductive Health Bill which allows Filipinos access to information on family planning. The Catholic Church -- which could be considered an influential wing of the government in the Philippines -- has been apoplectic about the bill and is using strong arm tactics on national politicians to elicit a 'no' vote.

Noy Noy's support for the bill may deliver him some of the youth and progressive vote but next year's polls are wide open. As well as the journeyman politicians, the usual array of novelty candidates will most likely stand. There is talk of local hero and world champion boxer Manny Pacquaio standing though his appeal is limited ("You have to be joking!" say my middle class friends). Also in the ring, Joseph "Erap" Estrada -- the discredited former president and film actor (a dreadful ham even by the Philippines movie industry's low standards). Estrada is currently attracting strong popular support despite having being found guilty in a court of law, of the rather Cromwellian sounding charge of 'plunder.'

(President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is badly out of public favor, will step down from the premiership in June and is not eligible to stand for election again).

Can Noy Noy continue to ride on the genuine love felt for his mother (while at the same time recognizing her limitations) through to the May elections, or create a new and electable persona of his own?

The votes won't be in for another eight months. By then Kris Aquino may have made over her brother, who this week took his first steps into claiming what he sees as his family's dynastic destiny.

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