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President-apparent Aquino? Sounds like royalty

June 1, 2010 8:23pm
Sen. Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III, who is leading in both official and unofficial tallies, is on his way to becoming the republic’s 15th president.

But what do we call him now in this murky period between the elections, which he appears to have won by a landslide, and his proclamation some time this month, when everyone will then be calling him “President-elect Aquino?"

Presumptive or apparent? The media is in a quandary over what to call Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III pending his official proclamation by Congress.
At the moment, nothing is official, as Congress has barely begun the national canvassing of votes for president and vice president. In fact, the third day of canvassing had Joseph Estrada leading the presidential race.

During the campaign, as Aquino topped a series of public opinion surveys, media commonly called him “presidential front-runner."

After the elections, when it became clear that Aquino’s lead in the unofficial tally was insurmountable, GMANews.TV took to calling him “President-apparent Aquino," taking our cue from Associated Press (AP), which usually sets the standard for English usage in news and whose reports are respected the world over.

A recent AP photo caption starts this way: “Philippine President-apparent Sen. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, center, and European Union delegation head Alistair MacDonald, shake hands…"

A quick online search, however, did not yield any references for “President-apparent" in other countries and the term was even declared wrong by some readers. “You derive it from the term Heir Apparent as the legal successor to the throne," Facebook user Nico Candelario posted on GMANews.TV’s fan page, “that no one can replace him/her except upon his/her death, causing another heir to succeed, which is the Heir Presumptive."

In this context, using ‘President-apparent’ for a political figure often taunted during the campaign for achieving little beyond being born to iconic parents could be seen as an insult. The Aquinos, after all, are probably the closest this country has to royalty.

The venerable BBC even headlined a recent report, “Huge challenges face Philippine heir apparent Aquino" as if he indeed was the son of a queen, like Prince Charles, and not the apparent winner of a grueling election campaign.

Contacted by GMANews.TV, an Associated Press senior reporter conveyed assurances that the meaning of the term was literal rather than titular. “We will use this term for no other person and at no other time," he said.

Vergel Santos, a veteran newspaper editor and author of books on journalism, argues in favor of doing away with legal niceties and calling Aquino “President-elect."

“It seems justified by the ministerial nature of the congressional proclamation and the decisiveness of the victory," Santos said. “It also seems to me decisive journalism."

But it’s not accurate journalism, according to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez. “’Presidential front-runner’ would be the best term," Jimenez clarified. “He hasn't won yet, nor has he been canvassed as having the most number of votes. He is not president-elect."

The nation’s leading newspaper, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, prefers the clunkier “presumptive president-elect."

When asked what would-be President Aquino himself prefers, his political communications officer Mai Mislang texted back, “Senator na lang."

For the record, until he is proclaimed, GMANews.TV will use ‘presidential front-runner Sen. Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III.’ – Howie Severino, GMANews.TV



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