SPECIAL REPORT: Team PNoy still ahead

Posted on April 21, 2013

ADMINISTRATION-sponsored bets remain poised to take the majority of the 12 Senate seats up for grabs in next month's elections, a new Social Weather Stations-BusinessWorld (SWS-BW) poll found.

A reelectionist hold on the top three was finally broken, however, with two would-be senators now battling for third as a scandal apparently affected the erstwhile holder.

Political networks, an analyst also said, were now figuring in a "Magic 12" race still dominated by names.

The top nine -- composed of seven Team PNoy and two United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidates -- are "safe" as of the April 13-15 survey, the SWS said. Three bets each from the administration coalition and the opposition alliance, meanwhile, are battling for the last three Senate seats.

Still, despite the latest positional changes and given statistical ties, the likely outcome for the Senate race still ranges from 10-2 to 7-5 in favor of Team PNoy, the SWS said.

'Chiz' falls to 5th

Reelectionists Lorna Regina "Loren" B. Legarda (Nationalist People's Coalition-PNoy) and Allan Peter "Compañero" Cayetano (Nationalista Party-PNoy) maintained their respective holds on first and second, while Senate neophytes Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay (UNA) and former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia "Misis Hanepbuhay" A. Villar (NP-PNoy) improved to 3rd-4th from 5th-7th.

Ms. Legarda's support stayed steady at 59% of the respondents, while Mr. Cayetano lost five points to 52%. The scores of Ms. Binay -- daughter of Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay -- and Ms. Villar -- wife of outgoing Sen. Manuel B. Villar -- were up two to 49%.

Sen. Francis Joseph "Chiz" G. Escudero (independent-PNoy), comfortably in the top three in the first four SWS-BW surveys before slipping to 3rd-4th last month, dropped to fifth place even as his support dipped by just a point to 47%.

Political analyst Ramon C. Casiple said a word war between Mr. Escudero and the parents of his much-younger girlfriend, actress Heart Evangelista, could have been a factor. Mr. Escudero was not immediately available for comment.

'Bam' still rising

Gaining four places to 6th, meanwhile, was presidential cousin Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV (Liberal Party-Team PNoy), who saw his score rise by two points to 44%.

In joint 7th-8th were reelectionist Sen. Aquilino Martin "Koko" D. Pimentel III (Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan-PNoy) and San Juan City Rep. Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito (UNA), each with 43%.

Mr. Pimentel was 5th-7th in the last survey, while Mr. Ejercito -- son of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada -- continued a rollercoaster ride as he was tied with Mr. Escudero for 3rd-4th last month. Mr. Pimentel and Mr. Estrada's scores dropped by four and five points, respectively.

Taking the last slot in the top nine was Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" M. Angara (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino-PNoy), who rose from 12th last month with a three-point gain in his support to 42%.

Battling for the last three

In 10th-11th places, meanwhile, were former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chief Grace Poe-Llamanzares (independent-PNoy) and reelectionist Sen. Antonio "Sonny" V. Trillanes IV (NP-PNoy), each with 39%. Ms. Poe-Llamanzares, daughter of deceased actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who ran unsuccessfully for the 2004 presidential elections, was ranked 11th (40%) in the last survey, while Mr. Trillanes was 8th (44%).

Twelfth to 13th, meanwhile, went to UNA bets Juan Ponce "Jack" Enrile, Jr. and reelectionist Sen. Gregorio "Gringo" B. Honasan, each with 37%. Mr. Enrile, son of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, was 13th-14th (37%)last month, while Mr. Honasan fell from 9th (43%).

Fellow UNA candidate and former senator Juan Miguel "Migz" F. Zubiri was tied in 14th-15th with Team PNoy's Ramon "Jun" Magsaysay, Jr., also a former senator. Mr. Zubiri was 15th, while Mr. Magsaysay was 13th-14th, in the last survey.

All six -- Ms. Poe-Llamanzares, Mr. Trillanes, Mr. Enrile, Mr. Honasan, Mr. Zubiri and Mr. Magsaysay -- are contending for the last three of the "Magic 12" Senate seats, the SWS said.

Not in the running

Statistically below the top 12, meanwhile, were:

• former senator Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal (LP-PNoy, 30%);

• former party-list representative Ana Theresia "Risa" Hontiveros (Akbayan, 29%);

• former senator Richard "Dick" Gordon (UNA, 27%);

• Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward "Ed" Hagedorn (independent, 17%);

• former senator Ernesto "Manong Ernie" Maceda (UNA, 16%);

• Zambales Rep. Maria Milagros Esperanza "Mitos" H. Magsaysay (UNA, 15%),

• Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco (UNA, 14%); and

• Eduardo "Bro. Eddie" Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas, 13%).

Recording single-digit support scores were:

• party-list Rep. Teodoro "Teddy" A. Casino (Makabayan, 7%);

• Ramon "Mon" Montaño (independent, 5%);

• Rizalito "Bro. Lito Yap David" David (Ang Kapatiran, 4%);

• John Carlos "JC" de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran, 3%);

• Samson "Sammy" Alcantara (Social Justice Society, 3%);

• Richard "Dick" Penson (independent, 3%);

• Baldohero "Balc Falcone" Falcone (Democratic Party of the Philippines, 2%);

• Christian Señeres (Democratic Party of the Philippines, 2%);

• Marwil "Bro. Mars Llasos" Llasos (Ang Kapatiran, 2%); and

• Greco Antonious Beda "Greco" Belgica (DPP, 2%)

No drastic changes?

Political analyst Mr. Casiple said the top nine were likely "safe" with no drastic changes expected in the remaining three weeks before the May 13 elections.

"As a group, [the top 9] have been more or less established, but those below that are still not safe," he said

The latest survey, the analyst said, also showed the strength of networks as evident in the rise of Ms. Binay, Ms. Villar and Mr. Aquino.

"Binay, Villar and Aquino carry the family names, so does Grace Poe, but she did not increase her rank because she lacks the local network," Mr. Casiple said.

The latest ranking results, he added, are more attributable to individual candidates' efforts rather than party affiliations. "Candidates are on their own now at this time of the campaign season," he claimed.

Mr. Aquino welcomed the ranking improvement but added: "I don't really believe in the safe zone, I just have to work hard. The endorsement of the president (Benigno S. C. Aquino III) is also very important".

Sen. Honasan said he was "affected" but had not lost the motivation to campaign. "We will bring the issues direct to the people and educate them so they can decide and vote wisely," he said.

45% pick full slate

Fewer respondents -- 45% from 48% -- chose a full slate of 12 in the April SWS-BW poll. The average number of names chosen, meanwhile, barely moved to nine from 9.3. About 2% of the respondents were undecided, unchanged from the previous round, while the number of ballots deemed invalid was 4%.

The respondents were asked: "Kung ang eleksyon ay gaganapin ngayon, sino ang pinakamalamang ninyong iboboto bilang mga senador ng Pilipinas? Narito ang listahan ng mga kandidato. Paki-shade o itiman po ang naaangkop na oval katabi ng pangalan ng taong pinakamalamang ninyong iboboto. Maaari po kayong pumili ng hanggang 12 pangalan (If the elections were held today, whom would you most probably vote for as senators of the Philippines? Here is a list of candidates. Please shade the oval beside the names of the persons you would most likely vote for. You can choose up to 12 names.)."

Candidate names were presented in alphabetical order and included nicknames. The respondents were allowed to fill in their ballots in private and then deposit these in a container brought by the interviewer.

The April 13-15 SWS-BW pre-election survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,800 registered voters divided into random samples of 300 each in Metro Manila, North/Central Luzon, and South Luzon; 400 in the Visayas; and 500 in Mindanao. The sampling error margins were ±2% for national percentages; ±6% for Metro Manila, North/Central Luzon and South Luzon; ±5% for Visayas; and ±4% for Mindanao.

Half of the Senate's 24 seats are up for grabs in the May 13 elections, where Filipinos will also choose a new House of Representatives and local officials from the municipal level up.

The election period officially began on Jan. 13 but campaigning for national posts -- in this case for the Senate and party list slots for the House of Representatives --started Feb. 12. The local election campaign started on March 29.