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By Imee Charlee C. Delavin, Reporter

Issues fail to dent Duterte’s lead

Posted on May 06, 2016

NEITHER last week’s allegations of undeclared wealth nor the uproar caused by his earlier blithe remarks on the 1989 rape-slay of a female missionary did anything to narrow the lead of Davao City’s tough- and trash-talking mayor over his rivals in the race for the presidency that culminates on Monday.

Results of the last BusinessWorld-Social Weather Stations (SWS) pre-election survey conducted May 1-3 via face-to-face interviews with 4,500 validated voters nationwide -- with a sampling error margin of ± 1 point -- saw Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte ahead of the pack with a flat 33% score but still widen his lead over his closest contender, Senator Grace Poe, whose rating slipped to 22% from 24% from the preceding April 18-20 survey. The survey was taken after allegations first surfaced on April 27 of Mr. Duterte’s undeclared millions of pesos in bank deposits.

The same survey saw Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Maria Leonor G. Robredo racing neck-and-neck for the vice-presidency.

It did not take into consideration information, released yesterday, that the Iglesia Ni Cristo has ordered its estimated two million members to vote solidly for Messrs. Duterte and Marcos.

Administration standard bearer former Interior secretary Manuel A. Roxas II’s score was steady at 20% from 19% while that of Vice-President Jejomar C. Binay -- a former frontrunner whose popularity has significantly eroded as opponents linked him and members of his family to purportedly irregular deals -- steadied at 13% from 14%.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago continued to trail at 2%, flat from her previous score.

Four percent were undecided.

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Analysts sought for comment yesterday described many respondents’ preference for Mr. Duterte as a “protest vote.”

“My take is... the voting public may have stuck it out with Mayor Duterte despite his many pronouncements which many found unacceptable since this is really a protest vote... Voters really want change,” University of Santo Tomas political science professor Edmund S. Tayao said. “Mayor Digong (Mr. Duterte’s nickname) is the most vigorous in campaigning for change disregarding the conventional style of positioning himself in particular issues... he is seen as an unconventional leader that will most likely be the person that will do anything to really make change happen.”

At the same time, Mr. Tayao said the survey results do not necessarily reflect vote turnout at the national elections on May 9.

“If we go back to the 2004 and 2014 elections, the surveys did not come up with an accurate reading of what could be the results... if we use that as basis, we can say that it’s still a toss between number 1 and number 2: between Mayor Duterte and Sen. Poe,” he said.

Ramon C. Casiple, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms said: “The vote for Duterte is a protest vote, not really a Duterte vote.”

“People are showing that they are really frustrated and angry with the current administration,” Mr. Casiple noted. “If nothing changes, Duterte will win... he got the imagination of the public.”

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The same survey showed a close race for the vice-presidency with Mr. Marcos -- who gained four points to 29% from 25% -- and Ms. Robredo -- who added two points to 28% from 26% -- practically in a tie.

At the same time, early frontrunner Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero -- Ms. Poe’s running mate -- fell by another three points to 15%, while Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano, who is running with Mr. Duterte, similarly lost three points to 13%. Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV, who had levelled the undeclared wealth allegations at Mr. Duterte and is running as an independent candidate, and Gregorio B. Honasan II each got 3%.

Mr. Tayao said the vice-presidential race is “very tight” and “whoever will win, will win by a hairline.”

“It can go either way... even if we’re looking at a few days to the election. Sen. Marcos has a baggage in him being a Marcos and the issue of martial law abuses remains, [but] he was recently endorsed by the Iglesia ni Cristo... that might be the game changer,” he added, even as its internal rift could have “weakened their endorsement.”

“This is a factor to consider in a close fight: the endorsement of any will always be a plus even if by a small margin... I’m not expecting anymore significant change on the few days to election that can spell the difference.”