Reelectionists dominate Philippine senate race poll

Jerome Aning and Norman Bordadora in Manila/Philippine Daily Inquirer
Asia News Network

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Philippine Senator Franklin Drilon on Friday predicted that the administration's senatorial candidates will dominate May's midterm elections, as indicated by the results of the latest Pulse Asia poll.

But Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco, secretary general of the minimally opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), said he would change his hairstyle if President Aquino's candidates could score a sweep of the senatorial election.

"We welcome the Pulse Asia survey in which seven of the top 12 spots were dominated by Team PNoy, with the top three places also dominated by Team PNoy candidates," Drilon said in a statement.

Drilon must have overlooked the fact that two of the Team PNoy candidates in the winning circle-reelectionists Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero-were also candidates of UNA, backed by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada.

The results of the Pulse Asia senatorial poll, taken from Jan. 19 to 30, appears to be more of a split between the two major coalitions with Team PNoy and UNA each having five candidates making it to the top 12, aside from common candidates Legarda and Escudero.

The results, derived from interviews with 1,800 respondents nationwide, showed that if the election were held in January, Legarda (Nationalist People's Coalition/Team PNoy, 58 percent) would have come out on top, followed by Escudero (Team PNoy, 54.3 percent), reelectionist Alan Peter Cayetano (Nacionalista Party/Team PNoy, 48.9 percent), Nancy Binay (UNA, 43.6 percent), San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito (UNA, 43.5 percent), reelectionists Antonio Trillanes IV (LP-NP/Team PNoy, 41.1 percent) and Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III (Team PNoy, 40.7 percent), Cagayan Rep. Juan "Jack" Ponce Enrile Jr. (NPC/UNA, 40.4 percent), former Las Pi?as Rep. Cynthia Villar (NP/Team PNoy, 39.1 percent), former congressman Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri (UNA, 37.6 percent), Aurora Rep. Edgardo "Sonny" Angara (LDP/Team PNoy, 37.1 percent) and reelectionist Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan (UNA, 36.8 percent).

The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 2 percentage points.

Legarda also topped the latest Social Weather Stations senatorial poll, taken from Jan. 17 to 19.

Still the surprise

The surprise in both polls is Nancy Binay's making it to the winning circle.

A virtual unknown until she joined the UNA team last year, the daughter of Vice President Binay issued a statement Friday thanking her supporters.

"I thank all of those who trust me. I know we have a long way to go before May 13, but even now I am inspired because of the support I have received," she said in the statement written in Filipino.

In his recent announcements, Drilon indicated that Legarda and Escudero were administration candidates who only happened to be endorsed by UNA.

The Liberal Party-led administration coalition also sought to draw a clear line between Team PNoy and UNA candidates, who also profess support for President Aquino's reform programs while reserving the right to question administration policies that they don't agree with.

"It is beyond doubt that President Aquino's endorsement of his senatorial team is very effective and has been taken positively by the people who clearly manifest support for the team the President has chosen to help him carry out his reforms in the next three years," Drilon said.

Within striking distance

"The survey is a manifestation that the majority of the people trust the candidates the President has chosen to be part of his reform team in the Senate.

The people understand the message of the President: These are my companions on the straight path," he added, referring to the administration's good government theme.

Drilon said the latest Pulse Asia poll signified confidence in the five other candidates of Team PNoy-Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Ma. Consuelo Madrigal, Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel-who remained outside the top 12 but were "within striking distance."

"The campaign has not even started yet. I am confident that when they get the needed exposure, they will catch up," Drilon said.

Aquino, Madrigal and Magsaysay, who are in the 13th, 16th and 17th places, respectively, are the Liberal Party members on the administration ticket.

Poe, an independent, is at No. 14 while Baraquel, a member of the Akbayan party, is at No. 18.

'Friendly wager'

Tiangco released a statement, offering Drilon a "friendly wager" against the Liberal Party's sweeping the senatorial race.

"I am willing to change my hairstyle if they could muster a 12-0 win," Tiangco said. "I will copy Senator Drilon's 'do.' And if they fail to get 12-0, I challenge Senator [Drilon] to copy my hairstyle."

Tiangco sports a spiky, daredevil hairstyle, while Drilon's hairstyle is the traditional short and straight.

"With the surveys all showing poor performance of LP [candidates], we are amused but at the same time bothered by Senator Drilon's confidence," Tiangco said. "What miracle will the LP perform?"

UNA said the "12-0" battle cry evoked the 2007 midterm elections where the administration party Lakas-Kampi managed to sweep the senatorial race in Maguindanao province. Voter turnout in the province was extraordinarily high, with no town reporting a turnout of lower than 90 percent.

But the Commission on Elections (Comelec) later uncovered fraud in the Maguindanao polls, which forced Zubiri to quit his seat in the Senate.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos Sr., former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former provincial and regional election officials were charged with electoral fraud.

Force, intimidation

UNA spokesperson JV Bautista said Drilon must be "dreaming and hallucinating."

"If they use force and intimidation [on] local government officials, then it is most likely that the elections may be influenced," Bautista said.

"They may resort to tactics and strategies to ensure that local leaders will toe the party line. It is a big possibility," he said.

Drilon had no immediate response to the statements from Tiangco and Bautista.

Meanwhile, Escudero's camp claimed he was in a statistical tie with Legarda for the top spot.

"I am happy and humbled by the continued confidence by the people, but what is important is that public servants seeking the people's vote like me continue to work to prove that we are worthy of the positions entrusted to us," Escudero said in reaction to his continued high ranking in the polls.

Candidate, not polls

Third-placer Cayetano called on voters not to base their choices on what the polls report.

"Of course, I'm very happy that through God's grace so far I have landed in the top three. Having said that, I've been in the bottom four before. I've faced a lot of challenges like having a namesake and I know how hard it is to mount a campaign," Cayetano said.

"My message to our [countrymen] is not to look at the surveys. Look at the candidate and see what he stands for and what he will do for you," he added.

Escudero is an independent, Legarda is a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition while Cayetano is a stalwart of the Nacionalista Party.