MANILA, August 26, 2003 (STAR) President Arroyo has overtaken former education secretary Raul Roco and is closing in on Sen. Noli de Castro in the latest survey of likely presidential candidates in the May 10, 2004 elections, pollster Pulse Asia reported yesterday.

Pulse Asia’s latest Ulat ng Bayan survey, conducted from July 25 to Aug. 6, showed that 21 percent of 1,200 "nationally representative" voters said they would vote for Mrs. Arroyo if the polls were held today.

The President dislodged Roco, who gained the nod of 16 percent of respondents, from second spot but was still behind De Castro, the perennial topnotcher in recent presidential surveys. De Castro, a former broadcaster, gained the support of 26 percent of respondents.

De Castro also posted a significant lead in voter preference for vice president, getting 29 percent support from respondents while Sen. Loren Legarda placed second with 12 percent.

Pulse Asia executive director Ana Maria Tabunda said the President improved her ranking from fifth to second place since the last "Ulat ng Bayan" survey in April.

Tabunda also noted "the pre-selected list for the April survey was longer than the list for the current survey, limiting comparisons between the results."

The integrated survey, using a multistage probability sampling method, was not "singularly commissioned" by any one party and had an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level, Pulse Asia said.

The survey asked respondents to select from a list who they would vote for president and vice president if the elections were held today.

There were 11 names on the list of possible presidential candidates while there were 16 possible candidates on the list for vice president.

Aside from De Castro, Mrs. Arroyo and Roco, other declared and possible candidates on the list were Sen. Panfilo Lacson (11 percent), actor Fernando Poe Jr., (nine percent), Sen. Juan Flavier (four percent), Sen. Ramon Magsaysay (three percent), tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco, Sen. Gregorio Honasan and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel (two percent each), and Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon (one percent).

Aside from De Castro and Legarda, other possible candidates in the vice presidential list were Flavier (eight percent), Senate President Franklin Drilon (seven percent), Lacson and Poe (six percent each), Sen. Edgardo Angara (five percent), Honasan and former senator Miriam Santiago (four percent each), Sen. Robert Barbers, Pimentel and Sen. Sergio Osmeña III (three percent each), Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando (two percent), Gordon and Vice President Teofisto Guingona (one percent each).

The survey also presented 17 possible tandems for president and vice president and 12 percent of respondents preferred a Roco-De Castro tandem followed by a De Castro-Legarda tandem and an Arroyo-De Castro ticket (nine percent each).

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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