MANNILA, April 2, 2004
By Paolo Romero - Midway into the presidential campaign, Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) standard-bearer Fernando Poe Jr. has slightly regained his lead over President Arroyo in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) nationwide survey commissioned by the actor’s camp.

According to a confidential summary dated March 29 and submitted to the KNP executive committee by the SWS, Poe obtained a rating of 34.9 percent compared to Mrs. Arroyo’s 32.9 percent in a survey taken from March 11 to 19 or covering the 31st to the 39th days of the campaign. The survey had 2,000 respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Trailing the two leading contenders were former education secretary Raul Roco with 13.1 percent; Sen. Panfilo Lacson, 11.5 percent; evangelist Eddie Villanueva, 2.4 percent; and disqualified candidate Eddie Gil, 0.5 percent.

At the start of the campaign period, Poe was leading Mrs. Arroyo by almost 11 percent as reflected in the Jan. 16-22 SWS survey of 1,200 respondents, where Poe obtained 36 percent of votes while Mrs. Arroyo got only 27 percent.

Poe’s lead was, however, obliterated in the Feb. 17-25 SWS survey when Mrs. Arroyo got 31.8 percent of the votes of 1,200 respondents against Poe’s 30.5 percent.

"It (latest poll results) is a gain from the SWS Feb. 17-25 survey but is not yet statistically significant," the confidential four-page SWS memo said.

In the vice presidential race, Sen. Noli de Castro enjoys a 50 percent rating compared to his closest rival, Sen. Loren Legarda, who got 39 percent in the latest survey. Roco’s runningmate, former congressman Hermie Aquino had a four percent rating while Gil vice presidential candidate Rodolfo Pajo obtained 0.6 percent.

The SWS memo said Poe’s two percent lead over Mrs. Arroyo is equal to 760,000 registered voters.

It also noted that the Palace’s March 6 to 10 internal survey score of 36 percent for Poe and 31 percent for Mrs. Arroyo "are statistically consistent" with the latest SWS survey findings.

Poe leads Mrs. Arroyo in Luzon by 10 percent and in Mindanao by nine percent. The President, however, lords it over in the Visayas with a score of 51 percent compared to Poe’s 22 percent.

"In the critical Lingayen-Lucena corridor the score is 37 for Poe and 26 for Mrs. Arroyo," the SWS memo adds, which was also statistically consistent with the internal survey by the Palace.

Meanwhile, results of a local survey in Western Visayas reported by Panay News showed Mrs. Arroyo and KNP vice presidential bet Sen. Loren Legarda as the leading candidates in the region.

Panay News reported that Mrs. Arroyo received 36.5 percent of the votes of 4,200 respondents in the survey conducted by the Makati City-based Interlink Media Services.

Poe received 29 percent, while administration coalition K-4 vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Noli de Castro, received 40.5 percent.

A far third in the presidential race is Alyansa ng Pag-asa standard bearer Raul Roco, who received 15.5 percent. His running mate, Herminio Aquino, had a mere 1.5 percent.

At least eight percent of the respondents were still undecided on who to vote for vice-president, the survey showed.

K-4 and KNP each had six senatorial candidates in the top twelve, according to the survey.

Iloilo-native and K-4 senatorial candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago led the group with 89.42 percent. She is followed by party mate actor Ramon Revilla, Jr., who had 82.66 percent.

Former Trade Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II had 76.5 percent while KNP re-electionist Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. followed with 74 percent.

The survey was taken from March 16-30 in 118 towns and cities in the provinces of Negros Occidental, has 1.2 million voters, its answer to the administration’s bailiwick, Cebu City, which also has a voting population of 1.2 million. — With Nikko Dizon Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, and Guimaras.

Together, these provinces have a combined 3.5 million voters.

According to the local paper, the survey covered a cross section of society, with a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points, and at 95 percent confidence level.

Poe was, however, optimistic that the KNP will be able to wrest Mrs. Arroyo’s lead in the region.

"I don’t think (Western Visayas) is GMA-country," Poe said. "But we will continue to campaign here even if it is supposedly (the administration’s) territory."

Panay News described Mrs. Arroyo as "a favorite of the Ilonggos" while Legarda is "their favorite daughter" and the "the best choice for vice-president." Legarda topped the 1998 senatorial race in Western Visayas.

The KNP is banking on the recent defections of top Negros Occidental local leaders such as former Lakas stalwart 5th district Rep. Jose Apolinario Lozada Jr., 2nd district Rep. Alfredo Maranon Jr. and his brother, Gov. Joseph Maranon, to the opposition to reverse the tide in their favor.

Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the province, on the other hand, are fourth district Rep. Charlie Cojuango, son of Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) founder Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., and first district Rep. Julio "Jules" Ledesma IV.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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