MANILA, April 13, 2004
Into the homestretch of the May 10 polls, President Arroyo and her main rival Fernando Poe Jr. remain locked in a tight race, according to the latest survey of Pulse Asia.

The survey showed the President enjoying a narrow lead of three percent, with 34 percent of the respondents picking her and 31 percent going for Poe, standard-bearer of the opposition Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP).

Pulse Asia said 4,800 statistically representative registered voters took part in the March 27 to April 4 survey, which has an error margin of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

This is the first time that Mrs. Arroyo has garnered a statistically significant lead over Poe, Pulse Asia said in a statement. In its February survey, Mrs. Arroyo and Poe enjoyed nearly the same overall voter preference, with 31.9 percent of voters going for the President and 31.7 percent for Poe.

Respondents were asked to write down on a ballot the names of their chosen candidates, simulating actual voting procedures, the polling firm said.

Mrs. Arroyo and Poe "continue to be locked in a very close fight for the presidency," Pulse Asia said, stressing that the survey also showed that a "considerable minority" or about 19 percent could still change their minds.

The survey was the first in months to show that the President was slowly gaining a lead over Poe, a hugely popular movie actor who has little formal education and no record of public service.

Its previous survey, carried out in February, had placed both at 32 percent each.

A separate survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) published last week said that both candidates were neck and neck ahead of the polls, with Poe supported by 32 percent of voters and Mrs. Arroyo by 31.4 percent.

In the latest Pulse Asia survey, electoral support for Mrs. Arroyo increased by six percent in Metro Manila and 11 percent in the Visayas, "while it remained the same in the other geographic areas and in all socioeconomic classes," Pulse Asia said.

The latest Pulse Asia survey also placed Alyansa ng Pag-asa standard-bearer Raul Roco and independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson in third and fourth place, respectively, in the presidential race.

Roco garnered 12 percentage points in the latest survey, which also indicated a decline of eight percentage points in Roco’s standing in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Lacson garnered 10 percent of the respondents’ votes in the mock election-style survey, though support for him remained "nearly constant" across the country between February and March, with the exception of a four-percent drop in voter preference among the poorest voters.

Bangon Pilipinas Movement (BPM) standard-bearer Eduardo Villanueva, meanwhile, came in last in the Pulse Asia survey, with only three percent voter preference, while 10 percent of respondents are not supporting any of the five presidential candidates.

In the vice-presidential arena, Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan sa Kinabukasan (K-4) candidate Sen. Noli de Castro is the dominant choice of Pulse Asia’s survey respondents, with 49 percent saying they would vote for him.

Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) vice-presidential candidate Sen. Loren Legarda came in second in the Pulse Asia survey, with 35 percent.

However, while De Castro continues to lead the pack of vice-presidential bets, his lead on Legarda has narrowed to 14 percentage points since the February to March survey.

Meanwhile, four percent of voters said they would back Alyansa ng Pag-asa vice-presidential candidate Herminio Aquino and voter preference for the obscure Rodolfo Pajo is practically nil at 0.4 percent.

According to the latest Pulse Asia survey, 13 percent of voters remain undecided as to who of the aspirants to the vice presidency will get their votes.

Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles said the President’s lead in the Pulse Asia survey proves that the K-4’s local leaders "are now fully mobilized, bringing with them a common goal to carry the President to a resounding victory" come election day.

"The opposition is losing steam," Nograles said. "The predicted tsunami was all hype and hot air, which didn’t happen. The President’s machinery is still at full blast in the countryside, with local leaders campaigning for her."

Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier said the President’s ability to elaborate on her platform of government contributed to her lead on Poe in the Pulse Asia survey.

"With only a few days before the (elections), people are disappointed that Poe still failed to expound on his platform and prove he has the mind, not only the heart, to lead the nation," Javier said.

He added that "now that the municipal campaign has started, even the barangay positions are being dominated by administration candidates and supporters. The grassroots support for (the President) is overwhelming. There’s no doubt the President will lead both in the ratings and the actual elections."

Meanwhile, Poe’s supporters said Speaker Jose de Venecia "must be daydreaming" after he predicted that the President would enjoy a five percent lead over Poe come election day.

Kabaleyan Nen Palaris Movement (KNPM) chairman Adonis Samson said the President will not claim victory in Pangasinan, De Venecia’s bailiwick, despite her weekly visits to the vote-rich province.

"To date, Mrs. Arroyo has returned to Pangasinan 12 times and is expected to visit the province again in her desperate effort to get the support of the voters," Samson said. "Pangasinan will remain (Poe) country... unless Lakas operatives will cheat the province’s favorite son."

Poe’s father, Allan Fernando Poe Sr., is a native of San Carlos City, Pangasinan. — With AFP, Reuters

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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