MANILA,  May 6, 2004
By Marvin Sy  -  President Arroyo has widened her lead over main opposition rival Fernando Poe Jr. days before the nation votes in the presidential elections, a new independent voter opinion poll showed yesterday.

A survey of voters by respected research firm Pulse Asia predicted that Mrs. Arroyo would win 37 percent of the vote compared to 31 percent for Poe.

Splinter opposition candidate Panfilo Lacson got 11 percent, Raul Roco seven percent, and Christian evangelist Eddie Villanueva five percent.

With 42 million eligible to vote in the May 10 balloting, the Pulse Asia survey results mean Mrs. Arroyo would get around 15.5 million votes and Poe, 13 million.

The survey, conducted from April 26 to 29, polled 1,800 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. It said around eight percent of voters were undecided or had no preference.

The poll showed a significant improvement for Mrs. Arroyo over the last Pulse Asia survey around a month earlier, which showed Mrs. Arroyo posting a strong lead for the first time with 34 percent as opposed to 31 percent for Poe.

Previous surveys put Mrs. Arroyo and Poe in a statistical tie.

At Malacañang, Mrs. Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, welcomed the latest survey results.

"This confirms that President Arroyo continues to pick up steam as we approach election day," he told a press briefing. "But as we have said time and again in the past, the most important survey will occur on May 10 (election day). President Arroyo and her team will be unrelenting in reaching out to the people, pushing her agenda for unity and her fight for change," Bunye said,

Administration officials hope Mrs. Arroyo will get a majority vote in the polls, seen as a referendum on her performance during the last three years.

Poe is widely expected to win the presidential race because of his immense movie star popularity despite his lack of public office experience. But doubts over his ability to run the poverty-stricken country have dragged down his voter popularity ratings.

Meanwhile, Sen. Noli de Castro continues to lead fellow former broadcast journalist Sen. Loren Legarda in the vice presidential race, according to the latest Pulse Asia survey.

But his lead has been cut down from 30 percentage points in the last Pulse Asia poll in January to only nine points.

The survey said De Castro would rake in 46 percent of the vote and Legarda 37 percent.

Pulse Asia noted that with only days before the polls, "more Filipinos now express certainty regarding their choices for president and vice president."

Sixty-nine percent of poll respondents said they were unlikely to change their choice for president before the elections while 70 percent said they were already sure of their choice for vice president.

"In March, the proportion of Filipino voters expressing this sentiment as regards their presidential and vice presidential choices is recorded at 61 percent and 65 percent, respectively," Pulse Asia said in a statement.

On the other hand, about 16 percent of survey respondents said there was a "big chance that they would still change their presidential candidate before election day."

The same survey showed that six candidates each from the administration and the opposition would win a Senate seat.

In the top two slots are former trade secretary Manuel Roxas II and former anti-piracy czar Ramon Revilla Jr. with voter preference of 48.9 and 43.6 percent, respectively.

Both are with the administration Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan para sa Kinabukasan (K-4). Behind them are three candidates from Poe’s Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP): Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (38.1 percent), former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim (36.3 percent) and former presidential adviser Jamby Madrigal (36 percent).

Also in the so-called "Magic 12" or candidates who are likely to win a Senate seat are former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (35.3 percent, K-4), former senator Juan Ponce Enrile (33.9 percent, KNP), former tourism secretary Richard Gordon (33.7 percent, K-4), former San Juan mayor Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada (32.9 percent, KNP), Pampanga Gov. Manuel "Lito" Lapid (31.3 percent, K-4), Sen. Rodolfo Biazon (30.7 percent, K-4) and former senator Ernesto Maceda (30.2 percent, KNP).

Those who still have a chance of winning are Sen. John Osmeña (29.8 percent), Sen. Robert Barbers (29.5 percent), lawyer Pia Cayetano (28.4 percent) and former senator Orlando Mercado (27.9 percent). All are with the K-4. — With Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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