Tag archive for "Benigno Aquino III"


Current Affairs


No Comments 07 July 2011

By Jason Gutierrez                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Agence France-Presse

Benigno Aquino III won the Philippine presidency on a battle cry to crush corruption and ease deep poverty, but a year into his term he is seen by many to be straining under the weight of his own promises.

At a creek-side slum in the outskirts of Manila’s financial district where Aquino was hugely popular during last year’s election, residents said his vow to lift them out of their misery appeared to have fallen by the wayside.

“We thought we had found a savior, but one year after we voted for him to win, what do we have? Nothing,” said Jennifer San Gaspar, a 36-year-old mother of nine children.

San Gaspar said she remained an Aquino supporter until a few months ago when she and her neighbors were turned away from a government welfare scheme that distributes billions of pesos to poor families on condition they get health checkups and the children go to school.

“They did not tell us why we were disqualified, the social worker who interviewed us never came back,” she said. “So here we are, nothing has changed. We are still poor.”

San Gaspar’s sentiment is apparently shared by many across the impoverished nation as the 51-year-old bachelor president marked 12 months in office last June 30 with his popularity still high but dropping steadily.

After recording the biggest landslide win in Philippine election history, Aquino’s popularity rating dropped from a peak of 74 percent in November to 64 percent in June, pollster Social Weather Stations said.

While his ratings are still relatively strong, analysts said the slide reflected disappointment that he had not done more to fulfill his chief campaign promises of eradicating corruption and ending poverty.

Nevertheless, they pointed out that it was impossible for anyone to quickly fix the enormous economic and corruption problems that festered under his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, during her nine years in power.

“The bar was set very high for him, and from the very start the cards were stacked against him,” said Antonio Contreras, a political scientist at Manila’s De La Salle University. “He was painted as a symbol of clean government, a hope for a country after a disastrous administration.”

Contreras said that while he was disappointed overall with Aquino’s first-year performance, the president had at least brought back a sense of ethics and professionalism in public service.

Aquino remains almost unanimously regarded as personally incorruptible and voters feel comfortable he will not use his six years in power to build a personal fortune.

This holds particular importance in the Philippines where leaders from national to village level have for decades sought to pilfer state coffers for personal benefit.

Global corruption watchdog Transparency International, which ranks the Philippines as the 44th most country in the world, rated his administration’s first-year efforts an eight out 10.

He has also proved his leadership mettle for many by standing up to the powerful Roman Catholic Church and backing a controversial reproductive health bill that seeks to promote the use of contraceptives for the poor.

On the economic front, Aquino’s team has so far been given credit as solid managers, with global rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s recently upgrading their investment outlooks for the Philippines.

Economic growth has slowed but remained strong with an expansion of 4.9 percent in the first quarter, while two interest rate hikes have for now put the brakes on inflation.

Nevertheless, Contreras and other analysts said Aquino had not yet started to tackle the roots of the country’s corruption and poverty problems, and those were the issues he would ultimately be judged on.

“All he has done is to start off his year with symbolic stuff, crushing corruption, but nothing really concrete yet,” Contreras said.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said the public should have patience and realize that a president’s first 12 months in office were a learning curve, a time to consolidate power and lay the foundations for the next five years.

“However, people will want to see real progress from the second year,” said Casiple, executive director of Manila-based think-tank Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, giving Aquino a pass mark of six out of 10.

“What people are waiting for is a real programmed of governance. He needs to focus.”


Current Affairs


1 Comment 31 October 2010

By Pepper Marcelo

More and more politicians, not just locally but around the world, are utilizing new technologies, particularly the Internet and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, to revolutionize the way in which they communicate and engage their constituents. No doubt, Barack Obama’s phenomenal victory in 2008, which was propelled in no small way by the use of the Internet and social media, has helped immensely in social networking’s popularity.

In keeping with his election promise of honesty and transparency in government, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III immediately instructed his staff to draft and implement an innovative communication program that maximizes the use and benefit of social networking in order for his new administration to better interact with and engage the Filipino people.

P-Noy, as the President prefers to be called by the people, said he was inspired by the way the much-beloved President Ramon Magsaysay had interacted with Filipinos during his time. He wants to reverse the traditional top-to-bottom communication approach where information flows one-way from the leaders to the people. Under this traditional set-up, the people’s sentiments on current issues and government policies are not given the prominence and importance that are today’s hallmark of modern and strong democratic countries.

Sabi ni Pangulo he wants an organization that will deliver messages effectively and provide feedback on what the government is doing,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

This is in contrast to the previous administrations that merely disseminated information “one-way” to the media and public without scrutiny or proper response, Lacuerda added.

Last August, the newly-formed Presidential Communications Operations Office launched the website www.president.gov.ph to update the public on official events and engagements of the President, as well as provide a venue wherein they can state their concerns, complaints and suggestions regarding current issues and the administration.

There is also the official website of Malacañang (www.gov.ph), which serves as the official “gazette” of the Aquino Administration, issuing official policies of the President and all laws of the Republic.

In addition, the President and Malacañang have their own accounts on Twitter, the highly-popular social networking and micro-blog service. There are also official Aquino and Malacañang pages on Facebook, Friendster, YouTube and Multiply.

Two-way communication

Secretary for Information Dissemination Herminio “Sonny” Coloma emphasizes that the role of the Internet and social networking is not simply to distribute information, but to gather quality feedback from users and provide a quick response to their concerns.

“New media are potent channels of communication,” he tells Planet Philippines. “Some studies show that Internet penetration in the Philippines has reached 21.5 per cent. Even cellular or mobile phones can serve as channels for conveying significant messages from the government to the people, as well as feedback from the people to the government.”

According to digital world watchdog comScore Inc., Facebook is the top destination of online users in the Philippines, with 93% of “netizens” in the country visiting the site last May.

Overall, the Philippines is the seventh-biggest market in the world for Facebook with nearly 16 million users (one-fifth of the population), according to Nick Gonzalez, an analyst who operates CheckFacebook.com.

Such is the popularity of Facebook among Filipinos that Aquino was voted the third most popular politician in the world, with 1.5 million fans who “liked” his Facebook page. He was ranked behind only US President Barack Obama and former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Even more impressive is the fact that Aquino’s fan page gained an average of 20,000 fans a day in a span of only six months.

Meanwhile, there are more than 4,000 (and growing) followers to date on Malacañang’s official Twitter page. Coloma also claims that Aquino himself personally answers some of the questions on his own account. “During the campaign, he had some time to do that. If not, someone else manages it. There’s quality control in that aspect to ensure that his views are reflected there,” says Coloma.

Some of these queries range from mere trivia (RacQueL0816: “Why is it Benigno S. Aquino, while his full name is Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III? Shouldn’t that be Benigno C. Aquino?” Answer: “The President follows the practice of his late father, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. in using his second given name as his middle name.”), to general consumer concerns (noypi_nuj asks, “whats the twit for BIR? just want to rport dat sam big stors are not giving the correct 12% VAT based on costumers’ receipts.”)

Malacañang intends to institute this instant feedback mechanism not only for its own use but for all government agencies as well. The official Malacañang website provides links to the websites of various departments and includes a page that allows users to post comments and complaints.

In addition, there is a page on the site called “Panata sa Pagbabago” that invites individuals and groups to make a vow for change, as well as a page titled “Tito Noy,” which encourages children to become active nation-builders by helping to bring back traditional Filipino values.

For those that have no access to computers or the Internet, i.e., the poor who, ironically, are those who need most to have a voice, the Presidential Communications Group plans on using different media channels, both traditional and nontraditional, to ensure a proper flow of communication that everyone can access.

“We intend to tap into the vast potentials of cellular or mobile telephony and thereby reach bigger chunks of the population across all socio-economic classes and all throughout the archipelago,” says Coloma. The handwritten message via snail mail remains one viable option to communicate with the government.

Online censorship

But while the Aquino Administration embraces openness in governance via the new social media, the administration found itself on the receiving end of a public backlash on account of its mishandling of the government’s response to a deluge of feedback – mostly negative – on its websites and social networking sites on the August 23 Luneta hostage fiasco. Faced with angry reaction from Filipinos and foreigners alike, the Palace Communications Group apparently panicked and proceeded to censor some of the comments on the President’s Facebook that were highly critical of the government handling of the hostage crisis that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.

More than 250 comments were posted on Aquino’s wall within a few days after the incident, which ranged from mild disappointment to outright indignation at his leadership. “Shame on you and your administration. Tender your resignation,” wrote an HK resident, while a Filipino said, “You did not fail us. You are consistently clueless.”

Another user wrote, “Our president is a retard who has done nothing but smirk in front of the TV cameras after all this had happened.”

Other comments included complaints directed at top officials of the Philippine National Police and demands for their swift resignation or firing, as well as suggestions on how the hostage-taker should have been neutralized.

The Communications Group responded by blocking “slanderous comments, racial slurs and other below-the-belt attacks,” saying the President “reserved the right to block anyone who fails to follow the rules and report them as spammers.”

To soothe the ruffled feelings, Malacañang came up with this message on its website: “In Memory of the Victims: We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims whose lives were lost.”


Current Affairs


1 Comment 25 June 2010

By Manuel L. Quezon III

From the time Congress proclaims a candidate as the duly-elected president, the candidate becomes known as the President-elect.

The Constitution is clear and specific: the title of the chief executive is “President of the Philippines,” and takes his oath of office as such, although in certain cases involving formal diplomatic usage, “President of the Republic of the Philippines” is used for diplomatic documents. The honorific for the President of the Philippines is “His/Your Excellency,” but the proper form of address is “Mr. President.”

At 42.08% Aquino’s percentage of the votes is the highest plurality since the restoration of democracy, and under the 1987 Constitution. The biggest first-term landslide was Magsaysay in 1953 (68.9%), followed by Quezon in 1935. The biggest second term landslide was Quezon in 1941 (81.78%) followed by Marcos in 1969 (61.5%).

1 He is the first unmarried president in the history of the country.

He is the first president with no children.

The first deputy speaker of the House to later become president.

He is the first marksman to be come president since Ferdinand Marcos (who belonged to the U.P. rifle team).

He will be the first president since 1992 inaugurated into office without having been vice-president first.

He is the first president since Diosdado Macapagal to be elected as the candidate of the Liberal Party; also the first president since Macapagal not to have changed political parties (three presidents had no political party membership/positions: Aguinaldo, Laurel, Cory Aquino).

Aquino is the first post-Edsa president to exceed Garcia’s 1957 plurality. Majority Presidents: Quezon (68% in 1935 and 81.78% in 1941), Roxas 54% in 1946(, Quirino (51% in 1949), Magsaysay (68.9% in 1953), Macapagal (55% in 1961), Marcos (54.76% in 1965, 61.5% in 1969), Aquino (approx. 51%). Plurality Presidents: Garcia (41.3%) was the only president elected by plurality prior to 1972. The lowest plurality ever was Fidel V. Ramos in 1992 (23.6%). Estrada at 39.6% in 1998 was the first post-Edsa president to nearly match Garcia’s 1957 plurality.

He is the first to use the suffix -III (there have been no Juniors or the Thirds elected president previously).

He is the first president to have a February birthday. Two presidents were born in January: Roxas (Jan. 1), Cory Aquino (Jan. 25); three in March: Laurel (Mar. 9), Ramos (Mar. 18), Aguinaldo (Mar. 22); two in April: Arroyo (Apr. 5), Estrada (Apr. 19); two in August: Quezon (Aug. 19), Magsaysay (Aug. 31); three in September: Osmeña (Sep. 9), Marcos (Sep. 11), Macapagal (Sep. 28); two in November: Garcia (Nov. 4), Quirino (Nov. 16).

The President of the Philippines uses license plate No. 1.

2 The second child of a former president to become president in his own right (he succeeds the first presidential child to become president).

The second president from Tarlac.

He is only the second president (Aguinaldo was the only non-drinker previously) who does not drink.

He will be the second president to be sworn in by a Filipino associate justice of the Supreme Court (his mother was the first), but the fourth president sworn in by an associate justice of a Supreme Court (Quezon in 1943 for the indefinite extension of his term, and Osmeña who succeeded into office in 1944, were sworn in by U.S. Associate Justices Felix Frankfurter and Robert H. Jackson, respectively, in Washington, D.C.).

He is the second president to have studied at the Ateneo de Manila, but the first to have graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University.

Two presidents only partially resided in Malacañan Palace: Laurel, and Estrada (who stayed in the Guest House).

Two presidents were elected by the legislature and not in a national election: Aguinaldo and Laurel.

Two presidents were re-elected to second terms: Quezon and Marcos.

Two presidents were brought to power by People Power revolts: Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (our two female presidents).

3 Benigno S. Aquino III is the third president with no spouse: Quirino was a widower, Corazon Aquino, a widow. Unlike Quirino and Corazon Aquino, who had children, Aquino III has none.

Aquino at 50 will be the third-youngest elected president (Magsaysay remains the youngest ever nationally-elected to the presidency), and the fourth-youngest president after Aguinaldo, Magsaysay and Marcos.

He is the youngest of the presidents who became chief executive in their 50s (age at inauguration/succession: Aguinaldo, 29; Quezon, 57; Laurel, 51; Osmeña, 67; Roxas, 54; Quirino, 57; Magsaysay, 46; Garcia, 60; Macapagal, 51; Marcos, 48; Aquino, 53; Ramos, 64;Estrada, 61; Arroyo, 54).

The third to use his second given name as his middle initial (as Quezon and Laurel did).

The third to engage in shooting as a sport (Quezon and Marcos engaged in hunting).

He will be the third president who will only hold office in, but not be a resident of, Malacañan Palace, following Corazon Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos.

4 Four presidents were not inaugurated either on December 30 or June 30: Aguinaldo (January 23, 1899), Quezon (November 15, 1935 and November 15, 1943), Laurel (October 14,1943), Roxas (May 28, 1946).

Four vice-presidents who succeeded to the presidency also took their oaths on dates different from the traditional inaugural date: Osmeña (August 1, 1944); Quirino (April 17, 1948), Garcia (March 18, 1957), Arroyo (January, 2001).

Most number of times a president has taken the oath of office: four, for Marcos (1965, 1969, the 1981 and 1986 “inaugurals”); followed by three, for Quezon (1935 in Manila, 1941 in Corregidor, 1943 in Washington, D.C., also before three different individuals); Quirino (1948 in Malacañan, 1949); Garcia (1957, twice: upon succession in March Malacañan and election in December); Arroyo (2001 in Quezon City, 2004 in Cebu).

5 Aquino comes from a family of five siblings.

At age 50, is going to be the 15th President of the Philippines.

Officially, his fourteen predecessors will be: Emilio Aguinaldo, Manuel L. Quezon, Jose P. Laurel, Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand E. Marcos, Corazon C. Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He will be the 5th President of the 5th Republic. The present republic was established with the ratification of the 1987 Constitution. The previous republics are the First (Malolos, 1899-1901); Second (The Japanese Occupation, 1943-1945); the Third (from independence in 1946 to 1972); the Fourth (the “New Republic” proclaimed in 1981).

Aguinaldo was the lone President of the First Republic; Quezon was the first President of the Commonwealth and Roxas the last; Laurel was lone President of the Second Republic; Roxas was the first President of the Third Republic and Marcos, the last; Marcos was the first President of the Fourth Republic and Corazon Aquino, briefly served under the Fourth Republic but proclaimed a revolutionary government. The Fifth Republic came into being with the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, and Corazon Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo have been the presidents of the Fifth Republic.

He was elected on 05/10/10.

He received over 15 million votes; his winning margin was over 5 million votes.

If he does not have his inaugural at the Quirino Grandstand, he will he will be the fifth president to have an inaugural outside Manila: Aguinaldo and Estrada at Baraosain; Quezon (1941) in Corregidor; Cory Aquino in San Juan in 1986; Arroyo in Quezon City in 2001 and Cebu in 2004.

He will be the fifth president not sworn in by a chief justice: Aguinaldo was the first. Quezon, when his term was extended in exile in 1943, renewed his oath of office before Justice Felix Frankfurter. Osmeña, who succeeded to the presidency in exile, was sworn in by Justice Hugo Jackson (thus, two presidents have been sworn in by foreign justices, both because they headed governments-in-exile). Corazon Aquino was sworn in by Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee.

Eleven presidents were sworn in by a chief justice: Quezon (1935, 1941), Laurel, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo.

He will be the fifth president to take his oath of office on June 30: Marcos, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo being the others.

Starting with Quezon’s second inaugural in 1941 until Marcos’ second inaugural in 1969 (with the exception of the special election called in 1946) presidents were inaugurated on Rizal Day, June 30. Six presidents Quezon (1941), Quirino (1949), Magsaysay, Garcia (1957), Macapagal, Marcos (1965, 1969) had inaugurals on December 30.

Aquino is also the fifth public smoker to be president: Quezon, Roxas, Garcia, Estrada were/are all smokers.

6 He is the sixth president to have been elected to a single six-year term (Quezon in 1935 [term subsequently extended by constitutional amendment], Aquino in 1986, Ramos in 1992, Estrada in 1998, Arroyo in 2004).

7 Aquino will be the seventh president to be inaugurated at the Quirino Grandstand. Six presidents were inaugurated at the Quirino Grandstand: Quirino (1949), Magsaysay (1953), Garcia (1957), Macapagal (1961), Marcos (1965, etc.), Ramos (1992).

He will be the seventh to use a middle initial after Quezon, Laurel, Garcia, Marcos, Corazon Aquino (who used her maiden name as her middle initial), and Ramos. (Aguinaldo, Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Macapagal did not use middle initials at all; Estrada uses a special name combining his real family name, Ejercito, with his screen name; Arroyo prefers to use the hyphenated Macapagal-Arroyo).

8 If you include the pipe/cigar smoking of Laurel, Ramos and Macapagal and his daughter Arroyo who were/are occasional (social) smokers, Aquino III is the eighth president who’s a smoker.

9 Juancho Dulay Barreto on Twitter also pointed out BSAIII was proclaimed president-elect on June 9, 2010. That’s exactly 9 months after his declaration of candidacy on 09/09/09.

He is the ninth to have been proclaimed president-elect by the legislature: the first was Manuel L. Quezon, followed by Manuel Roxas, Ramon Magsaysay, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand E. Marcos, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (eighth if you don’t count Arroyo’s proclamation on the basis of the Quirino and Garcia precedents). While Congress certified the election of Elpidio Quirino and Carlos P. Garcia, they had succeeded into office previously, and were already serving as president when elected to a full term: thus, were not referred to as presidents-elect. Aguinaldo and Laurel were not elected president in a national election, they were made president by a vote of the national assembly and thus never president-elect. Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency by means of the People Power Revolution and was not proclaimed by the Batasan Pambansa.

The ninth president to have served as a congressman.

Nine presidents lived in Malacañan Palace: Quezon, Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Arroyo. Three presidents (Quirino and Garcia upon succession, Marcos in 1986) have take oaths of office there. Four presidents have had to flee because of war or revolution: Quezon, Laurel, Marcos and Estrada.

10 The tenth senator to become a president.

He will be the tenth president to be inaugurated in Manila: the nine previously who were inaugurated in Manila: Quezon in 1935, Laurel in 1943, Roxas in 1946, Quirino in 1949, Magsaysay in 1953, Garcia in 1957, Macapagal in 1961, Marcos in 1965 etc., Ramos in 1992.

Aquino III, who will likely use the Aquino family bible his mother used, will be the ninth president to swear on a bible and the second to use the same bible. Magsaysay was the first to take his oath on a bible: Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo followed suit. Aguinaldo, Quezon, Laurel, Osmeña, Roxas and Quirino (belonging to generations closer to the revolutionary era, did not take their oaths on a bible). Magsaysay and Marcos took their oath on two bibles each in 1953 and 1965.

(The author is spokesperson of the Aquino inaugural.)




No Comments 12 May 2010

By Karl Malakunas

Agence France-Presse

Tarlac, Philippines – Sitting inside a museum displaying the bloodied clothes his democracy hero father was wearing when assassinated, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III admits that for a long time he did not want to be president.

Even after winning elections in the Philippines by a landslide as Filipinos put their faith again in his family’s revered name, the 50-year-old bachelor appears not to be entirely comfortable that the nation’s burdens rest with him.

“I look at it as an obligation and as a job,” Aquino told Agence France-Presse in an exclusive interview at the Aquino family museum in their hometown of Tarlac on May 11, a day after the elections. “I cannot look at it as a situation where I can promote myself or put myself on a pedestal.”

Aquino is still to be officially declared the winner of the elections, with the tally not 100 percent completed, but he has an unassailable lead and his team is preparing to take the country’s reins on July 1.

When asked about his emotions the moment he realized he would become president, Aquino spoke not of excitement but personal sacrifice.

“I am still trying to adjust to the fact that there will be a drastic change in lifestyle,” he said, elaborating on the inevitable end to dinners in restaurants and anonymous strolls in shopping malls.

“Now I realize what my mum was saying when she wanted to try and go to a grocery store.”

Aquino often echoes his mother, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, and sees their destinies as the same.

In the deeply Catholic Philippines, Cory Aquino is regarded with near saint-like status for leading the “People Power” revolution that ended Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship in 1986.

But she was thrust into the role of revolutionary only after her husband, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, was shot dead at Manila airport in 1983 when he returned from US exile to lead the democracy movement against Marcos.

Cory Aquino was famously reluctant to lead the Philippines because it would mean having to take chief responsibility in healing a nation afflicted with so many dictatorship-borne social and economic woes.

But she became increasingly comfortable with her fate, and her six-year term is now looked back upon fondly by many Filipinos weary of corruption and poverty as a time when they had an incorruptible leader.

Her son said that, even though he had been congressman and senator for more than a decade, he had little desire to become president until last year when his mother died.

“I would be inheriting the problems of an administration that for nine and a half years has really wreaked havoc on our country,” Aquino said, explaining his reluctance.

He compared Arroyo’s corruption-tainted reign with Marcos’s dictatorship, saying they both wrecked fundamental democratic institutions and badly damaged the economy.

But Aquino said that, like his mother, he felt obliged to assume the burden after listening to the clamor of millions of Filipinos.

“At the end of the day (I thought) I would not be able to live with myself… if, knowing that I could have done something, I chose not to and the situation became worse,” he said.

In a similar fashion to his mother, Aquino intends to try and lead the country back from corruption-laden despair by example.

“I did make a public vow, I will never steal,” Aquino said, adding he intended to follow in his mother’s footsteps and not live in the Malacanang presidential palace.

“I want to reside if possible in my family’s residence,” he said. “I want to be able to end the day having as much a normal life as possible, to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.”

Aquino wants to emulate another of his mother’s symbolic acts and not use the powers of office to beat Manila’s notorious traffic congestion.

“If there is traffic, we are part and parcel of it because at the end of the day the buck has to stop with me,” he said.

Ultimately though, Aquino’s mother moved into a house close to the presidential palace and her security personnel forced her to travel quickly through the traffic.

And while she is much-loved for being a role model, she was not a panacea for the Philippines’ entrenched economic and political problems.

Aquino similarly acknowledged he would not be able to fix the country during his six years in power, which cannot be any longer due to constitutional time limits introduced by his mother to prevent another Marcos-style dictatorship.

“We cannot transform our society in six years. But we are hoping to be able to provide that impetus and momentum to carry over into the next administration,” he said.




1 Comment 10 March 2010

It’s a very tight two-man contest for the presidency, according to the latest survey.

Going into the last two months the campaign, Liberal Party standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III maintained a two-digit lead over closest rival, Sen.  Manuel Villar Jr. of the Nacionalista Party.

The latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) from Feb. 24 to 28 showed Aquino’s lead down to only 2 percentage points, with Aquino at 36% and Villar at 34%. (See related story – Tracking the Numbers.)

“We’re saying it’s a 2-point lead [in the latest survey],” said SWS president Mahar Mangahas. “We’re not calling it a tie. To say that it is a tie is to lean toward one side. So we’re not calling it a tie unless it is the exact same point.”

He said the correct way of interpreting the results of the latest survey is that, given the margin of error of 2%,  it’s either a statistical tie or that Aquino has a 4-percentage-point lead.

But what is clear, he added, is that there has been a consistent decline in support for Aquino based on the four presidential surveys conducted by SWS from December 5-10, 2009 to February 24-28 2010.

Aquino’s lead over Villar was 19 points in December 5-10, 2009, 11 points in December 27-28, 2009, 7 points in January 21-24, 2010, and 2 points in February 24-28.

Other contenders

Trailing the front-runners were former President Joseph Estrada (15 percent, up 2 points), former Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro (6 percent, also up 2 points), Bro. Eddie Villanueva (3 percent, up 1 point), Sen. Richard Gordon (2 percent, no change), Nicanor Perlas (0.2 percent), Olongapo Councilor JC de los Reyes (0.1 percent) and Sen. Jamby Madrigal (0.1 percent).

SWS said the 6-point decline in Aquino’s rating since January was due to drops in all four areas across the country: 7 points in the balance of Luzon, 6 in Mindanao, 5 in the Visayas, and 3 in Metro Manila.

Villar lost 6 percentage points in Metro Manila, 2 in the balance of Luzon, and one in Mindanao, but picked up 5 in the Visayas to trim his overall slide to just 1 point.

By socioeconomic class, Aquino was ahead in Class D (38 percent compared with Villar’s 34 percent), while Villar was ahead in Classes ABC (33 percent compared with Aquino’s 30 percent) and Class E (34 percent versus Aquino’s 32 percent).

Pulse Asia survey

Meanwhile, the most recent survey of another polling firm, Pulse Asia, showed Aquino leading Villar by 7 percentage points. In the Pulse Asia’s survey, conducted on Feb. 21-25, Villar rated 29 percent, down by six percentage points from the Jan. 10 survey. In contrast, Aquino held on to 36 percent, down by one percentage point from the previous survey.

Explaining the different results of the Pulse Asia and SWS surveys, political analyst Ramon Casiple said it could be an indication of voters’ “wild swings.”

“There are wild swings among the voters, and there are only a few undecided. They have somebody in mind, but their choice is affected by issues that come out in the media. That’s why the trending is not fixed,” said Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms.

He said the voters had a “deep interest” in the presidential election and were closely monitoring the news coming out in the media about the candidates.

“You may have a lead, but it does not necessarily mean that this will be maintained. But it appears that it’s a one-on-one between the two,” Casiple said of Aquino and Villar.

Vice presidential race

In the latest SWS survey for the vice presidential race, Aquino’s running mate Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II maintained his wide lead over nearest rival Sen. Loren Legarda, running mate of Villar.

Roxas garnered 45 percent, a drop of 4 percentage points from the January survey. Legarda remained at 28 percent.

Other vice presidential candidates did not gain substantially. Trailing were Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay (17 percent), former Metro Manila Development Authority chair Bayani Fernando (3 percent), former Optical Media Board chair Edu Manzano (2 percent), broadcaster Jay Sonza (1 percent), former Securities and Exchange Commission chief Perfecto Yasay (0.4 percent), and Dominador Chipeco (0.4 percent).

Aquino upbeat

Despite his slide, Aquino remained upbeat. “I’m still No. 1, but it doesn’t mean we’re satisfied with that. The tightening race means that we’d just have to redouble our efforts,” he said.

Aquino said that getting ahead of his rivals despite what he called a “tsunami” of political ad and media spending by Villar was in itself an achievement. (See related story – Money and the Presidency.)

“I think our message is getting to its target audience despite our lack of resources. We just make it up with our campaigns and grassroots volunteers,” said the LP standard-bearer.

LP campaign strategist Florencio “Butch” Abad Jr. said Villar had failed to overtake Aquino in the surveys despite exceeding the limit on ad spending.

Villar happy

For his part, Villar said: “We are statistically tied,” referring to the SWS survey.

“As for me, I am comfortable with my lead and, of course, we still look to Noynoy (as a close rival) although we respect all the candidates. However, (Estrada’s) distance (or lead) from us is still far,” Villar said.

He said he was happy that “surveys have confirmed that we are responding to the hopes of the people across the country.”

He attributed the rise in his ratings to the frenetic pace of his campaign sorties across the country since Feb. 9.

“Of course, the others who are (trailing in surveys), we expect them to get more points now because of their wider exposure,” Villar said.

Estrada elated

Estrada expressed elation over his rising rating. He said that if his numbers continued to go up at the rate they were going, he would have a high-enough rating to win come May.

“It’d be over for them,” Estrada said.” In 1998, I started in third place. It’s hard to be No. 1. It’s more difficult (to start) from the top (and then) going down, isn’t it?”

The camp of Teodoro welcomed his slight improvement in rating. “We’re gaining ground right in time for the presidential elections in May,” said Mike Toledo, spokesperson for Teodoro.

Gordon wondered how a small sample of respondents could accurately represent more than 50 million voters across the country. He warned against the mind-conditioning effects of the surveys.

Madrigal said she did not believe in surveys. “Unless and until these survey groups clarify who are funding them and what their methodology is, there will always be a cloud of doubt on their accuracy,” she said.


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