The omen
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-09-11
THE first ever Pulse Asia survey on the 2007 senate elections released recently must have struck Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo like a thunderbolt. It is not just a wake up call. It is more of an omen.

The results corroborate many previous survey results that show the same high level of dissatisfaction rating. It also portends of a political Waterloo for the besieged Arroyo regime.

The survey reveals that less than a year before the 2007 elections, Filipinos already identify an average of eight out of the 12 choices for senatorial positions and with only 10 percent remaining undecided. For a first survey a good nine months before the elections, the number of undecided voters is unusually low, very likely the result of a public sentiment that prods the voters to form their judgment this early.

Loren Legarda, the 2004 vice presidential candidate, topped the survey with 48.6 percent of respondents. Included in the top 12 are: Reelectionist Senators Francis Pangilinan (39 percent), Panfilo Lacson (34.9 percent), Manuel Villar Jr. (34.2 percent), and Ralph Recto (33.1 percent); former senator Vicente Sotto III (31 percent); lawyer Aquilino Pimentel III, son of Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. (29.9 percent); Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano (29.5 percent); former senator Gregorio Honasan (27.7 percent); San Juan Mayor Joseph Victor Ejercito-Estrada (23.8 percent); Ilocos Norte Representative Ma. Imelda "Imee" Marcos (23.1 percent); and former senator John Osmeña (22.7 percent).

Considering the standard margin of error of plus/minus 3 percentage points on a survey base of 1,200 respondents, the following are seen as within the possible reach of the winning 12: Tarlac Representative Benigno Aquino III (21.8 percent); Senator Luisa Estrada (21.7 percent); Senator Joker Arroyo (21 percent); Senator Edgardo Angara (20.9 percent); House Minority Leader Francis Escudero (20.2 percent); former senator Francisco Tatad (18.9 percent); Presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor (18.7 percent); and Muntinlupa Representative Rozzano Rufino Biazon (18.5 percent).

The other contenders who were listed in the Pulse Asia survey were: Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers and Manila Mayor Jose Atienza Jr. (17.7 percent); broadcaster Ted Failon (16.8 percent); broadcaster Ricardo Puno (16.6 percent); former defense secretary Orlando Mercado (16.1 percent); Cavite Representative Gilbert Remulla (15 percent); Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Bayani Fernando (13.2 percent); former senator Ernesto Herrera Jr. (12.6 percent); former Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. (12.1 percent); Sonia Roco, widow of former presidential bet Raul Roco, (11.6 percent); and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez (11 percent).

Rating less than 10.0 percent are: Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay (9.6 percent); former senator Teresa Aquino-Oreta (9.2 percent); broadcaster Mike Enriquez (7.9 percent); Bayan Muna party-list Representative Satur Ocampo (7.1 percent); Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez (6.9 percent); former National Youth Commission chair Amina Rasul (6.8 percent); broadcaster Arnold Clavio (6.1 percent); presidential son and Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo (6 percent); former social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman (5.8 percent); Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes (5.4 percent); Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo (5.2 percent); El Shaddai servant leader Mike Velarde (4.8 percent); and Davao City Representative Prospero Nograles (4.6 percent).

What makes the outcome of this initial survey most alarming for the Arroyo regime is the fact that people seem to be already holding firm choices for 8 of the 12 senators that are due for election in 2007. Considering that voters tend to write only five or six selections for the senate slate out of the total 12 slots, this will all the more make it difficult for the trailing administration candidates to catch up.

The listed winners are mostly from the opposition. Those who are not identified as members of the opposition are candidates who may be politically affiliated with Arroyo but have kept distance during the controversies of the last two years-Senators Joker Arroyo, Ralph Recto, and Manny Villar. In fact, Joker Arroyo has been taking adversarial positions on many issues that make him appear as a member of the opposition.

Those who are identified as defenders of the regime are the laggards in the survey. Only Mike Defensor is within the winning 12 but he is dangling dangerously far. Raul Gonzalez is the last placer among those who rated over 10 percent and his silly and unprofessional commentaries can easily account for that placing. Not wanting in media attention, Gonzalez's weak standing can only be a barometer of his pathetic public image.

Finding themselves fourth to the last and last placer respectively are Arroyo Spokesman Ignacio Bunye and Davao City Representative Prospero Nograles. By no coincidence, both of them are always seen on television defending the Arroyo regime.

The survey findings have all the makings of a powerful statement that the voters want to make to Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. That would not come as a surprise at all because previous surveys had Macapagal Arroyo fluctuating between varying degrees of negative satisfaction ratings, the worst negative ratings that a Malacanang resident has ever registered.

Of course the composition of the magic 12 is still subject to change once candidates finalize their decision on whether or not to run. It will also adjust to the way candidates are able to endear or alienate themselves to voters in the critical pre-election phase.

But the handwriting on the wall is undeniably there. The people are inclined to utilize this election to exact justice on the Arroyo regime for all the violations of freedoms and rights that it has done in order to stave off the pressure to account for the 2004 election cheating that 'Hello Garci' spawned and for the economic performance of the country.

Had there been many of the showbiz types among the listed winners, there would be a lot of distraction in the form of public adulation and the results would have been less severe for the Arroyo regime. It would have given the regime the excuse that the administration candidates are simply losing to popular personalities regardless of political affiliation.

But such is not the case.

Clearly there is a defining line that separates the winners from the losers in the survey-winners are associated with fighting the Arroyo regime while the worst placers are perceived as its defenders. Arroyo allies who have not made the mistake of defending her indefensible actions managed to place themselves in the winning 12.

Alan Peter Cayetano being 10 names above Mike Defensor is the best proof of that prevailing public sentiment. At the rate Mike Arroyo is attacking Alan Peter Cayetano over that German Bank account issue-it is logical to expect that Cayetano will rise even higher in the rankings.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

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