Manny Villar's ominous sharp drop in the latest SWS poll
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-03-30
The camp of Nacionalista Party Manny Villar has been trying to trumpet an “irreversible” bandwagon in favor of their presidential candidate. The January and February SWS (Social Weather Stations) and Pulse Asia nationwide polls had showed a narrowing of the lead of presidential race leader Senator Noynoy Aquino over second placer Manny Villar, from once double digit to as close as 2%.

The March 28 release of the BusinessWorld-SWS Pre-election Presidential nationwide survey must have struck the camp of my Kumpadre Manny Villar like a big rough shaft through the heart. From a two-point lead in the February 24-28 SWS poll, Noynoy Aquino has widened his lead over Manny Villar to 9 points.

Conducted from March 19-22 with 2,100 respondents and a margin of error of plus/minus 2.2% nationwide, the SWS poll showed Aquino with 37% (up 1 point from 36% in February), Villar went down by 6 points to 28% (34% in February), former president Joseph Estrada rose by 4 points to 19% (15% in February), Gilbert Teodoro remained at 6%, Dick Gordon improved from 2% in February to 3% while Eddie Villanueva slid from 3% to 2%. The rest of the presidential candidates rated less than 1% each.

While this latest SWS poll may have jolted many quarters — pleasant for Aquino’s camp and sobering for Villar’s camp — it did not surprise your Chair Wrecker. Over the past two weeks, your Chair Wrecker has been tipped by very reliable sources of the results of other polls where Aquino has expanded his lead over Villar anywhere from 9% to as much as 13% in a yet to be announced poll conducted by another newspaper.

Villar’s loss of 6% and Estrada’s gain of 4% is significant because both presidential candidates are positioned to win the votes of the classes D and E. Villar led Estrada by as much as 19%, per the SWS February poll. The March poll saw that lead dwindle to a more manageable 9%. Of further significance is that Villar’s 6% drop came as he was seen gaining momentum which culminated last week with endorsements from heavyweight provincial kingpins — Governor Joe Zubiri of Bukidnon and former Governor Chavit Singson of Ilocos Sur.

We see three main reasons for Villar’s sharp drop. First is that the issues against Villar have gained traction. The second reason is the leveling of the advertising field where Villar had outgunned Aquino on TV ads by as much as 4 to 1 from November 2009 to January 2010. Both of them are now bound by the set limits of the Election Law which is 120 minutes in each TV network. The third is the marked improvement of Aquino’s ads. His message is better focused.
Quite interesting is a random poll that BusinessWorld writer Tess Abesamis has been doing among taxi drivers. Tess felt that the taxi drivers would reflect the thinking of the big voting base of the classes D and E which is the battleground in terms of voters’ demographics.

To her surprise, the growing resistance to Villar was due more to his campaign overspending than the C-5 related issues. Tess said that the typical reaction of those who dreaded a Villar win was “Sa dami ng bilyon na ginagastos niyan sa kampanya, ubos tayo kapag nanalo yan (With the billions Villar has been spending in the campaign, we’re all finished if he wins).” That infers a fear of the expected recouping of the expenses plus a profit.

A marketing expert and a seasoned political campaigner, Tess managed the Media Bureau for the Cory Aquino administration candidates in the 1987 Senatorial election, producing 22 winners for the 24 Senate seats to be filled. Tess said that the C-5 issues are beginning to be appreciated now by the masses because of the overspending. “Totoo nga siguro ang sinasabi nila tungkol sa corruption dahil sa dami ng pera niya (The corruption charges against Villar may be true because of the way he is overspending)” was the typical cab driver opinion, per Tess.

It is logical for the Villar overspending issue to resonate, especially in the classes D and E. They can see Manny Villar’s money at work. It is all over television, radio and his printed materials are all over the streets. It would not be surprising if the “Money Villarroyo” issue gains more traction with the recent defections of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo loyal allies Joe Zubiri, Chavit Singson and the others before them, including Manny Pacquiao.

Add to Villar’s woes the recent damning public documents that smashed his campaign claims of being poor once upon a time and that their family could not even afford medical care for his late brother Danny. Once that sinks in, the classes D and E on whom Villar has anchored his presidential aspirations will likely see him as “PEKENG MAHIRAP (fake poor)” if not a MANLILINLANG (deceiver).”

The “PEKENG MAHIRAP” issue could well be the coup de grace on Manny Villar. It is something Joseph Estrada and his running mate Jojo Binay will be expected to capitalize on, considering that both Estrada and Binay are similarly positioned to attract the masses like Villar.

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