Philippine senator is top choice for president: Survey

Senator Grace Poe, 46, has yet to officially announce her bid for the presidency, but she has already received entreaties from President Benigno Aquino.
Senator Grace Poe, 46, has yet to officially announce her bid for the presidency, but she has already received entreaties from President Benigno Aquino. PHOTO: AFP

She beats V-P in latest poll; and is also favoured to be nation's No. 2

A POPULAR senator rumoured to be an illegitimate child of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos has taken a commanding lead in a new survey on who will become the Philippines' next president, overtaking the front runner, Vice-President Jejomar Binay.

The survey, carried out from May 30 to June 5 this year by polling firm Pulse Asia, showed that 30 per cent of Filipinos would vote for Senator Grace Poe, 46, if the national elections were held now, up substantially from 14 per cent in the firm's March survey.

Mr Binay, 72, on the other hand, saw his polling results sink to 22 per cent from 30 per cent in March, as he wrestles with allegations of massive graft. He had topped all surveys till now.

  • Ms Poe has denied that Mr Marcos is her biological father, saying flatly: "That is not really true."

    Legally, she is the adopted child of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr and his actress wife, Ms Jesusa Sonora.

    Her father ran for president in 2004, but lost by a slim margin to Mrs Gloria Arroyo. He died the following year.

Ms Poe was also the top pick to become the Philippines' next vice-president. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would vote for her if she were to run for the No. 2 post instead.

Reacting to the survey, Ms Poe said: "I humbly thank our people for their trust."

Mr Binay, meanwhile, said his setback was a "wake-up call".

"This is a situation I've been in before," he said. "I'm used to being the underdog."

He was a perennial No. 2 when he ran for vice-president and won in 2010.

Ms Poe has yet to officially announce her bid for the presidency, but she has already received entreaties from President Benigno Aquino.

Mr Aquino's centre-left Liberal Party is reportedly divided over backing Ms Poe or sticking with Interior Minister Mar Roxas, 58, a party insider who scored a paltry 10 per cent in the latest survey.

Ms Poe ran for senator in 2012 as an independent candidate but part of a Liberal Party-led coalition. She topped that race with more than 20 million votes.

The centre-right Nationalist People's Coalition, consisting mostly of politicians identified with the Marcos regime, has said it will back Ms Poe.

The party is pushing one of its own, Senator Francis Escudero, 45, son of a former Marcos minister, as Ms Poe's running mate. He is the second most-preferred candidate for vice-president in the latest survey, after Ms Poe.

Critics have questioned Ms Poe's eligibility to run for president. They insisted that as a foundling, Ms Poe is "stateless" and cannot be considered a natural-born Filipino, a requirement for those running for president.

Ms Poe has been dogged by rumours that she is the illegitimate child resulting from an affair Mr Marcos had with a teenage actress in the 1960s.

Mr Marcos ruled the Philippines as dictator for more than two decades before a peaceful revolt forced him to flee to Hawaii in 1986.

Ms Poe has denied that Mr Marcos is her biological father, saying flatly: "That is not really true."

Legally, she is the adopted child of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr and his actress wife, Ms Jesusa Sonora.

Her father ran for president in 2004, but lost by a slim margin to Mrs Gloria Arroyo. He died the following year.

Ms Poe left for the United States in 1990, where she got married, had children and worked as a pre-school teacher, US government liaison officer and product manager for a private company. She returned to the Philippines in 2005 to pursue her father's election fraud cases against Mrs Arroyo.

Mr Binay's numbers have suffered since the Senate began investigating allegations that he amassed vast wealth by rigging public work contracts when he was mayor of Makati, the country's prime financial district.

When Pulse Asia conducted its survey, an anti-money laundering body had ordered a freeze on bank accounts that allegedly held Mr Binay's ill-gotten wealth.

rdancel@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline 'Philippine senator is top choice for president: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe