Philippine Vice-President Binay in pole to be next president despite graft allegations

Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay speaks during a business forum in Manila on Oct 27, 2015.
Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay speaks during a business forum in Manila on Oct 27, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay has overcome a barrage of graft allegations to re-emerge as front-runner to become the nation's next leader, according to an independent poll released on Friday (Jan 15).

The 73-year-old had long been the favourite but his poll numbers tanked last year when allegations emerged that he and his son, both former mayors of the Makati financial district, had taken huge kickbacks in the construction of a city-owned car park building.

Pollster Social Weather Stations said the vice-president had regained a clear lead with 31 per cent preferring him in its Jan 8-10 nationwide survey.

"Some people are cynical, reasoning out that all politicians are corrupt anyway," political analyst Ramon Casiple, from Manila-based think tank the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, told AFP.

Mr Binay, who leads the main opposition alliance, denies the corruption allegations against him and members of his family. His spokesmen did not reply to AFP's requests for comment on the latest survey results.

In the Philippines, presidents can serve only a single six-year term.

President Benigno Aquino, a popular leader, has anointed fellow Liberal Party stalwart Mar Roxas as his preferred successor.

With an error of margin of plus or minus three percentage points, Senator Grace Poe (24 per cent), Roxas (21 per cent), and anti-crime advocate Rodrigo Duterte (20 per cent) are in a statistical deadlock.

The 1,200 voters polled were not asked to explain their preference, Mr Leo Laroza, survey data library director for Social Weather, told AFP.

Mr Casiple said some support for Poe and Duterte eroded due to disqualification cases filed against them.

However, he said many Filipino voters have yet to make up their minds months before the May 9 election.

The official Commission on Elections ruled last month that Ms Poe, an orphan of unknown parentage who was adopted and raised by the Philippines' most famous movie stars, was not a Filipino at birth and could not run for president.

The case is on appeal at the Supreme Court, which provisionally stopped the government dropping her name from the ballot.

Mr Duterte, mayor of a southern city where hundreds of petty criminals have been killed by masked anti-crime vigilantes, registered as a candidate after the Oct 16, 2015, deadline to replace another candidate who backed out.