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Philippines: Aquino widens the lead as rival slips

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Philippine presidential candidate Benigno Aquino widened his lead in a survey for the May 10 election as Manuel Villar, previously his main rival, fell to a statistical tie with former President Joseph Estrada, the Associated Press reported.

Senator Aquino, son of former President Corazon Aquino, had the support of 42 percent of respondents in a May 2 to 3 survey, BusinessWorld newspaper reported, citing a survey it conducted with Social Weather Stations. That compares with 38 percent in their April 16 to 19 survey.

Senator Villar’s support fell to 19 percent from 26 percent while Estrada’s support rose to 20 percent from 17. The survey covered 2,400 respondents and had a 2 percentage point margin of error.

“With three days remaining, it will be difficult already for Villar or Estrada to catch up,” said Bobby Tuazon, director of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance in Manila.

More than 50 million people are registered to vote for president and thousands of other national and local positions. The Philippines is switching to a computerized system to reduce the cheating that occurred during manual counting that took weeks. Election officials are racing to install new programs in 76,000 machines after a glitch was discovered this week.

The lead may protect Aquino from problems that may occur as voters use the new system, Tuazon said. It may also help Aquino counter the organization Villar, has funded and built since entering politics in 1992 and which will be used to get supporters to their voting centers. “That’s a safe margin,” he said.

Aquino, who wasn’t a candidate until his mother, credited with ousting dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died of cancer in August. Nostalgia fanned calls for her son to run. He declared in September and has topped the polls since, running on an anti- corruption platform. He alleged Villar, who ran as a poor boy turned real estate tycoon, used political influence to benefit some of his property projects.

“As a political message it looks to be having impact,” Tuazon said. Villar “has been consistently defending himself; he should have been more offensive, hitting Aquino on performance and leadership.”


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