Analysts: Duterte unscathed but Mar gains ground

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Presidential candidates Rodrigo Duterte and Mar Roxas.

MANILA - Presidential survey frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte appears to have survived the fallout from his rape comments while administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas has gained ground as the presidential race enters the homestretch.

This, according to two political analysts who spoke to ABS-CBN News after it released the latest ABS-CBN survey conducted by Pulse Asia Research from April 19 to 24.

The survey, which was still dominated by Duterte despite his comments on rape, was taken before news broke about his alleged secret bank accounts.

Roxas moved to second place in a statistical tie with Senator Grace Poe, the erstwhile frontrunner.

Roxas is the anointed successor of President Benigno Aquino while Poe is allegedly the secret candidate of the President, an allegation both sides have denied.

For De La Salle University political science professor Richard Heydarian, Roxas' gain in the survey would help keep the administration coalition intact as Vice-President Jejomar Binay declines in the ratings game.

"First impression, it seems Mar and Poe are now statistically tied, potentially preventing further defections within the ranks of Liberal Party. Meanwhile, Binay's stock seems to be on decline, showing even greater weakness in the latest SWS poll. "

Heydarian, however, pointed out that Duterte has been left practically unscathed by his recent controversies. Heydarian was the first to point out that Duterte will still have to hurdle his new challenges.

"Crucially, though, Duterte's lead seems to be holding so it's now certain to say that he has overcome the "rape joke" fallout almost unscathed, which just shows how loyal his support base is. He seems to have locked in Mindanao, and consolidating lead in Visayas and among ABC -- placing him in a very strong position two weeks before the elections. The next challenge he faces is his alleged lack of transparency vis-à-vis his wealth and bank accounts. But it's highly likely that many of his supporters will dismiss these allegations as black propaganda against the leading candidate."

University of the Philippines (UP) professor Ranjit Rye, meanwhile, thinks Duterte has pulled away. "Given the context, it is clear that Duterte has pulled away. He has a solid momentum going forward. This is crucial to have in the last few weeks of a tight contest. While Senator Poe and Secretary Mar still have a fighting chance, a tipping point towards Duterte seems clear. The Duterte surge is now a real momentum."

Rye, however, also recognized Roxas' improvement. "Interesting to note the improvement in the numbers of Roxas, with still 10 days more to go. His change in messaging, the good debate performance, plus the more aggressive campaign. A recalibrated Roxas campaign is starting to kick in positive results. The steady decline in the Binay campaign is also moving voters to others candidates"

Heydarian pointed out though that these movements have bearings on the vice-presidency. "The VP race looks very much a Marcos-Leni race, raising the prospect of a Duterte-Marcos 'strongman' tandem in 2016. Surveys suggest this is a very popular tandem for many voters, and Marcos seems to have maintained his narrow lead, but Leni could very well use the prospect of a Duterte presidency to argue that she needs to be elected as a balancing factor."

Rye added that a lot can still happen before the elections. "A week is still an eternity in Philippine politics. So much can still happen. The current survey does not factor in the recent controversy against Duterte. The election is tight and still close. So many factors are at play so these are not yet the final numbers."

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