MANILA (UPDATED) - Senator Grace Poe is now the top choice for president in the 2016 elections based on the latest surveys of Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS).
SWS information officer Leo Laroza said, "It only means whether it's a list, top of mind, or no list provided, thinking of 2016, this is the person that comes to the mind of the majority. That's the common denominator. She is the top contender based on the data."
Poe showed the highest gain of all those surveyed by SWS, though considering the margin of error, Vice President Jejomar Binay's scores can be seen as steady. In the Pulse Asia survey, Poe went up to 30% against Binay's 22% from 14% and 29%, respectively, in a previous survey.
For Laroza, Poe's gains came largely out of the news coverage at the time of the survey. During the survey period, Poe was heavily covered by media, especially the questions raised over her qualifications for public office.
"I'm not a political analyst. I can only cite what happened in news. Poe gained 11% of preferential mentions compared to the first quarter while Binay declined 2 points. [Interior and Local Government] Secretary [Mar] Roxas gained 6 points. [Davao City] Mayor [Rodrigo] Duterte gained 5 points. The biggest gain is from Senator Grace Poe," he said.
"And you look at how much news is revolving around Senator Poe. Definitely it was captured... What happened was on June 2, Rep. Toby Tiangco went to the news using the issue of Poe's qualification, the issue on being natural-born citizen. It was fresh in the minds of people when we did the field survey. Right after that, Senator Grace had her reactions. She did her rounds a lot. This was very fresh in people's minds," he added.
The SWS survey, conducted from June 5 to 8, comes almost at the same period as the Pulse Asia survey which was polled from May 30 to June 5.
The June 2015 SWS survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide -- 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. It has sampling error margins of 3% for national percentages, and 6% each for Metro Manila, Balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Unlike the Pulse Asia survey where respondents were asked to pick one, the SWS poll asked respondents to pick 3 possible successors to President Aquino.
Poe polled 42% in June, up 11 points from 31% in March and 21% in December. Binay is now at second place, losing 2 points at 34% in June from 36% in March and 37% in December.
Unlike the Pulse Asia survey which had Duterte at third place, the SWS poll showed Roxas at third place with 21% in June. This is, however, an improvement from his 15% in March and 19% in December.
Others in the poll are Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada (7% in June from 11% in March and 9% in December), former Senator Panfilo Lacson (7% in June from 1% in March and 2% in December), Senator Francis Escudero (4% in June from 8% in March and 9% in Secember), Senator Miriam Santiago (4% in June from 11% in March and 10% in December), Senator Bongbong Marcos (3% in June from 7% in March and 3% in December), and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano (2% in June from 4% in March and 3% in December).
In the Pulse Asia survey released Thursday, if the May 2016 elections were conducted during the survey period, Poe would emerge as the winner with 30% of Filipinos backing her candidacy.
Binay finds himself in second place with a 22% level of support for his presidential bid. The three other individuals with double-digit presidential voter preferences are Duterte (15%), Roxas (10%), and Estrada (10%).
On the other hand, single-digit figures are recorded by Santiago (6%), Cayetano (2%), and Lacson (2%).
Filipinos express virtually no support for the probable presidential bids of former Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chairperson Camilo Sabio and OFW Party-List Rep. Roy Señeres.
Poe took NCR, Balance of Luzon, Visayas, and classes ABC and D. Binay kept a slim lead over Poe in Mindanao and Class E. Duterte, however, was the top candidate in Mindanao.
With this development, Poe now leads both the leading pollsters in the country.
Binay's head for media affairs, Joey Salgado said, the vice president is grateful for the continuous support of Filipinos.
"Despite the relentless attacks from his opponents, Vice President Jejomar Binay is thankful for the unwavering support as reflected in the SWS survey," he said.
"The campaign continues to learn from the ground and adjust its efforts accordingly. The Vice President respects the survey results. He sees them as barometers of the pulse of the public at a point in time. He will continue to listen to the people," said Salgado.
SWS president Mahar Mangahas is a cousin of Poe's father, the late cinema action king and 2004 presidential candidate, Fernando Poe Jr.
Poe, in a statement to media, said, "I am truly humbled by the latest SWS survey results. I am very grateful that more people appreciate the kind of public service that I strive to uphold - transparent, honest and efficient."
For Center for People Empowerment in Governance's (CenPEG) Professor Temario Rivera, a political analyst, Binay's decline in Pulse Asia shows that respondents are not satisfied with how he has dealt with the corruption allegations against him.
"I don't think satisfactory yung sinasabi na puro pulitika lang yan. VP Binay or the family will have to come up with a different response that's more credible. Kung titingnan ang class D and E, malaki pa rin ang concerns sa poverty issues, and kung titingnan mo si VP Binay, yun ang kinu-cultivate niya talaga. Kahit ads niya mga poor constituents niya binibigyan ng libreng gamot sa ospital," Rivera said.
The SWS survey asked respondents to pick 3 candidates, while the Pulse Asia survey released Thursday asked respondents to pick their choice for president from a list.
Rivera s raised doubts over the accuracy of SWS' methodology. He noted Pulse Asia's methodology more closely simulates election day -- when voters only pick one president.
"Yung Pulse Asia, ang advantage niyan is it's closer to the actual voting system, malinaw na iisa lang ang pipiliin mo. Yung pick 3, it may unnecessarily either provide us a measure of overestimation or underestimation," he explained.
"Halimbawa let's say sinama mo si Senator Grace, VP Binay at Mar Roxas, di malinaw kung may weighting system. In other words, yun bang first choice is given more weight? Kasi kung equal weighting ang binigay sa 3 choices, di ganun ka-accurate ang resulta," he said.
NO OFFICIAL LIST YET
Laroza, however, explained that their methodology really does not test any list as they are still waiting for the official list of candidates that will be released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
He said any list being tested now is only for purposes of research and strategizing by the data users. He added this is merely a guide.
"In terms of accuracy, this is not the method of choosing a leader, but it can be a guide... and from standpoint of funders, the data users, this is a guide for them, a gauge on who are the people that come to mind," he said.
'A LOT CAN STILL HAPPEN'
As with surveys, Laroza emphasized these standings can still change, especially when the SWS changes its methodology after the certificates of candidacy (COCs) are filed.
"Like probably what happened with VP Binay -- he's been occupying the top -- the rankings can change," he said. "People can tell if you're doing a good job, but when it comes to question of who they will prefer as successor, that's an entirely different thing."
One factor will be President Aquino's endorsement. Laroza pointed out the scores of the lower ranked names are very close.
"A lot of things can still happen. We have yet to see President Aquino making pronouncements on who to endorse..."
As to how President Aquino's endorsement will actually affect the standings, that remains to be seen though it will depend on Aquino's own popularity.
"That will have an impact. We have data supporting that those satisfied with President would probably vote for THE person President will endorse... A public official, public figure with high trust and satisfaction can influence, has a tendency to convert votes," he said.
Aquino's own net satisfaction rating appears to have recovered in the same SWS survey.
Aquino polled a net satisfaction rating of +30, which is almost thrice his +11 in March. This, however, is still lower than the +39 in December 2014, before the January 25, 2015 Mamasapano incident. Aquino polled his all time high in SWS of +67 in August 2012.
Aquino nevertheless remains to be in better shape at this time in his presidency than his predecessor.
"We call it a recovery. It's a bounce. Not his highest but given that the typical behavior of the net satisfaction ratings is to decline as elections approach, it's a natural tendency... What we thought was a downward trend was interrupted and he's just returned to the moderate level he enjoyed in previous quarters," said Laroza.
He explained Aquino's own bump is also due to news coverage of the President at the time of the survey.
"Since the survey was conducted from March to June, a lot of news, the 1st quarter was a bad time for the administration," he said, pertaining to the January 25 Mamasapano incident. "That one event has a lot of impact."
"Now the news focused on something a bit more positive, something that can help administration. That's foreign relations (stand against China), foreign relations always come well-rated or positively received... That probably contributed to the recovery of people's satisfaction," he said.
Some political analysts, however, pointed out that Aquino's endorsement is only as good as the resources that will be mobilized for the candidate to be endorsed.
Rivera said, "How strong would that be for a particular candidate? If we go by historical record and political culture, tingin ko di ganun kabigat ang endorsement ng any president."
Rivera pointed out Roxas, who placed 3rd in the SWS survey and 4th in the Pulse Asia survey, may already be using government resources in his bid for the presidency. Roxas has been going around the country attending to DILG agency projects.
He said Roxas may not be able to count on President Aquino's endorsement even if the chief executive said Roxas remains on top of his list of choices, as Aquino has been in discussions with Poe and soon, her preferred running mate, Senator Francis Escudero.
"Kung desidido ka na suportahan si Mar, why do you need to negotiate with non-party members?" he said.
Rivera noted that Aquino's endorsement of a non-LP member may complicate things for Roxas and give ammunition to those within the ruling party who are not supportive of Roxas.
'KISS OF DEATH'
Another CenPEG analyst, Bobby Tuazon, pointed out that not everyone endorsed by the chief executive has won, the latest example being Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who only placed 4th in the 2010 elections after being endorsed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Tuazon noted Aquino's own standing has declined and he may just give his endorsee a "kiss of death."
Rivera, meanwhile, noted that in the case of Poe, she may not need Aquino's endorsment. "Ultimately it's not endorsement that counts but yung personality ng kandidato."
Tuazon said Poe has appeared to be independent. "In the Mamasapano incident, you see her, in the report, she appeared to be independent of politics... The overarching factor is because she is a Poe."
Rivera said questions on Poe's experience may come up but that can be overcome.
"Definitely gagamitin ni VP Binay (lack of experience ni Grace). Leadership has many components. Experience is only one. Nandiyan yung personality, nandiyan ang ability to create an organization. The lack of experience did not work against Cory Aquino... Ang matinding sagot ni Cory, which parallels the response of Senator Grace, 'Oo nga may experience ka, may experience sa corruption, pinapangalandakan mo.'"
For Rivera, Poe will gain if the ruling party is split and Roxas pursues a presidential bid.
Tuazon noted that in the Philippines, political parties gravitate towards the candidates instead of having parties decide who will be the candidates in elections.
For Rivera, whoever consistently places high in the surveys will attract the supporters.
"Mar Roxas and VP Binay have their own network of support. 'Di ba VP Binay is close to MVP [Manny Pangilinan]? Mar has his own core of supporters to begin with... The moment mag-declare openly and assuming tuloy ang magandang survey results, ultimately mag-gravitate kay Senator Grace," he said.
Tuazon believes Aquino's endorsement may even divide the ruling party.
"If you depend on surveys, and endorsement will be weak, it might weaken or lead to division of the party, lalo na leaders who think there may be problems if and when Mar is declared the official LP candidate."
Rivera estimates that the cost of the 2016 presidential campaign will be P2 billion.
Tuazon believes one of Roxas' problems is his lack of a pro-poor image.