MANILA — Former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s lead in the latest Pulse Asia presidential survey is the first time in the pollster's research activities that an aspirant for Malacañang emerged as a majority preference, an officer of the firm said Wednesday.
Based on the poll of 2,400 respondents last Dec. 1 to 6, more than half or 53 percent said they would vote Marcos for president, while 20 percent said they would vote for his rival Vice President Leni Robredo.
Pulse Asia, which conducted the survey on its own, said 97 percent of the respondents are registered voters.
"First time kami naka-record ng majority preference for any presidential candidate. Ngayon lang 'yung… 53 percent," Pulse Asia executive director Ana Maria Tabunda told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(It's the first time we recorded a majority preference for any presidential candidate. Only now did we log ... a 53 percent.)
According to Tabunda, not even President Rodrigo Duterte, who has received striking positive ratings during his presidency despite some controversies, had that kind of lead over his opponents before the 2016 elections.
She said Robredo, who won the vice presidential race in 2016 against Marcos, has a difficult task ahead of her if she wants to beat him again.
"Ang laki ng agwat (nila)... Mahirap habulin… Ang laki kaya medyo mahirap (mahabol)… Hindi tulad nung mga nakaraang election na ang mga agwat, mga 15 percentage points. Medyo pwede ka maka-raise ng issue (kontra sa kalaban)," Tabunda said.
(It's a very big difference... It's tough to catch up... since the gap is large... It's not like in previous elections where the difference between the top two contenders was only around 15 percentage points. You can narrow that gap by raising issues against the leading contender.)
Asked if Marcos' lead is insurmountable, she said it depends on what issues will be raised over the next months before the elections on May 9, 2022. She noted though that a number of issues have already been thrown at Marcos prior to the conduct of the survey, but he still got the support of the majority.
Tabunda cited the petitions filed before the Commission of Elections to disqualify Marcos over several issues, particularly his 1995 conviction of a tax evasion case.
"Hindi lang natin alam kung ano kalalabasan n'on," she said, adding, "Kung gusto man nilang matanggal siya sa race, yun yung pinaka-effective kung saka-sakaling matuloy."
(We can't be sure what will come out of that... But if they want him out of the race, that is probably the most effective way.)
Tabunda also noted that despite Duterte's surprising tirades against Marcos, whose family has supported the Chief Executive since the latter's presidential campaign, the popularity of the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was not damaged.
Duterte called Marcos a "weak leader", while praising his aide Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, who has since withdrawn his presidential bid, as "honest."
"Mukhang hindi. Ayun 'yung resulta eh, 53 percent (Not likely. There's the result)," Tabunda said when asked whether Duterte's statement against Marcos affected the latter's standing.
If Robredo wants to catch up to Marcos, she has to continue laying out her achievements and plans, Tabunda said.
"Patuloy lang ipakita kung ano ginawa niya, na kahit na pinagkaitan siya ng resources, marami rin siyang nagawa eh bilang Bise Presidente," she said.
(She should continue to show her achievements, that despite the lack of resources she had in office, she did a lot as a Vice President.)
Sought for her comment on Robredo's successful bid in 2016 despite poor rankings in earlier surveys, Tabunda said the situation and circumstances now are already different.
She cited the endorsement of Robredo by former President Benigno Aquino III at the time, and how the Vice President later became a frequent target of Duterte's tirades that may have affected her support base.
As regards the latest standing of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso, who placed third together with Sen. Manny Pacquiao for getting 8 percent each, Tabunda said, "May ibang napusuan na eh... Actually, hindi rin naman din kasi ganun kataas yung voter preference niya nung earlier surveys."
(Voters had made their choices already... Actually, he did not really have that high voter preference in earlier surveys.)
Domagoso may want to send a clear message on what he can deliver, compared with the leading contender, as well as continue his trips around the country, if he wants to catch up, the Pulse Asia officer said.
Tabunda refuted "mind-conditioning" allegations against Pulse Asia, and said their respondents were randomly selected.
The 2022 aspirants have started visiting provinces and touching base with various sectors even though the official campaign period will only begin on Feb. 8 next year.
The Comelec has yet to release the final list of official candidates for the May 9, 2022 elections.