The chart at left is a distillation of the last three months of Voter Preference Surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations since the 2007 Midterm Election campaign began. It shows the top 25 candidates running in next Monday's national elections for 12 new Senators and the percentage of voters who say they would vote for the candidate if the election were held at that point in the campaign. The country will also elect all new Congress representatives (District and Party List); all new governors, mayors and thousands of other local government officials during the May 14 polls. The conventional wisdom is that the first eight Senatorial seats are now "spoken for:"
LOREN LEGARDA looks ready to repeat her 1998 feat of topping the Senate Race -- given chart-topping voter support (currently at 58% in the SWS polls.) Neither being the running mate of FPJ in 2004, nor the wife of accused murderer Gov. Antonio Leviste has dented the loyal core of supporters that first brought her into politics and the Senate.
Senate President MANNY VILLAR inexplicably faded in the race for No. 1 with Loren, losing double digits in the SWS survey from 57% at 45% between March and April. His team needs to understand why this happened, despite doing a lot of commercials and the candidate working hard on the campaign trail. It may be important when these two political heavyweights go after higher office in 2010.
Senator PING LACSON has a solid lock on 3rd place with rock-steady numbers, reflective of having run for President in 2004 and placing a very respectable third place. He's also got his sights set on higher office in 2010. His law and order message is consistent and clear and unifies Ping's solid electoral base behind a strong record as former Chief of Police. Ping is also a credible voice when it comes to the pork barrel and will be a contender in 2010.
House Minority Leader Francis "Chiz" Escudero, (and prospective father of twins) looks set to enter the halls of the Upper House, in a well-deserved promotion by an appreciative and intelligent base of electoral support. His always well-reasoned arguments and explanations on complex and crucial issues of the last few years have given the Opposition a respectable voice and leader and have earned Chiz a place in the Senate. There, I hope he will continue to rain thunderbolts and lightning strikes on the corrupt and the stupid in government with his erudite analyses of laws and policies and his patient exposition of them.
Senator KIKO PANGILINAN can afford to be an "independent" because he has Sharon Cuneta there like a Life Insurance Policy. But it also means he can avoid making certain tough choices that might otherwise be forced on him. The precipitous slide in his polling numbers (a plunge from 57% to 39%) just means he doesn't have the respect of some who see fence-sitting in the claim of independence.
Senator RALPH RECTO follows closely behind his fellow Wednesday Group member, who has his own famous wife's drama in Batangas province to deal with. Vilma Santos will be running for Governor of that key Luzon province and is also an important factor in her husband's political career. Both Kiko and Ralph should find themselves back in the Senate, thanks to the MegaStar and the Vilmanians.
Senator ED ANGARA joins his two younger colleagues in the Magic 12 list. Re-electionist Ed Angara returns to the Senate with solid support. An efficient LDP party machinery, experience and many years of service show in his campaign. Rumors of a romantic relationship with Loren Legarda have also not hurt him at all, and have been secretly encouraged.
Senator JOKER ARROYO completes the return of the entire Wednesday Group to the Upper House, (since the latter is presumably safe at eighth place this late in the race.) Joker has played all his cards right, pandering to both the Left and the Right in just the most effective ways to ensure no loss of key blocks of support. And of course, he claims to have chosen the side that would not be cheated by the Comelec.
Congressman ALAN PETER CAYETANO comes in ninth behind Joker in the April survey, however, his overall numbers have been far stronger than this result might indicate. His problems don't seem to be over either, with that nuisance doppelganger in the form of KBL's stevedor-candidate Joselito Cayetano still not declared as such by the Comelec. But I think his election to the Senate is about as secure as that of Joker Arroyo's if not more so.
THE RACE TIGHTENS AT THE BOTTOM:
Following within 6 percentage points of Cayetano's 31% score are candidates ranked tenth to fifteenth: Tito Sotto, Gringo Honasan, Koko Pimentel, Noynoy Aquino, Migz Zubiri and Sonia Roco (30% to 25%). Given both the sampling margins (plus or minus 3 percent) and the fact that all election rankings tend to become highly dynamic and volatile at the end as the undecided decide, and the decided change their minds, any of the above six candidates seem to have more than a fair hope of making it into the Magic 12. In the March to April period, the candidacies of Sonia Roco and Juan Miguel Zubiri have really taken off and both of them threaten to barge into the Magic Circle. Zubiri is apparently being buoyed upward by an aggressive media campaign powered by global warming buzz, whose up-draught Migs has craftily caught with a his support for a biofuels law and pro-environment pose. Sonia Roco, with her sympathetic demeanor and Roco name is just within striking distance that could solidify into a real stake by Election Day. Even though the April Survey had Koko Pimentel in 12th position, ahead of Noynoy Aquino, the latter's overall numbers look more solid to me than Koko and if the toss up is between them, I would put my bet on Noynoy Aquino.
John Osmena has had the unusual privilege of getting Erap to pitch for his candidacy on AM Radio during the last few weeks, but whether it will be enough to win remains to be seen. His numbers have plummeted disastrously.
Mike Defensor has been unable to improve upon a 21% voter preference score in three months of trying. I guess it's time for Utol to accept the fact: he won't be going to the Senate. Nikki Coseteng deserves to lose for her unthinking pro-Left statements and positions early in the campaign, which turned off her Chinese base. Tessie Aquino Oreta gets nothing but negatives for a pointless, even insincere "I am sorry." speech. Butch Pichay is getting planted like a cabbage alright, but not in the Senate, (as his silly, silly slogan suggested). Luis "Chavit" Singson may be willing to handle live grenades in a made-for-media hostage situation, or even crash in a helicopter while campaigning in the mountains, but Chavit won't be going to the Senate, either. Richard Gomez makes more sense to me than many of these established politicians, and voters ought to take a better look at him next time.
The candidacy of Oakwood Mutineer Antonio Trillanes IV has been supported by many famous people, in the Media notably by Manuel L. Quezon III and Ellen Tordesillas. Campaigning while under detention and facing Court charges for coup d'etat, he might have made a very interesting addition to the Senate. I think Trillaness would be more serious about working as a Senator to reform the Armed Forces than Gringo Honasan has been.