Duterte: from non-entity in Pulse Asia surveys to Presidential frontrunner

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 April) – When Pulse Asia started its nationwide survey on the May 2016 Elections in June 2014, Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte, now the Presidential frontrunner, was not on the list of 11 potential Presidential candidates. In its September 2014 survey, the list was expanded to 15 and Duterte was still a non-entity even as signature campaigns nationwide had been launched to push him to run for the top post.

In both surveys, Vice President Jejomar Binay topped as the choice of 41% in June and 31% in September, of registered voters if elections had been held in 2014, followed by Senator Grace Poe with 12% and 10% , then Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas with 7% and 13%, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago with 7% and 11%.

When Duterte finally made it to the list of 12 in the March 2015 survey,  only 12% were going to vote for him. Today, that figure has risen to 34% of the registered voters nationwide, according to the April 12-17 survey conducted by Pulse Asia for ABS-CBN.

From 12% nationwide in March 2015, Duterte gained three percentage points in the May survey with 15% and gained another one percentage point by September. At that time, Duterte was still vascillating on his decision to run for President, even filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) for mayor on October 15, his supporters awaiting him at the Commission on Elections in Manila on the last day of filing of COCs October 16.

He did not show up by 5 p.m., the deadline for filing COCs. But at 4:59 p.m. or one minute before the deadline, Martin Dino of the
Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) filed his COC for President, a move apparently made by the party to give Duterte a final chance to change his mind.  

Frustrated supporters said they would wait for December 10 as the law allowed for substitution of candidates until that day. Dino withdrew his candidacy a few weeks later.

Duterte finally withdrew his COC for mayor while his lawyer in Manila filed his COC for President on November 27, a day after the results of a Pulse Asia survey on November 11 and 12 in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila)  commissioned by a Davao City-based businessman, showed him as the top choice of 34% of the registered voters.

In the December 4-11 nationwide survey, held days after his controversial cursing of the Pope at his formal proclamation as PDP-Laban standard bearer, Duterte lost seven percentage points in the NCR (from 34% to 27%) but overall he was the choice of 23% of the voters,  landing second to Vice President Jejomar Binay’s 33%,  but statistically tied with Senator Grace Poe’s 21%, followed by Roxas’ 17% and Santiago’s 4%.

In the January 2016 survey, Duterte lost three percentage points (23% to 20%).

But staring February, Duterte was gaining more voters to his side, from 21% choosing him, to 24% in the March 1 to 6 survey, surging to 30% in the March  29 to April 3 survey, then 32%   in the April 5-10 survey and  34% in the April 12-17 survey.  

Not listed

When the September 2014 results were released by Pulse Asia, MindaNews sent an e-mail askingwhy Duterte’s name was not on the list of possible Presidential candidates. At that time, he had been going around in his “listening tour” on federalism and signature campaigns were being passed around urging him to run for President.

Prof. Ronald Holmes, Pulse Asia Research President, replied then that prior to the conduct of the September 2014 survey, Duterte had repeatedly and categorically said he did not intend to run for President. 

When Pulse Asia released the survey results on September 29, the accompanying press statement said “Pulse Asia Research’s pool of academic fellows takes full responsibility for the design and conduct of the survey, as well as for analyses it makes based on the survey data.”

It added that “in keeping with our academic nature, no religious, political, economic, or partisan group influenced any of these processes. Pulse Asia Research undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort.”

Whose listing?

MindNews clarified through a second e-mail on who decides on the listing and how does one qualify to be on the list.  It also asked if Duterte’s statements that he does not intend to run for President or Vice President eliminate him from being listed as possible candidate, and if the 15 on the list of Presidentiables categorically said they’d run for President.

Holmes said “the academic group of Pulse, myself, our research director and academic fellows, decide the listing.”

“We normally review published reports (from national media)  and include the  personalities who have expressed the intent to run, were named by organizations/parties as prospective standard bearers, and those who could be considered as prospective presidential and vice presidential candidates. We identify potential candidates for all the major ‘parties’ (e.g., LP, NP, UNA, Lakas) including possible independents who may be adopted by or run under new parties.”

Holmes said the repeated declaration of Duterte that he will not vie for a national position “led us to decide to take his name out in the September 2014 survey.” 

He added that “depending on developments leading up to the December survey, we may or may not include him in the next round.”

Holmes also said “only one personality, VP Binay has categorically said he will run as president. A few (Roxas, Cayetano) are known to be open to vie for a national position while the others have been identified as potential candidates by their parties.  Some, like Poe and Robredo (in recent reports), expressed that they are not ready for higher national positions.”

He said the list of prospective candidates had changed from survey to survey.

The 15 persons listed by Pulse Asia for the  September 2014 survey on Presidential preference were: Binay, Roxas, Santiago, Poe, former President Joseph Estrada, Senators Francis Escudero and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., former Vice President Noli de Castro, former Senator Richard Gordon, Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery and former Senator Panfilo Lacson, Senator Allan Peter Cayetano, Bicol Rep. Leni Robredo, Senator Bong Revilla, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan.

In the June 2014 survey, Pulse Asia listed only 11.  The four additions to the September 2014 survey for President were de Castro, Robredo, Lacson, and Pangilinan. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)