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Aquino Widens Lead, Villar Slips in Philippine Poll

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Philippine presidential candidate Benigno Aquino
Philippine presidential candidate Benigno Aquino sits for an interview in Quezon City. Photographer: Edwin Tuyay/Bloomberg

May 7 (Bloomberg) -- Philippine presidential candidate Benigno Aquino widened his lead in a survey for the May 10 election as Manuel Villar, previously his main rival, fell to a statistical tie with former President Joseph Estrada.

Senator Aquino, son of former President Corazon Aquino, had the support of 42 percent of respondents in a May 2 to 3 survey, BusinessWorld newspaper reported, citing a survey it conducted with Social Weather Stations. That compares with 38 percent in their April 16 to 19 survey.

Senator Villar’s support fell to 19 percent from 26 percent while Estrada’s support rose to 20 percent from 17. The survey covered 2,400 respondents and had a 2 percentage point margin of error.

“With three days remaining, it will be difficult already for Villar or Estrada to catch up,” said Bobby Tuazon, director of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance in Manila.

More than 50 million people are registered to vote for president and thousands of other national and local positions. The Philippines is switching to a computerized system to reduce the cheating that occurred during manual counting that took weeks. Election officials are racing to install new programs in 76,000 machines after a glitch was discovered this week.

The computer programs are contained in flash memory cards. About 62,000 cards had been programmed by this morning and 50,000 of these had been delivered or were in transit to voting precincts, according to a statement from the commission.

The Supreme Court today rejected petitions from Estrada and two groups to postpone the elections or revert to manual counting.

“If the people would be allowed to vote and their votes are counted properly, I think I will win,” Aquino told reporters in Manila. “I think the Filipino people will win.”

The lead may protect Aquino from problems that may occur as voters use the new system, Tuazon said. It may also help Aquino counter the organization that Villar has funded and built since entering politics in 1992 and which will be used to get supporters to their voting centers. “That’s a safe margin,” he said.

Aquino, who wasn’t a candidate until his mother, credited with ousting dictator Ferdinand Marcos, died of cancer in August. Nostalgia fanned calls for her son to run. He declared in September and has topped the polls since, running on an anti-corruption platform. He alleged Villar, who ran as a poor boy turned real estate tycoon, used political influence to benefit some of his property projects.

“As a political message it looks to be having impact,” Tuazon said. Villar “has been consistently defending himself; he should have been more offensive, hitting Aquino on performance and leadership.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Francisco Alcuaz Jr. in Manila at falcuaz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Clarissa Batino at cbatino@bloomberg.net

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