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Erwin Tulfo pulls a surprise; Sara Duterte, Dela Rosa join 'Magic 12' in survey

MANILA, Philippines – They're not even in the administration's initial list of possible candidates, but 3 allies of President Rodrigo Duterte appear to have a winning shot at next year's senatorial race.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, media personality Erwin Tulfo, and newly retired police chief Ronald dela Rosa made it to the "Magic 12" in Pulse Asia's survey for the 2019 senatorial race.

Duterte-Carpio ranked 6th in the poll dominated by reelectionists and returning senators, based on the results of the survey held from March 23 to 28. (READ: Grace Poe leads in Pulse Asia poll on 2019 senatorial race)

Ana Tabunda, chief research fellow at Pulse Asia, told Rappler that senatorial aspirants should be in the top 6 in polls on voters' preference to secure a spot in the winners' circle.

"You have to be in the Top 6 to secure your place," Tabunda said.

Duterte-Carpio's emergence as a potential winner in the Senate race is not a surprise, said Tabunda. Children and relatives of incumbent politicians, especially presidents, have traditionally enjoyed better chances at polls.

It's the rise of media personality Erwin Tulfo that Tabunda found most interesting in the poll. "Masyadong mataas (It's too high)," she said.

Tulfo ranked 9th in the polls, performing better than former senators  Lito Lapid and Jinggoy Estrada. He also performed better than Dela Rosa.

Tulfo has a show on government TV network PTV-4, where he transferred after years of hosting programs on other channels.

Tabunda said it appears Tulfo was able to endear himself to Duterte's supporters, unlike the other administration allies who are aiming for a seat in the Senate. 

Last year, Tulfo figured in a feud with prizewinning journalist Ed Lingao who called him out for posting "fake news" on social media. Tulfo shared a propaganda post against Senator Risa Hontiveros, wrongly tagging her as supporter of a local terrorist group behind the siege in Marawi City. 

Tabunda said Dela Rosa's rise in the survey no longer surprised her. His constant media exposure appeared to have worked in his favor, she said. 

"Even in the beginning [of Duterte's administration], he was well liked even by the media. He's always open to giving interviews," she said. 

Dela Rosa is the implementor of Duterte's brutal campaign against illegal drug use. But Tabunda said his popularity cannot be interpreted to mean public support for the campaign. 

Tabunda said it appears the killings are not being blamed on Dela Rosa, who is seen as having ordered probes into these incidents. "It could be that the public are blaming the rogue cops," she said. – Rappler.com