#PHVote: Candidates deal with fluid survey numbers, health issues

MANILA, Philippines – Barely a week after national candidates formally launched their campaigns for May 2016, major bets are still caught in what's appearing to be a down-to-the-wire race for president and vice president. Last week's sorties, however, brought to open vulnerable areas for some of them.

The Social Weather Stations (SWS) February survey, released on Monday, February 15, showed what's been apparent in the last 2 months – a tight race among Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Grace Poe, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.

Duterte's numbers improved after he spent more time in the National Capital Region and other Luzon provinces, where he needs to make a dent. As proof of his team's focus on these areas, the Duterte-Cayetano tandem held their kick-off rally last February 8 in Tondo, Manila.

But after back-to-back travels, the Davao mayor fell ill and was rushed to the Cardinal Santos hospital in San Juan last Thursday, February 11. He said he was nursing persistent headaches and bronchitis, but there's speculation he suffered a mild stroke. 

Presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who's stuck at single digits in the survey (4%), also appeared weak when she joined standard-bearer Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr in their kick-off rally in Batac, Ilocos Norte. Santiago stayed briefly during the sortie, but on Sunday, February 14, she was back in harness when the two launched their senatorial slate in Metro Manila. Santiago is battling lung cancer.

ILOCOS VOTE. Ferdinand u0022Bongbongu0022 Marcos Jr in his bailiwick, Ilocos Norte. File photo by Rappler

ILOCOS VOTE. Ferdinand u0022Bongbongu0022 Marcos Jr in his bailiwick, Ilocos Norte.

File photo by Rappler

Marcos is in an upbeat mood, as he saw his numbers rise in the latest SWS survey. He now shares the lead in the VP race with Senator Francis Escudero.

And, no, he's not bothered by the fact that the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolt that ousted his family from power is coming soon.

EDSA is a campaign issue only to his critics and the media, Marcos said.

CHIEF CAMPAIGNER. President Aquino woos Bicolano votes for the LP coalition. File photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

CHIEF CAMPAIGNER. President Aquino woos Bicolano votes for the LP coalition.

File photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

Last week's proclamation rallies also saw President Benigno Aquino III on the campaign trail, as he launched government projects in the Visayas and Bicol regions where the Roxas-Robredo tandem held their major sorties. 

The Liberal Party is hoping that Aquino's high survey numbers would boost the bids of Roxas and Leni Robredo, but a Pulse Asia survey released last week showed that approval for the President dropped by 6 percentage points from December 2015.

Binay's party is accusing the LP of using public funds to help Roxas and Robredo win, and Aquino’s presence in the hustings reinforces this suspicion. 

CANDIDATE OR NOT? Senator Grace Poe at the launch of her campaign in Plaza Miranda last week. File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

CANDIDATE OR NOT? Senator Grace Poe at the launch of her campaign in Plaza Miranda last week.

File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Meanwhile, a big question remains: Will Poe stay in the presidential race or not? This remains unanswered as the Supreme Court yet again set another hearing on her case on Tuesday, February 16, prompting criticism that the justices are unduly delaying their verdict.

And while waiting for the verdict on Poe, the Comelec started testing the voting machines and held mock elections in key areas nationwide over the weekend. The poll body, however, needs to inspire public confidence as election nears.

On Sunday, February 21, the Comelec will be holding its first organized presidential debate in Cagayan de Oro City. The debate is the first in a series to be mounted by media companies that signed a memorandum of agreement with the poll body. But some controversy is brewing, with Cagayan de Oro journalists complaining about limited access to the event. – Rappler.com

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