Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has widened his lead over his rivals despite a backlash from diplomats, the influential Catholic Church and women’s groups for a remark he made about raping a murdered Australian missionary.
Duterte, the tough-talking mayor of the southern city, emerged as the clear front runner in a survey that Social Weather Stations released Monday.
The candidate, who has promised mass killings of suspected criminals, saw his support rise from 27 percent of respondents in March to 33 percent in April, giving him a nine-point lead over second-placed Senator Grace Poe just two weeks before the vote.
The survey was conducted from April 18 to 20, shortly after a video circulated showing Duterte making the off-color remark about the missionary during a campaign stop.
Duterte had told laughing followers that the woman, Jacqueline Hamill, was so beautiful he wished he had been the first in line to rape her before she was murdered in a jail riot in his city in 1989.
SWS spokesman Leo Laroza said the joke may have dented Duterte’s popularity but did not prevent him pulling ahead of his rivals in the poll of 1,800 voters.
“Mayor Duterte has been steadily gaining ground. It’s a clear lead. The joke could have affected him in such a way that his score could have been higher had it not been for that news,” he told AFP.
Duterte posted a voter preference rating of 33 percent, up six points from 27 percent in the SWS’ March 30 to April 2 survey.
Erstwhile frontrunner Senator Grace Poe ranked second at 24 percent, from 23 percent in the previous SWS survey.
Liberal Party and administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II overtook Vice President Jejomar Binay at third place, with the two scoring 19 percent and 14 percent, respectively, from 18 percent and 20 percent previously.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago continued to trail the field at two percent, lower than the three percent she posted previously.
Duterte’s comments drew widespread condemnation, including from the Australian and American ambassadors, while women’s groups filed a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights.
But Duterte was undaunted, telling the diplomats to “shut their mouths” and warning he was prepared to sever ties with Canberra and Washington over the affair.
Another survey of 4,000 voters nationwide taken by research group Pulse Asia before the remarks hit the headlines also put Duterte in the lead with 34 percent ahead of Poe at just 22 percent.
Rights groups have accused Duterte of leading vigilante death squads that have carried out over a thousand killings in Davao —allegations he has boasted about, adding that if elected, he would kill 100,000 criminals.
Analysts credit his appeal to popular disenchantment against the political elite in a nation where one out of four still lives in poverty.
“Duterte’s rise mirrors the revolt of the periphery,” sociologist Randy David said on Sunday.
“It is difficult to see how, under a Duterte presidency, the country can avoid entering another period of political uncertainty.”
The SWS survey also showed administration vice presidential candidate Rep. Maria Leonor Robredo catching up with Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The April poll is the fourth in a series of SWS Pre-Election Surveys conducted this year.
The results of the races for president, vice president and senators are released as a public service, with exclusive first-print rights to BusinessWorld.
“This is most encouraging result, given that the black propaganda campaign against Duterte intensified during this period,” Duterte’s spokesman Peter Tiu Laviña said
“This only affirms the strong clamor of our people for genuine change. Duterte has become a rallying symbol for all classes -- poor, middle and rich -- long fed up with ‘trapos.’ We shall use the support of our people as an inspiration to ensurevictory on May 9,” Laviña said.
The survey showed two Liberal Party candidates, one Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) candidate, and one United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidate in a position to take the top four seats in the Senate elections.
Leading the top 12 are Frank Drilon, Vicente Sotto, Manny Pacquiao and Kiko Pangilinan.
Meanwhile, UNA said it is not worried with the latest six-point drop of Binay in the latest SWS survey, saying the real survey is on election day, May 9.
Party spokesman Rico Quicho said Binay continue to have a solid following in the Visayas and Luzon.
“As the campaign nears its end, Binay remains focused on his message that competence, experience in governance, and compassion are the key factors to fight poverty and provide jobs, quality education, and healthcare services,” Quicho said.
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