Crunch time

The most recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll showed similar results, with Mr. Duterte at 33%, Ms. Poe at 24%, Mr. Roxas at 19%, and Mr. Binay at 14%. SWS carried out its survey between Apr. 18 and 20, also among 1,800 registered voters.

It seems the Davao mayor has survived the fallout from his controversial comment on rape, especially in Metro Manila where he was the top choice in the Pulse Asia survey at 40%. He has also taken the lead across all income classes nationwide, favored by 43% of class ABC, 32% among class D, and 40% of class E.

What baffles many Filipinos is the polling performance of Ms. Poe in the last two months of the electoral campaign. After the Supreme Court decided on Mar. 8 to allow her candidacy, the general perception was that she would surge in the presidential preference surveys.

Her campaign spokesperson, Valenzuela City Mayor Rexlon T. Gatchalian, even boasted that Ms. Poe would enjoy a 10-point bounce in the polls. But from pole position, she is now trailing the new front-runner Mr. Duterte by nine to twelve percentage points. And instead of a bounce, she registered a significant drop in ratings.

I asked several concerned citizens, who preferred to remain anonymous, about what they think has caused the erosion of support for Ms. Poe, who was the topnotcher during the 2013 senatorial election. Their consensus was that it has nothing to do with her status as a natural-born citizen, but more about questions on her 10-year residency in the Philippines and her renunciation of US citizenship.

A veteran pundit gave me a list of alleged inconsistencies in her statements before and during the course of the campaign period:

o Comparing her stay in America to the experience of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), while living in a Virginia mansion which is a far cry from the common OFW dwellings.

o Regarding her being found as an infant at the Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo City where Jaime Cardinal Sin served as parish priest, initially claiming that Cardinal Sin brought her to showbiz couple Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces, then revealing later that it was Tessie Valencia, a close friend of Ms. Roces, who convinced the movie stars to adopt her.

o Using two Social Security System (SSS) numbers while working in the Greater Washington, DC area.

o After becoming a dual citizen and subsequently renouncing her American citizenship, she used her US passport a dozen times.

o Dropping the names of prominent personalities and claiming them to be her advisers.

These allegations are quite serious and must be refuted quickly to dissipate any cloud of doubt on her credibility. So far she has countered the SSS issue by showing a copy of her Boston College identification card that contains one of the alleged SSS numbers.

Others say what they know of Ms. Poe's real circumstances are revealed in the manner of a striptease. When pressed during the third and last presidential debate sponsored by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), ABS-CBN Corp., and Manila Bulletin last Apr. 24 at the Phinma University of Pangasinan, she disclosed that her husband Neil Lllamanzares renounced his US citizenship about a month ago.

With regard to campaign funding sources, she has deflected the issue by saying she will disclose the list at the proper time. Clues could, however, be found in the list of contributors she submitted to the Comelec in the aftermath of the 2013 senatorial polls.

To bring her campaign back on track, Ms. Poe should dispel such allegations and inconsistencies. She has to refrain from making promises such as universal free education and full medical coverage without explaining how those generous freebies are going to be funded. She still has time in the next 10 days to recoup lost ground. Will a game-changing pronouncement do the trick?

J. Albert Gamboa is chief financial officer of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and Senior Advisor of KSearch Asia Consulting, Inc.

Source: B World Online