Aquino maintains lead in survey

MANILA: The son of the late Philippine democracy iconCorazon Aquino has maintained his commanding lead over rivals in next year's presidential election, a nationwide survey showed Monday.

Senator Benigno Aquino garnered 45 percent support, way ahead of multi-millionaire property developer and senator Manny Villar, who took 23 percent, Pulse Asia said in its survey.

Coming in third was disgraced former president Joseph Estrada with 19 percent, while former defence secretary Gilberto Teodoro, the candidate from President Gloria Arroyo's ruling coalition had a mere five percent, it said.

The survey covered 1,800 respondents around the country and was taken from December 8 to 10, just days before the elections commission announced that the four were among eight candidates eligible to run for president.

The four others are however are widely considered minor candidates with not enough machinery for a serious, nationwide campaign.

The Pulse Asia survey mirrored the results of a survey carried out by another pollster early this month, and indicates that support for Aquino "remains virtually unchanged," it said.

From a political lightweight with no significant achievements in his 11 years as a legislator, Aquino was thrust into the limelight when his mother died in August.

He took advantage of the massive outpouring of emotional support for her to catapult himself into the national consciousness.

The soft-spoken, bespectacled Corazon Aquino was well-loved in the Philippines for leading a 1986 "people power" revolution that ended dictator Ferdinand Marcos's 20-year brutal regime.

In the announcement of his candidacy, Aquino in September vowed to end corruption in government and give the public 'closure' by going after the Marcos family's fabled ill-gotten wealth.

"I want to make democracy work not just for the rich and the well-connected, but for everybody," Aquino said.