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Asiaweek, May 8, 1998

The Frontrunner

Vice President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, 61
Running mate: Edgardo "Edong" Angara
College dropout
Latest poll rating: 34%

The Vice President may have started out in a jeepney, but his campaign has become a juggernaut. Erap's pro-poor platform was never a gamble, finding natural support across the regions. What he had to overcome was the opposition of the economic, political and church elites who view him as a buffoon. Yet in his 16 years as a mayor and six as the country's No. 2 Estrada has picked up some political savvy. He wooed Angara, a lawyer, onto his ticket to boost its governance credentials. He laughed along at the wisecracks about his vices. He argued that highly educated leaders have done little for the poor, so it was time for a man of the masses. Never tainted by corruption, his teflon image has withstood everything the administration has thrown at him. Doubts still persist about his health, his dubious acquaintances and how, with so many advisers, he will make decisions. But Erap looks set to give up his last vice, the one in his present title.

Neck and Neck: The Chasing Pack

Senator Raul Roco, 56
Democratic Action Party
Running mate: Irene Santiago
U.S.-educated lawyer
Latest poll rating: 12%

A staunch Bicol vote plus popularity with the intelligentsia, the young and women has helped Roco's lean campaign. His dream of a computer-literate society of college graduates will not dent Estrada's popularity this time. But his techno-speak and youthful dynamism may be just what the country is looking for in the next century and Roco may be priming himself for another run in 2004.

Manila mayor Alfredo "Dirty Harry" Lim, 68
Liberal Party
Running mate: Sergio Osmeña
Former police chief
Latest poll rating: 11%

A controversial figure, Lim has taken a no-nonsense approach to justice at the National Bureau of Investigation and Manila's city hall, hence his can-do image. But while his nerve is strong, his economics are shaky and an endorsement from former president Corazon Aquino may not be enough to spread his appeal beyond vote-rich Metro Manila.

House Speaker Jose "Joe" de Venecia, 61
Running mate: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Ateneo-trained journalist
Latest poll rating: 11%

The story of the hare and the tortoise has been evoked, but the powerful finish Joe is banking on has so far eluded him. Had the whiphand with a Ramos "anointment" and control of a mammoth political machine he built from scratch. But his "trapo" (traditional politician) image as a wheeler-dealer can't quite compete against Estrada's pure charisma. Monopolizes the giant
Pangasinan vote.

Emilio "Lito" Osmeña, 59
Province-First Development Initiatives
Running mate: Ismael Sueño
Latest poll rating: 11%

As governor of Cebu, central Philippines, he orchestrated the "Ceboom" which brought the archipelago's most populous province much prosperity. Surveys show him sweeping Estrada aside in Cebuano-speaking areas such as the Visayas, but his provinces-first stance may have alienated more voters in the vital capital region than it has attracted in the hinterland.

The Also-Rans

Renato de Villa, 62 • Party for Democratic Reform
Ex-general and defense secretary passed over by Ramos; campaign has bombed. Dubbed "Mr. Wait-a-minute" for his
indecisive nature. Seen as Ramos clone. Latest poll rating: 6%

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, 52 • People's Reform Party
Feisty lawyer once famed for her soundbites has seen her star fade since 1992, when Ramos allegedly cheated her out of the presidency. Poor senatorial stint. Her anti-corruption drive has produced much rhetoric but no results. Latest poll rating: 4%.

Senator Juan "Johnny" Ponce Enrile, 74 • Independent
A super-rich, aging lawyer with no party backup; most voters are simply puzzled by his late decision to run. Former martial law administrator with questionable scruples. Latest poll rating: 1%

Santiago Dumlao, 64 • Movement for National Renewal
Harvard-educated businessman new to politics. His promise to pay 500 pesos per month to every Filipino makes critics wonder if he skipped finance at Harvard. Latest poll rating: less than 0.5%

Manuel Morato, 64 • Decent Nation Party
Proof that media fame and charity work do not automatically translate into votes. The TV host and former lottery chief is standing with the avowed intention of opposing Estrada and critics charge it shows. Latest poll rating: less than 0.5

Poll conducted by Philippine Survey and Research Center for Estrada. Included 3% pledged for Imelda Marcos who withdrew
on April 29.

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