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Estrada jumps to an early lead
By Raymond Burgos, Donna Cueto, Martin Marfil,
Rocky Nazareno and Juliet Labog-Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer

VICE PRESIDENT Joseph Estrada established an early lead based on the reports of Inquirer correspondents in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and the initial results of three exit polls conducted separately by a private radio station and the administration and opposition parties.

Even the first tally received by Namfrel from the first district of Sulu showed Estrada slightly ahead of De Venecia, according to Namfrel chair Jose Concepcion Jr.

The exit polls were conducted by dzRH, Facts Base Inc., AMA Education System and the Citizens' Movement for Justice Economy, Environment and Peace (JEEP).

Under fair and sunny skies, 80 percent of the 34.1 million registered voters trooped to the polling precincts yesterday.  The Commission on Elections declared the elections ''generally peaceful.''

The 500,000-strong Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting also said that the elections were ''orderly.''  Despite widespread complaints against defective indelible ink, ''all went well,'' said Henry Tenedero, PPCRV spokesperson.

Military and police officials said the national and local elections were ''generally peaceful and orderly'' and less bloody than the 1992 presidential elections.

''Boring,'' was how Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Clemente Mariano described the elections because of the isolated cases of violence. ''Inaantok nga ako (I got sleepy),'' Mariano quipped during a 3 p.m. media briefing held at Camp Aguinaldo. ''The overall assessment is that elections were generally peaceful all over the country,'' Interior Secretary Epimaco Velasco said.

Former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim is also leading in an exit poll conducted by his supporters in Metro Manila and seven provinces.  The groups conducting the exit poll did not disclose their respective sampling design and how the respondents were chosen.

JEEP is a movement supporting the candidacy of Estrada while Facts Base Inc. is a private firm commissioned by the ruling Lakas-NUCD to run the exit poll.  Exit polls, if properly conducted, are more accurate than surveys done before election day as the voters are interviewed right after they cast their ballots.

34.6 percent

Estrada took a commanding lead of 34.6 percent in the exit poll that dzRH conducted in Manila and several other big cities. The poll covered 41,849 voters. But dzRH appeared to be
extrapolating to establish a trend for Estrada.

Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. received 16.8 percent of the votes and Sen. Raul Roco, 12.9 percent. Lim got 9.4 percent.

Facts Base survey

Even in the Lakas-identified Facts Base Inc. exit poll, Estrada leads the field of 10 presidential candidates with 29 percent of the votes cast.

Breathing down his neck was De Venecia with 27 percent. Roco is third with 19 percent.

Facts Base Inc. said its exit poll covered 700 respondents from Metro Manila and Regions 3, 4, 5 and 6, areas described by Lakas officials as opposition bailiwicks.

Facts Base Inc. said results of the exit poll were initial and it still planned to interview 3,000 respondents from 300 sample areas in all the regions.

A press statement from Facts Base Inc. early in the evening said that De Venecia had overtaken Estrada. Based on interviews with 2,100 respondents, it said De Venecia garnered 27 percent
and Estrada, 26 percent.

''In a tight race, we are confident that Speaker de Venecia will prevail because of the superior Lakas machine,'' Lakas campaigner Cesar Sarino said in the statement.

JEEP survey

An exit poll jointly conducted nationwide by the AMA Education System and JEEP showed Estrada leading his closest rival, De Venecia, by 13 percentage points.

In the exit poll that covered 7,763 respondents, Estrada got 30 percent; De Venecia, 17 percent; Roco, 16 percent; and Lim, 12 percent.  Renato de Villa received 9 percent; Miriam Defensor-Santiago, 5 percent; Lito Osmeña, 4 percent; Juan Ponce Enrile, 3 percent;
and Santiago Dumlao, 2 percent.

In a statement, AMA said the results of the exit poll, which it released at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, were a ''conservative estimate'' for Estrada because the Central Luzon data had yet to be

''AMA predicts that Estrada's number will go up to 35-36 percent once the Central Luzon data is finalized and included in the survey,'' the statement said.

In the exit polls of the Alfredo Lim for President Movement, the Liberal Party presidential candidate received 39 percent of the 2,202 voters polled. He was followed by Estrada with 26 percent.

Lim's exit poll was conducted in Iloilo, Cebu, Laguna (Calamba), Pampanga, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Las Piñas and Edsa in Metro Manila.

De Venecia and Roco each got 11 percent and Osmeña, 10 percent.

LP campaign manager Sen. Alberto Romulo rued attempts by some media organizations to set voting trends.

Romulo also explained that while the LP camp had undertaken an exit poll, ''other vested interest groups have begun to engage in disinformation and psy-war efforts through the exit poll.''  But Romulo was quick to assure that the LP's exit poll was ''honest-to-goodness, above board.''

Early counting

Based on early counting at poll precincts, Estrada was ahead in Ilocos Norte and in the cities of Bacolod, Tacloban, Calapan, Butuan, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro and Davao and in
South Cotabato.   Roco was winning in Legazpi City; Virac, Catanduanes; San Fernando, Pampanga; and Baguio City.  Osmeña led in Cebu and Ormoc City.

Namfrel count

At the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, counting of the May 11 votes started at 9 last night.  Concepcion explained that the Sulu votes came in early because of the computerized elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Turnout was unprecedentedly heavy that voters waited in long lines for their chance to vote. ''My goodness, this is the first time in my life that the Archbishop of Manila has been made to wait,'' said Jaime Cardinal Sin, one of those forced to linger at a Manila polling center.

Commission on Elections Commissioner Teresita Flores also said that around 80 percent of the 34.1 million registered voters cast their votes yesterday.

Feeling great

A triumphant looking Estrada said ''I feel great'' as he went to the Pedro Cruz Elementary School in San Juan to cast his vote at Precinct 768-A.  ''It's all over but the counting,'' said Estrada who was surrounded by raucously cheering supporters.

In Tarlac City, former President Corazon Aquino dismissed reports that she had conceded the presidency to Estrada. Ms Aquino said it was too early for people to determine the winners of the elections. ''The counting had just started. Matagal pang proseso yan (It's still a long way),'' Ms Aquino told the Inquirer. ''No way. I have not (conceded to an Estrada presidency).''

In Naga City, Roco described as ''planned inefficiency'' the chaos in yesterday's voting.    It took him 45 minutes to go finally cast his ballot at the Sta. Cruz Elementary School in Barangay Sta. Cruz.  ''The voter signs four times. He goes back and forth three times.  So even the poor chairman (of the board of election inspectors) becomes confused and he will not know anymore who is voting,'' he said.   Whether he is going to make it or not, Roco said he had done everything he could for his first shot at the presidency. He said he had no regrets doing so. After voting with his wife Sonia and 81-year-old mother Rosario Sagarbarria Roco and son Bobit, the candidate took a private plane and left for a beach ''somewhere in the Philippine sea.''

Poll failure

Failure of elections were reported in at least 12 towns and selected precincts in Mindanao, particularly in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Davao del Sur.   These towns could affect the votes of national and local candidates. No elections were held in four towns in Maguindanao, seven towns in Lanao del Sur, one town in Davao del Sur, four precincts in Lanao del Norte, as well in at least three precincts in Cotabato City, according to Comelec Commissioner Amado Calderon. At least 230,000 registered voters were affected.

With reports from Armand Nocum, Cathy Cañares, Christine Herrera and Dona Pazzibugan in Manila; Benjie Villa and Russell Arador, PDI Central Luzon Desk; Reuters and AP

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