SENATE candidates from the opposition ticket slightly dominated a pre-election survey conducted by the Varsitarian among University student leaders, reflecting national voter sentiments as shown in nationwide surveys by professional polling outfits.

But the same survey seems to indicate apathy among the respondents characteristic of young Filipinos of voting age, as less than 50 per cent of the respondents said they had registered for the May 14 elections.

Heeding the Church’s and the Rector’s appeal to support pro-life candidates, Thomasian student leaders expressed preference for a number of pro-life senatorial bets, and gave overwhelming support to party-list groups espousing the pro-life agenda.

Seven candidates of the so-called Genuine Opposition (GO) and five from the Arroyo administratrion’s Team Unity (TU) made it to the winning circle, along with an independent.

Reelectionist Sen. Joker P. Arroyo (TU), a human rights lawyer who fought the Marcos dictatorship and became executive secretary under President Corazon C. Aquino following the 1986 People Power Revolution, topped the Varsitarian survey, earning the nod of 86.1% of the respondents.

At least half of UST student leaders in the poll said they would vote for five other senatorial bets: Sorsogon Rep. Francis Joseph R. Escudero of GO (80.6%); reelectionist senators Francis N. Pangilinan, an independent candidate, (75%) and Manuel B. Villar Jr. of GO (66.7%); television news anchor Loren B. Legarda of GO (55.6%); and reelectionist Ralph G. Recto of TU (50%).

The rest of the top 12 are Sonia M. Roco of GO (47%), wife of the late senator Raul S. Roco; Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri of TU (44.4%); reelectionists Panfilo M. Lacson of GO (42%) and Edgardo J. Angara of TU (41.7%); Pateros Rep. Alan Peter S. Cayetano of GO (41.7%); and Tarlac Rep. Benigno Aquino III of GO and former Environment Sec. Michael T. Defensor of TU, who were tied at 12th place with 38.7%.

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The survey results showed that the strongest performers were those who have spent heavily on television advertising (Arroyo, Villar, Angara, Recto, Legarda, and Zubiri), regarded as the most effective campaign medium.

But TV ads failed to lift the popularity of some candidates, such as the top TV spender, Surigao del Norte Rep. Prospero Pichay (TU), who got less than 14%.

Thomasian student leaders also widely rejected former oppositionists who have switched to the Arroyo administration — TV comedian Vicente C. Sotto III who had served two terms in the Senate; and Teresa A. Oreta, who appeared in ads apologizing for her infamous jig at the collapse of the impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Also rebuked were putschists — former senator Gregorio B. Honasan (Independent), who led coup attempts during the Aquino administration and is accused of masterminding several plots to oust President Macapagal Arroyo; and Antonio F. Trillanes IV (GO), the Navy officer who led disgruntled soldiers in a 2003 standoff in Makati.

Aside from Sotto, two other show business personalities languished in the Varsitarian poll: actors Cesar Montano (TU) and Richard Gomez (Independent).

Pro-life

As expected, the political campaign remained silent on pro-life issues, although GO candidate Aquilino Pimentel III, a clear pro-life supporter, has been faring well in national surveys. In the Varsitarian poll, Pimentel failed to make it to the top 12 and ranked 13th with 33.3%.

TU’s Defensor, who has made a position against population control and artificial contraceptives, however, made it to the Top 12 of the Varsitarian survey.

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Thomasian student leaders also supported candidates whose voting records and public statements lean toward the pro-life position: Arroyo, Escudero, and Recto.

The Varsitarian also surveyed preferences for party-list organizations, with results showing the left-leaning Kabataan Party on top of the list with 22.2%. Kabataan is banking on the youth vote and has recruited a number of celebrity endorsers, but is so far lagging in nationwide surveys. Party-list groups need to get 2% of the vote to win one seat in the House of Representativies.

Nearly 14% of Thomasian leaders in the poll said they would vote for Buhay Party, the pro-life party backed by the El Shaddai Catholic lay group. Buhay rated 4.1% in the recent Social Weather Stations survey, and got 705,730 votes in the 2004 elections, equivalent to two congressional seats.

A Teacher, (Advocacy for Teacher Empowerment Through Cooperation, Action, Reform, and Harmony Towards Educational Reforms) also figured in the poll, with 2.8%. The party is focused on education issues but is supporting the pro-life campaign.

Other top party-list groups in the Varsitarian survey are Gabriela (11.1%), ABAKADa Guro (5.6%), Bayan Muna (5.6%). Senior Citizens, LYPAD, Akbayan, Kasapi, and Anak Pawis got 2.8% each.

Apathy?

The Varsitarian survey was conducted from April 21 to 30 and had a universe of 125 heads or representatives of all student councils and student organizations in the University based on a listing by the Office of Student Affairs. Some editors of the Varsitarian also took part in the survey.

Questionnaires were distributed personally or by e-mail, and 40 were returned to the Varsitarian, or a response rate of 32%.

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Respondents were given a discussion paper outlining the Church’s stance on political and moral issues, as part of the Varsitarian’s voter education campaign, and a complete alphabetical list of all senatorial candidates and party-list groups.

The respondents were free to choose the candidates they prefer.

In a striking result, the survey found out that only a little less than half, or 47%, of respondents declared themselves to be registered voters. Fifty percent said they were not registered, and the rest had no answer—which may be an indication of indifference among young people on political issues and political exercise.

The lack of a solid student vote can also account for the failure of youth party-list groups to figure prominently in national surveys, despite the popularity of these groups among young voters.

Of the registered voters in the Varsitarian poll, a great majority, 88.2%, said they intend to vote in the May 14 polls. Close to 6% were not sure, and the rest did not answer.

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