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Philippines' Noynoy Aquino leads new opinion poll

Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, the son of former Philippine President Cory Aquino, heroine of the 1986 people power movement, flashes a "Laban" sign (fight), after a dialogue with residents in a slum area in Manila September 12, 2009. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

MANILA (Reuters) - Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, son of the Philippines’ popular former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, has surged ahead of other presidential candidates in the latest opinion poll, media reports said on Sunday.

In a survey done by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on 1,200 respondents a few days before Aquino’s Sept. 9 announcement that he will run for president in the May 2010 election, Aquino got 50 percent, the ABS-CBN network said on its website.

The survey was conducted on Sept 5-6 on the main Luzon island, from Pangasinan province in the north down to central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions, including the national capital region.

The survey was commissioned by business groups days after the leader of the Liberal Party, Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, gave way to Aquino to be the party’s standard bearer in the national and local elections next May.

This was the first opinion poll in which Aquino’s name was included among possible presidential candidates in next year’s elections. In past surveys, he was not considered because his term as senator will end only in 2013.

Senator Manuel Villar, former President Joseph Estrada and Senator Francis Escudero followed Aquino with 14 percent, 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Vice President Manuel “Noli” de Castro got only 7 percent.

At least half a dozen candidates, mostly senators, have said they will contest next year’s vote, but prior to Aquino’s decision to run, analysts said no one had a clear edge. Nominations close in November.

Analysts believe Aquino has a fighting chance to win the presidential election next year if he can expand his party’s small network of support by sustaining the outpouring of emotion shown by Filipinos during his mother’s funeral last month.