RIYADH, 12 April 2004 — Incumbent President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo won a convincing 32 percent of the votes cast in a mock election held for a five-day period among Filipinos in the industrial areas of Riyadh.
Conducted by the Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Manggagawang Pilipino sa Saudi Arabia (Kakampi-KSA), the poll involved 406 workers from the Saudi Lighting, Al Essa Refrigeration & Air-conditioning, Al-Ajial, Saptex, Al-Sharq Plastic, and other companies.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, was a far second to Arroyo with 24 percent of the votes, while actor Fernando Poe Jr., who is neck and neck with Arroyo in Manila’s poll opinion surveys, tied with Marxist-turned-evangelist Eddie Villanueva and former Education Secretary Raul Roco at 17 percent.
In the senatorial race, old faces made it to Top 12.
Topping the list was Sen. Robert Barbers with 256 votes, followed by former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim with 255, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon with 254, former Sen. Miriam Santiago with 201, and former Sen. Orlando Mercado with 197.
The others were former Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, 188; ex-Sen. Heherson Alvarez, 188; actor and Pampanga governor Lito Lapid, 180, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, 176, former Sen. Ernesto Herrera, 165; former Sen. Francisco Tatad, 162; and former Trade Secretary Mar Roxas, 160.
Migrante topped the votes for party-list with 145 votes, whereas Gabay OFW got 121. Migrante and Gabay are among the six overseas groups seeking to corner a slot or two in the House of Representatives.
Absentee voters will vote president, vice president, senators, and party-list representatives.
According to Manuel “Bong” Amora, Kakampi-KSA founder and organizer, the mock poll was in no way meant to represent the entire Kingdom but rather to gauge the sentiment of the working class OFWs.
Manila’s opinion polls have said Poe, despite his lacking any experience in public office, was popular among the so-called Classes D and E, or the working class and poorest of the poor.
But the Riyadh mock poll was interpreted by some to mean that given the proper awareness, these from the D and E classes could also avoid voting on the basis of popularity.
Ronny Lawas, administrative officer of Al Sharq Plastic, also said the mock election allowed the voters to ventilate the issues and concerns regarding the qualifications of the candidates, particularly those running for presidents and vice-presidents.
He noticed the prevalence of inexperienced and unqualified candidates who seek elective posts merely on the basis of popularity and not on platform of good governance.
Kakampi-KSA is a non-partisan organization which had been active in conducting voter education among Filipinos in the industrial areas.
Some of those who did not vote for Poe said that while they like him as an actor, they were afraid he was being used by “trapos,” or “traditional politicians.
One commented that Arroyo won in the mock poll because of a “considerable number” of Pampague–os in the industrial area. President Arroyo’s father, the late former President Diosdado Macapagal, is from the town of Lubao in Pampanga.
Lacson’s strong showing, however, was seen to be consistent with the sentiment voiced by many OFWs in Saudi Arabia, who believe he has shown his competence as a leader when he put a tight rein on the graft-ridden Philippine National Police.
At least seven organizations in Riyadh had earlier come forward to endorse Lacson’s candidacy, saying he had shown that he honors his word when he fulfilled his promise to donate to the Barya Mo Buhay Ko (BMBK) fund put up by community groups to help distressed Filipinos in the Kingdom.
Amora said the ballots were counted with all the voters present.
“I have a primary responsibility to myself and to my country by making myself a responsible citizen by casting my vote, a wise one. Then, and only then, will I have something worthwhile to share,” Amora said.