MANILA, Philippines -- Vice President Noli De Castro, and Senators Loren Legarda and Manuel Villar are the public's top choices to replace President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when her term ends in 2010, according to an independent survey.
The Social Weather Stations (SWS) asked 1,500 adults nationwide who they thought was the "best leader" to succeed Arroyo, without providing names to choose from, and De Castro got the highest score (31 percent) followed by Legarda (28 percent) and Villar (27 percent).
The study, conducted from November 28 to December 1, had a margin of error of 2.5 percent for national percentages.
While he said the survey results gave him "inspiration," De Castro said he would rather focus on work.
"My heartfelt gratitude for the trust and confidence given by our people. I will take their support as my inspiration and use it to direct my efforts and actions toward programs that are truly beneficial to the public especially the poor," De Castro said in a statement sent to reporters in Malacañang.
"At this time, politicking should take a backseat. What our country needs right now is for us to unite and work together regardless of political affiliation to create and sustain more jobs for the people," he said.
Senator Francis Escudero placed fourth in the SWS survey with 19 percent, followed by former president Joseph Estrada (11 percent), Senator Manuel Roxas II (10 percent), Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay (2 percent), Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando (2 percent), Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (1 percent), Senator Francis Pangilinan (1 percent), President Arroyo (1 percent), Batangas Governor Vilma Santos (1 percent), Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto (1 percent), detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV (1 percent), Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri (1 percent), Senator Richard Gordon (0.5 percent), Senator Juan Ponce Enrile (0.4 percent), evangelist Brother Eddie Villanueva (0.4 percent), and former House and Speaker Jose de Venecia (0.4 percent).
Twelve percent said "none" while seven percent said they "don't know" who could best replace Arroyo.
The SWS noted the three-percentage point increase in the mentions of Escudero, two-point increases by De Castro, Legarda, and Binay, and a one-point increase by Fernando.
On the other hand, mentions of Lacson and Roxas went down three points, Estrada's went down two points, and Villar, one point.