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MANILA (Reuters) - The son of Philippines democracy icon Corazon "Cory" Aquino continued to lead candidates for the 2010 presidential election, an opinion poll said on Monday.
The release of the latest public opinion survey came on the same day Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino was formally nominated by the small Liberal Party (LP) as its standard-bearer for next May's national and local elections.
The poll by the independent Pulse Asia showed Noynoy was preferred by 44 percent of respondents. Senator Manuel Villar, a billionaire property developer who topped the August 2009 polls, was second with 19 percent.
Senator Francis Escudero, who has dropped out from the race, came in third with 13 percent followed by former president Joseph Estrada with 11 percent.
"With Senator Aquino joining the presidential race, the other personalities who used to be in the lead experienced a decline in their voter preferences," Ana Maria Tabunda, chief research fellow of Pulse Asia Inc, said in a statement on Monday.
"Aquino leads all surveyed presidentiables by a big margin. The reason most often cited in expressing a voting preference for a possible presidential candidate is the latter's clean public record, or alternatively, not being corrupt."
The election is due in May next year and the nomination period is from November 20 until December 1.
The polling agency said the survey was conducted between October 22-30 among 1,800 voting-age respondents. The margin of error was plus/minus 2 percent.
Gilberto Teodoro, who resigned on Monday as defence secretary to concentrate on his campaign as the administration's presidential candidate, was measured at 2 percent, up from 0 percent at the last survey in August. Teodoro and Aquino are second cousins.
Aquino has said he will win the election unless he fell victim to poll fraud or if there were threats to his safety.
"We'll fight lies by sticking to the truth," Aquino told his party convention after formally accepting the nomination for president.
He was joined by his running-mate, Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas and some of nine senatorial candidates.
At the party convention, Noynoy's party announced major defections to its ranks from the administration. These included former senator Ralph Recto, who served in the Cabinet as economic planning secretary, and his wife, popular film star-turned governor Vilma Santos-Recto.
(Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)