MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine leader Benigno Aquino's handpicked successor jumped to third spot in the third-quarter public opinion survey by independent pollster Pulse Asia, local television network ABS-CBN reported on Thursday.
Manuel Roxas, who held two Cabinet positions before quitting early this month to concentrate on running for president, gained 8 points to move to third place with 18 percent support from Pulse Asia's second-quarter survey.
Roxas, 58, was the only candidate who improved in the survey of 1,200 respondents done nationwide from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 and commissioned by the commercial broadcaster.
Novice Senator Grace Poe kept her number one position with 27 percent, down 3 points from the previous survey in June. Vice President Jejomar Binay came second with 21 percent, down only one point.
The elections will be closely watched by investors, who fear the political succession in one of Asia's fastest-growing economies could derail gains made during the Aquino government.
Under Aquino, economic growth in the Philippines has averaged 6 percent, its best five-year record in four decades. He has also battled to rein in corruption.
About 54 million Filipinos will be eligible to vote to choose a president, vice president and more than 18,000 local government executives and lawmakers in the general elections, which happen every six years.
Political analysts attributed Roxas' sudden rise to the endorsement of Aquino and the public's negative reaction to Poe and Binay's support of an unpopular anti-government protest by a religious group when the survey was conducted.
Rodrigo Duterte, former mayor of Davao, the largest city on Mindanao island in the southern Philippines, dropped to fourth place with 15 percent, unchanged from June.
The survey was made days before Duterte publicly announced he is not seeking the presidency next May. It was also done before Poe declared her intentions to succeed Aquino.
Poe, Binay and Roxas had similar rankings in an earlier poll done by the Social Weather Stations released early this week.
(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing By Larry King)