Political foes of Davao City Mayor and presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte thought they could morally ruin him and have the people hate his guts to the point of abandoning him. How wrong they were.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte widened his lead the April 12-17, 2016 Pulse Asia survey on presidential preference.

Even way before his 'rape remarks', his political foes are already alarmed at his surging and unstoppable popularity. We'd laugh if one day they disavow survey results just because Duterte is leading.

Duterte garnered the nods of 34 percent of the respondents in the poll, the results of which were released Sunday. This was two percentage points higher than his 32 percent rating in the April 5-10, 2016 survey.

He was followed by Sen. Grace Poe at 22 percent. Poe’s rating was down by 3 percentage points from her 25 percent in the previous survey.

Vice President Jejomar Binay and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas were statistically tied in the next spot, with 19 percent and 18 percent respectively. Binay’s rating was one percent down from the 20 percent he got in the last survey, while Roxas maintained his 18 percent rating.

Two percent of the respondents chose Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, up by one percent from the previous survey.

Rep. Roy Señeres, who passed away in February, was still on the list of choices, and 0.1 percent picked him as their bet for president.

The undecided were 3 percent, while those who don’t know or refused were at 1 percent. Another one percent just picked none.

The latest survey, commissioned by ABS-CBN Corporation, had as respondents 4,000 registered voters aged 18 and above with biometrics.

The poll was conducted using face-to-face interviews.

Error margin for the nationwide survey is at ± 1.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

For subnational estimates, error margins are the following at the 95 percent confidence level: ± 4.6 percent for Metro Manila, ± 2.3 percent for the rest of Luzon, ± 3.4 percent for Visayas and ± 3.3 percent for Mindanao.

On April 17, the last day of the survey, Duterte made headlines after a video of him making a rape joke at a rally went viral.

The survey was conducted a few days after 18 government soldiers were killed in a 10-hour gunfight with Abu Sayyaf members in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan on April 9. Thirteen Abu Sayyaf members also died.

A week before the survey, the violent dispersal of the protest action of farmers in Kidapawan City happened on April 1.

Many may say the survey still does not comprehend the true impact of his ‘rape joke’, but there are other factors that corroborate with the survey results, beyond the survey period.

His invasion of LP safe zones with overwhelming support not seen for a long time attests to his popularity.

His Alabang sortie, Pandacan, Novaliches and Roxas City more than validates his sterling image.

His rivals are desperate. They’re bribing media to exaggerate even the slightly manipulable words and make it look bad. Some even resorted to outright lying about him.

But, as recent events have shown, the people are not easily fooled anymore. Some even don’t care anymore about self-proclaimed moralists protesting about Duterte, seeing through their intent. Even the Catholic Church joined in condemning Duterte, even if they appear hypocritical to their teachings. Making it worse for them is how Mar Roxas’ envelope controversy, a strong indication of vote buying, was met with a mere ‘we will check it out’ statement that brought no closure. Or that resurgence of bullet planting, and Mar’s callous denial of government responsibility over its dubious nature. Or how supposedly rape complainants against CHR were found to be parties with conflict of interest, belonging to the Liberal Party. Or how Grace Poe was found to have not met her end of the deal with paid supporters.

The desperation continues, and even Benigno Aquino bluffed and threatened a people power protest or an economic, moral and diplomatic breakdown if Duterte wins.

There’s one simple explanation why Duterte still clicks and will continue to do so. Vox populi.