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Good work deserves a good view

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Imagine a very large building capable of housing all government officials, with each one assigned an office on a floor commensurate to the distribution of satisfaction and dissatisfaction of the citizenry with an official’s performance.

If 72 percent are satisfied and 17 percent are dissatisfied with an official’s performance, then s/he will be assigned an office on the 55th floor, since the concierge knows that 72 minus 15 equals 55.  From that level, the official will enjoy a very good view, as fitting reward for very good work.  At present, President Noynoy Aquino’s office is on this floor.

This office building has multiple stories and basements.  The stories are labelled continental-style, with the ground floor marked as Zero and the first floor (known as “second floor” in the Philippines) marked as +1.  The higher floors are +2, +3, and so on, all the way up to +100, the pinnacle of the penthouses.  The penthouse floors start at +70, and have excellent views.  Most of the penthouse floors have not yet been occupied.  The only Philippine president who had a penthouse was Cory Aquino (+72 in October 1986).

The subterranean floors, on the other hand, are marked -1, -2, -3, and so on, all the way down to the deepest dungeon at -100.  The deeper underground, the more uncomfortable it becomes, as fitting punishment for an official’s unsatisfactory work.  The deepest floor ever assigned to a Philippine president was -53, occupied by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in March 2010.

An official does not stay on one floor indefinitely, but moves according to performance.

Aquino previously held office on floors +60 (September 2010), +64 (November 2010), +51 (March 2011), +46 (June 2011), +56 (September 2011), +58 (December 2011), +49 (March 2012), +42 (May 2012), and +67 (August 2012).

Thus, in December 2012 Aquino descended by 12 floors from August. In August he had ascended by 25 floors from May.  In May he had descended by seven floors from March.  The views from floors +30 to +49, where P-Noy was located in March and May, are “good.”  The views from floors +50 to +69, where P-Noy was located in August and December, are “very good.”  These adjectives were set many years ago; they have never changed.

Given the movements of Aquino’s location over 2010-2012, Amando Doronila was mistaken in writing that “The results of the December survey draws [sic] a picture of the general decline of the President’s net satisfaction ratings during the past three years” (“Countdown on Aquino’s decline begins,” Inquirer, 1/1/2013). However, to refer to a single decline from August 2012 to December 2012 as a “countdown” is a gross exaggeration.

When movements have been both ways, up and down, the simple way to identify the general trend is to use annual averages. The 2010 average was +62 (from two surveys), the 2011 average was +53 (four surveys), and the 2012 average was +53 again (four surveys).  Thus, the natural honeymoon of 2010 was followed by a flat trend in 2011 and 2012.  Doronila’s allegation of a “general decline … during the past three years” is unsupported by the data.  It looks like mere wishful thinking.

When Doronila writes, “The SWS tried to cushion the impact of its surveys on the erosion of the President’s net satisfaction ratings by couching these with misleading words, such as: despite the plunge of the President’s ratings, it rated his performance in the last quarter of 2012 as  ‘very good,’” it is he, not SWS, who is doing the misleading.

First of all, Doronila is wrong to suggest that SWS is concerned about causing “erosion” in anyone’s ratings.  The notion that surveys have bandwagon effects on the general public has long been discredited.  A survey at one point in time cannot, by itself, affect the results of future surveys. A drop in one quarter does not imply a further drop in the next quarter—otherwise, why didn’t the decline of March to May 2012 continue over May to August 2012?

In our metaphorical office building, the elevators change direction at any time, as needed to reward or punish officials for changes in the quality of their work.   They are personalized elevators.  Unlike common elevators, they do not continue descending to the bottom before going up, or continue rising to the top before going down, to pick up passengers.  Therefore, the most recent movement does not indicate the direction of the next movement.

Secondly, SWS takes great care to be consistent in words it uses to describe its satisfaction ratings; see the definitive SWS media releases in www.sws.org.ph.  Floors from +9 to -9 (including the midpoint of zero) are called “neutral,” to affirm that they are either too low or too shallow to be statistically declared as aboveground or underground. Floors from +10 to +29 are called “moderate,” and basements from -10 to -29 are called “poor.”  Basements from -30 to -49 are called “bad,” for symmetry with floors +30 to +49 that are called “good.”  Basements from -50 to -69 are “very bad,” for symmetry with floors +50 to +69 that are “very good.”  Basements of -70 or deeper are “execrable,” for symmetry with floors of +70 or higher that are “excellent.”

Note that each category covers 20 floors (except the central one, which covers 19). Movements across categories are more significant than movements within the same category, and it is fair to refer to them as “upgrades” or “downgrades.”

* * *

Contact SWS: or mahar.mangahas@sws.org.ph.


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