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Commentary

Doubtful perception of gov’t institutions

05:04 AM February 05, 2019

The Social Weather Stations’ fourth quarter 2018 survey found 71 percent satisfied and 13 percent dissatisfied with the performance of the Senate, 57 percent satisfied and 17 percent dissatisfied with the House of Representatives, 54 percent satisfied and 17 percent dissatisfied with the Supreme Court of the Philippines, and 52 percent satisfied and 17 percent dissatisfied with the Cabinet as a whole.

We do not know what the survey respondents based their assessment on, as SWS did not ask them why they feel the way they do about these government institutions. The respondents were asked this question: Based on their overall performance, how do you feel about the performance of the following government institutions? Are you Very satisfied, Somewhat satisfied, Undecided if satisfied or not, Somewhat dissatisfied, Very dissatisfied or You have never heard or read anything about (institution)? You may indicate your answer by placing each card on the appropriate answer on this rating board.

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It should be noted that 16 percent of the respondents were undecided if satisfied or not with the performance of the Senate, 26 percent with the House of Representatives, 29 percent with the Supreme Court, and 31 percent with the Cabinet. I dare say that there would be more undecided about their feelings about the four government institutions if the respondents were asked an open question — “How do you feel about the performance of (the institution)?” — instead of a closed question where possible responses are presented, as was done in the SWS survey.

The 1,440 adults interviewed in the December survey were supposed to be representative of all sub-groups of the 54.4 million registered voters. That means only 14 respondents came from the socio-economic class AB, 130 from Class C, and 1,296 from among those belonging to the socioeconomic classes D and E.

During episodes of dzMM TeleRadyo’s series on senatorial candidates, the station’s field reporters asked ordinary folk in the streets who they would vote for senator. Many said they would vote for candidates who can provide them benefits like jobs or livelihood, or access to the government housing program. Others said they would choose candidates who can do them a favor, like assistance if and when they have to deal with government offices or when in conflict with the law. Such answers imply that most of the respondents of dzMM’s random survey do not know what the function of a senator is.

It can be assumed that the overwhelming majority of the respondents of the December SWS surveys perceive a senator the same way the dzMM TeleRadyo interviewees do. That is probably why movie actors like the Ramon Revillas father and son, Joseph Estrada and Lito Lapid are elected again and again, because they appeared in their movies as “heroes” of the downtrodden and the poor. That is why senatorial aspirant Bong Go, seen the past three years by the public as no more than the President’s butler, is suddenly projected as the champion of the lowly and the disadvantaged, as his commercial aired during the TV coverage of the Pacquiao-Broner fight showed.

And speaking of Sen. Manny Pacquiao, he himself does not know what a senator’s job is. He once said, “I don’t just sit around making laws, like others.”

If the common folk do not know what the real role of the Senate is, and I deduce they likewise do not know what the function of the House of Representatives is — in spite of the wide and frequent mass media exposure the two chambers of Congress get — then the more ignorant the people are about the functions of the Supreme Court and the Cabinet, as what these two institutions do are not given the same exposure the work of the legislative bodies is given.

So as not to appear ignorant to the interviewer, a respondent belonging to the economic class DE picks one of the possible answers presented to him. Thus, the Supreme Court’s net satisfaction rating among Class DE, rural folk and non-elementary graduates, is good. Likewise, the Cabinet’s rating among the same sub-groups is good.

It would be interesting to know how respondents from those groups feel about the performance of Victoria Court and of Ofix Cabinet if asked the same closed question and presented the same possible responses.

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Oscar P. Lagman Jr. has long been a keen observer of Philippine politics. He was in charge of public opinion surveys of Robot Statistics, the Gallop Poll affiliate, in the early 1960s.

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TAGS: House of Representatives performance, Inquirer Commentary, Oscar P. Lagman Jr., Senate performance, Supreme Court performance, SWS survey
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