Unplanned longevity | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Unplanned longevity

/ 05:05 AM August 14, 2021

Social Weather Stations had its 36th birthday last week, counting from its registration date (8/8/1985) with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-stock, non-profit, scientific organization. We got more greetings than usual on Facebook this year; there are many thankful for our survival.

The planning horizon of the SWS co-incorporators back then—with me were Gémino H. Abad, Mercedes R. Abad, Jose P. de Jesus, Ma. Alcestis Abrera Mangahas, Felipe B. Miranda, and Rosalinda Tidalgo Miranda, fellow veterans of social indicators or “social weather” research—was only two years, to take advantage of assured funding for polling, in a joint project with Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), leading to the next presidential election. No one foresaw that the dictator would order a “snap election” for February 1986. (Our early history is in The Philippine Social Climate, Anvil publishing, 1994.)


The SWS-ADMU project started in May 1986, by probing about the vote in the snap election; the great majority said they had voted for Cory Aquino. Opinions about Marcos and his regime were strongly unfavorable, especially with respect to corruption. The appointment of delegates to the constitutional convention was approved. The public mood was euphoric when the new constitution was ratified.

The SWS-ADMU project was not election-focused, except that its poll of 2/24-3/21/87 did look into the prospects of candidates for the 24 seats at stake in the May 11, 1987 senatorial elections. Upon learning that only 12 of President Cory Aquino’s candidates were in the survey’s top 24, her campaign manager Paul Aquino told his people that they could not sleep anymore. President Cory personally joined the campaign, and her party won 22 seats. Our detractors branded the 12-12 survey score as a “prediction” that the election proved wrong.


Barely three months later, when Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan led the August 1987 military coup attempt, Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez (Cory’s agriculture secretary) called me to ask for a rush opinion poll on the crisis. SWS polled in Metro Manila immediately, and reported privately to the President (and publicly afterward) that the suppression of the coup was very popular. “I thought the people didn’t like me any more,” President Cory told us. (Secretary Dominguez kept his promise to reimburse SWS.)

After the joint project closed, SWS and ADMU surveyed independently, starting in 1988. ADMU got renewed foundation support that lasted until 1992. SWS wanted to keep its few staff employed; it got some business from Neda, but was mainly funded by corporations interested in private briefings about the social environment. For a time, we interspersed national surveys with metropolitan ones, to economize.

When another, more dangerous, military coup attempt was launched in December 1989, I did not wait for a signal from government, but phoned SWS’ top three clients—San Miguel Corp., Ayala Corp., and Shell Philippines—and asked them to equally share the cost of a Metro Manila poll on the crisis; they agreed immediately. The December 1989 SWS poll showed that public opinion about a coup had stayed negative. As requested by one of our sponsors, I presented the SWS poll to (loyal) military officers at Fort Bonifacio.

In several polls for the Peace Commission, SWS found the Filipino people in favor of retention of the US military bases. This was due to fear of economic dislocation in the areas, rather than a perceived need for security against prospective enemies. But, a year after the Senate said No to the retention pact proposed by the Cory administration, public opinion had agreed with the Senate decision—the best historical example of the people changing their minds!

As the 1992 presidential election neared, SWS began to do confidential polls about electoral prospects. Our policy has always been that commissioned work may be embargoed for up to three years, after which the findings and data are sharable at our discretion.

I accepted Amando Doronila’s invitation to do a column in the Manila Chronicle, and called it Social Climate. The Chronicle’s 5/9/1992 headline, “Ramos, Miriam in a close fight,” based on the SWS final pre-election survey of 4/28-5/4/1992 (the election was on 5/11/1992), was a natural result of this collaboration.

(To be continued)



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TAGS: ADMU, Cory Aquino, SEC, snap election, survey, SWS, SWS survey
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