The few and the many | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

The few and the many

How does one count the Filipino people? In the first place, a full count is called a census. Being so expensive, it is done only once in five years, the last one being in 2020. As of mid-2020, the full count was 109.0 million Filipinos, according to the census of the Philippine Statistics Authority (

Of these, 108.7 million lived in households. This implies that 300,000 persons lived, not in households, but in institutions like military camps, seminaries, prisons, and the like. Of the 2020 household population, 69.0 million, or 63.4 percent, were of voting age, 18+ years. Voting age is the international definition of an adult. This is the base to which the proportions obtained in a scientific national sample survey of Filipino adults should be applied.

In non-census years, one must rely on PSA projections of the population: these are 112.89 million for mid-2023 and 114.16 million for mid-2024. For adults in particular, i.e., age 18+, Social Weather Stations (SWS) uses 73.5 million for 2023 (the number I cited last week) and 74.8 million for 2024, based on PSA projections.

The divorce-legalization bill. This bill, which has been approved in the lower house but not in the Senate, would immediately apply to an estimated 3.4 million Filipinos who are already separated, of whom 2.5 million are presently partner-less, and 900,000 are living-in.


It also applies, of course, to the 39.3 million Filipinos who got married and remain that way. But only 8.9 percent of them (including former widows/widowers and former separated/divorced) are unhappy. One can’t know why, but it is very similar to the 8.8 percent unhappy of those who never married, which suggests that the bill does not put existing marriages at risk, as its detractors claim.

Note that unhappy Filipinos are far from a majority. Actually, nine of every 10 call themselves fairly, if not very, happy. The trouble lies in unhappiness being disproportionately found among those separated, either with no partner or only living-in and unable to marry their present partner. General public opinion supports the bill (“Separated, living-in, unhappy,” 6/1/24). It awaits the collective judgment of 24 senators, plus the concurrence, or at least the non-veto, of the President.

Is there a religious vote? The one sector opposing the divorce bill is the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) sector, of whom only 34 percent agree with it, whereas 45 percent disagree, giving an unfavorable net score of -10, correctly rounded. On the other hand, the bill is well supported by Catholics (net +20), other Christians (net +21; this score excludes INC), and Muslims (net +11).

Past exit polls have shown that the Catholic hierarchy has hardly any influence on how Catholics vote. Whereas, the INC leadership is not shy about giving voting guidelines, and its guidelines are followed by 75 to 80 percent of its members. It would be rational, and amusing, for the bill’s opposition to seek help from the INC on this issue.


Human well-being: count pain rather than pleasure. It makes good sense to keep count of Filipinos in distress. The priority work of physicians is to cure the sick (and do no harm). For the top two Sustainable Development Goals of No poverty, and Zero hunger, SWS counts the number of households, rather than individuals, on the premise that the suffering is shared equitably—it does not have to be shared equally—among the members of the household. For 2024, based on PSA projections, SWS uses 27.7 million as the total number of households.

In its March 2024 national survey (, 4/25/24), SWS found a near-half 46 percent of household heads rating themselves Poor, a small 23 percent rating themselves Not Poor, and 30 percent seeing themselves on a Borderline between the two. I wonder, do those Not Poor realize how few they are, and that the Poor are twice as many as they are?


Do the relatively many Not Poor households in the National Capital Region (41 percent) realize how few are their counterparts in Visayas (11 percent) and Mindanao (9 percent)? Do the very many Not Hungry households in Mindanao (91 percent) realize that the Hungry are 19 percent in NCR and 15 percent in both Balance Luzon and Visayas? (The hunger report is in, 4/30/24.)

How many follow the numbers, anyway? Our surveys also show troubling trends in how fewer and fewer Filipinos get their news from the papers and television. More and more get it online or from questionable social media instead.

We survey researchers cannot help but prioritize continuity in collecting and archiving the data, overrushing to publish them, or striving for their mass circulation. Those with a sincere interest in data, and the capacity to implement meaningful public policy based on it, know where to find us.


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TAGS: opinion, opinion survey, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), PSA

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