The annual SWS survey review
Saying that public opinion is irrelevant to reaching a fair verdict in the current impeachment trial simply means that the Senate should not necessarily conform to the dominant opinion in making its decision. It does not mean that the Senate should be unaware of the various opinions on the matter. Listening to what the people say is basic to democracy.
Last Wednesday, at the Asian Institute of Management, in partnership with the AIM Policy Center, I gave a presentation of what the Filipino people had said in the SWS surveys of 2011. Here is a summary:
1. Whereas the ratings of President Aquino and most officials are not unusually high, the ratings on specific administration performance are unprecedented.
Compared to ratings of the performance of all previous administrations from the time of Cory Aquino, there is record-high public satisfaction with (a) promoting the welfare of OFWs, (b) fighting terrorism, (c) helping the poor, (d) fighting crimes, (e) improving the quality of children’s education, and (f) deciding quickly on important problems.
Also compared to previous administrations, satisfaction is much improved on (g) reconciliation with Muslim rebels and (h) reconciliation with communist rebels. Satisfaction was formerly always negative, but is now always positive, on (i) ensuring that no family will be hungry, (j) eradicating graft and corruption, and (k) fighting inflation. It has returned to “good” with respect to (l) telling the truth to the people.
At AIM, reactor Ramon Casiple called the unprecedented ratings a fulfillment of the popular hope that Mr. Aquino symbolized in the 2010 election. In contrast, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he said, was “the symbol of hopelessness.”
2. Chief Justice Renato Corona’s satisfaction ratings are all negative; the Senate now tops the Supreme Court in public esteem. See my “The Senate bests the Supreme Court.” (Inquirer, 1/7/12)
3. Opinions regarding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Merceditas Gutierrez, Carlos Garcia and the Mindanao massacre all show a clamor for stern handling of cases against erring officials. With respect to GMA, see my “Ending on a high note.” (Inquirer, 12/31/11) In March 2011, the people approved, by a score of 52-15, the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the impeachment of Ombudsman Gutierrez. They preferred, by a score of 83-15, charging General Garcia with plunder over implementing the plea bargain that the Ombudsman had intended for him. In March 2011, 75 percent considered the pace of the Maguindanao massacre case too slow. In December 2011, net satisfaction with resolving the case was -18.
4. Hope for peace with Muslim rebels has brightened. See my “Polling for peace.” (Inquirer, 8/20/11)
5. The postponement of the ARMM election was unpopular. In March 2011, prior to the legislation of the postponement, 51 percent were for the status quo, while 24 percent were for postponement. Administration officials were privately briefed on this; SWS did not issue a public report since the finding had already been overtaken by the legislation. At AIM, reactor Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado remarked that the relative lack of public protest signified strong public trust in President Aquino’s leadership.
6. The ratings of local officials are generally high. See my “The 2011 survey on local governance.” (Inquirer, 10/15/11)
7. Confidence that the government can be run without corruption has grown. The confidence was at 65 percent in July 2011, compared to 54 percent in September 2009.
8. Poverty and hunger have both been flat for several years; the surveys provide realistic, updated, poverty thresholds. See my columns “A new hunger plateau” (Inquirer, 10/29/11), “Terraces of poverty” (Inquirer, 11/19/11), and “Reject the reduction of the poverty line!” (Inquirer, 12/3/11)
9. Passage of the RH bill and legalization of divorce are both popular. See my “RH and freedom to choose.” (Inquirer, 8/13/11) The agree-disagree score regarding legalization of divorce went to 50-33 in March 2011, from a split 43-44 in May 2005.
10. Public morale is generally good. In P-Noy’s time, there is a relatively small gap of quality-of-life (QOL) gainers from QOL losers (absolute surpluses of gainers over losers are rare, in any country), a very wide spread of QOL optimists over QOL pessimists, a dominance of economy-optimists over economy-pessimists (whereas previously it was the reverse), 85 percent very/fairly satisfied with their lives, and 87 percent feeling very proud to be Filipino.
Unheeded public opinion in 2005. Six years ago, on Jan. 26, 2006, the 2006 SWS Annual Survey Review reported: “The political crisis of 2005 stemmed from continuing controversy over the 2004 election. The extent of public indignation in Metro Manila during June-August, gleaned from SWS landline surveys reacting to the ‘Hello Garci’ tapes, was validated at the national level by the September 2005 national Social Weather Survey finding 79% favoring impeachment, and 64% favoring resignation, of the President.”
Despite these very strong survey numbers, we all know that President Arroyo did not resign, nor did the House impeach her. Heeding public opinion, at that time, could have saved the country so much grief.
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