Volatile poll ratings
The results of the yearend survey of Pulse Asia released on Dec. 12 saw a devastating plunge in the approval and trust ratings of Vice President Jejomar Binay, and a recovery of the ratings of President Aquino. The mixed results underlined the volatility of the popularity ratings of the Aquino administration’s leading personalities, as well as of the opposition led by Binay. The results foreshadowed uncertainties plaguing the tentative contending political alignments, with the next presidential election only 17 months away.
Conducted in November 2014, Pulse Asia’s last survey for the year showed double-digit declines in the Vice President’s approval and trust ratings across geographic areas and socioeconomic groups. In contrast, only President Aquino obtained majority approval ratings among the top five officials of the land, including Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The results illustrated the fickleness of public opinion as the Aquino administration entered its twilight months. The results raised doubts as to whether the ruling Liberal Party could present a winnable presidential candidate who would ensure the continuity of the reforms initiated by the Aquino administration.
The results also cast strong doubts on whether Binay, as leader of the opposition alliance party, could mount a serious challenge as a viable alternative to the official candidate of the Liberal Party still awaiting the endorsement of the President. On first glance, the survey results appear to show that the deluge of charges unleashed against Binay, for alleged corrupt acts during his tenure as mayor of Makati City for 23 years, had taken a heavy toll on his trust and approval ratings. Binay is not being pilloried for his performance as vice president, but for alleged corruption as mayor of Makati.
The Philippines is heading toward the 2016 presidential election under extraordinary circumstances. Binay was elected vice president in the 2010 election, defeating former senator Mar Roxas, Mr. Aquino’s running mate. He holds a Cabinet portfolio in the Aquino administration as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, where his record is not under fire. The strange part of this nebulous situation is that while the administration appears determined to block Binay from winning the 2016 election as the successor of Mr. Aquino, the Vice President has declared his plan to run for president on the opposition ticket, and Mr. Aquino has declared that he is not seeking a second term—a succession that is in fact banned by the 1987 Constitution. There is, therefore, no face-off between Mr. Aquino and Binay in 2016.
The predicament facing the President and the ruling party is that whether their preferred candidate—Roxas, now interior secretary—can defeat Binay, who is now bearing the brunt of a current campaign that demonizes him as the epitome of corruption, the antithesis of Mr. Aquino’s “straight path” reforms on good governance. The President has said he wants a successor who will pursue his good-governance campaign and ensure the continuity of his reforms.
The Pulse Asia survey results show the focus on Binay’s alleged corrupt practices in Makati, as detailed in the months-long investigation of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee and which have battered his trust and approval ratings. But the improvement of the President’s approval ratings across regions and socioeconomic sectors are not exactly giving him the clout to lift the political prospects of official candidates endorsed by him or by the Liberal Party.
Despite Roxas’ poor ratings in voter-preference polls, Liberal Party leaders continue to nurse hopes that he will be its candidate in 2016. Speaker Belmonte has insisted that Roxas is still being considered as the party’s candidate. “The elections are still far off,” and “there will be a lot of ups and downs,” Belmonte said. It does not give comfort to the party that Roxas, unlike Binay, has not declared he is running. It has not helped Roxas that the President has hesitated to endorse him as candidate. Roxas’ poor showing in the surveys has fueled talks inside the Liberal Party that its members were looking for a winnable candidate outside.
The Pulse Asia survey results show that the presidential race has been thrown wide open. Binay and Sen. Grace Poe top the list, followed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Manila Mayor and former president Joseph Estrada, Senators Francis Escudero, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Alan Peter Cayetano, rehabilitation czar and former senator Panfilo Lacson, and Senate President Franklin Drilon. In the list, Roxas polled 6 percent.
In this free-for-all, Mr. Aquino appears to have been reduced to a lame-duck president, too weak to influence the selection of his successor.
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