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Analysis

Congress warned on poll backlash

None of the top five officials of the land received majority approval and trust ratings in the latest Pulse Asia opinion survey.

The results of the survey came as a searing indictment of the performance of the ruling political class, whose approval and trust ratings posted continuing declines during the last five months from November to March.

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The Pulse Asia survey, conducted on March 1-7, showed that President Aquino led the officials with plunging ratings in the executive, legislative and the judicial branches regardless of party affiliations or whether they were identified with the administration or the political opposition.

The officials whose ratings declined, reflecting general dissatisfaction with their performance, included Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., all of whom come from the executive department.

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In the judiciary, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno did not escape the surge of dissatisfaction with officials comprising the constitutional hierarchy of succession in Philippine democracy.

The results of the survey showed that some officials gained or lost ground in ratings, but the biggest loser was President Aquino.

Mr. Aquino’s approval and trust ratings posted double-digit declines across all geographic areas nationwide and socioeconomic groups. His approval rating plummeted 21 percentage points from 59 percent last November to 38 percent in March. His trust ratings dipped 20 percentage points from 56 percent to 36 percent.

Both his approval and trust ratings dropped to their lowest levels since 2010 when he was elected President. His ratings fell despite his tireless declaration of his incorruptibility, a finding that suggests he has to do much more in alleviating poverty and delivering economic results than proclaiming simplistic slogans, such as “straight path” governance is an instant fix-it and cure-all against poverty to regain his credibility and reverse the momentum of public dissatisfaction over his performance.

Unlike Mr. Aquino, whose ratings have dropped to rock bottom, Binay and Drilon staged modest recovery from the fall in their ratings in the previous quarter.

Binay’s approval rating increased slightly by one point from a record low 45 percent to 46 percent, while his trust rating declined by two points, from 44 percent to 42 percent.

But these results should not bring cheer to Binay’s camp, which has been battered by investigations of corruption charges against the Vice President in City Hall construction projects during his tenure as mayor of Makati City.

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Nor could the Aquino administration, which has been regarding Binay as an unworthy successor to the President after he steps down in June 2016, be complacent in considering Binay a damaged contender for the presidency and as a pushover in the presidential race.

Dragged down 

The survey also showed that while none of the top five officials scored majority approval ratings, the President’s ratings dragged down those of his chief lieutenants and allies in Congress, Drilon and Belmonte, who were gasping for breath to stay afloat.

The approval and trust ratings of Drilon, however, inched up from 47 to 49 percent and from 42 to 44 percent, respectively.

Belmonte’s ratings were worse than those of Drilon. These declined. He posted an approval rating of 27 percent, down from 34 percent. His trust rating dropped to 23 percent from 31 percent.

In the previous 18 quarterly surveys, the President’s approval ratings ranged from 55 percent (September 2014) to 88 percent (July 2010). His trust ratings ranged from 53 percent (June 2014) to 80 percent (November 2012).

These figures show the severity and depth of the ratings of the President as a result of the deaths of 44 police commandos at the hands of Moro guerrillas associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, the event that defined the national mood that prevailed at the time of the latest Pulse Asia survey.

Mamasapano has left a devastating impact on the public dissatisfaction over the performance of the Aquino administration, which has come under a storm of criticism for its handling of the incident.

The survey results reflect the massive loss of the credibility and popularity of the Aquino administration because of its mishandling of Mamasapano.

Powerful warning 

The results deliver a powerful warning to the leadership and members of Congress as they grapple with draft legislation that would establish a new autonomous region for Muslims in Mindanao.

The President is pushing for passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress amid increasing public clamor to abrogate the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed last year between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and criticism that the administration has taken a policy of appeasement to toward the MILF.

The survey results come as a warning to members of Congress facing reelection in 2016 against complicity in the administration’s “peace at all cost” or another “Munich sellout” approach in a deal with the MILF on the BBL.

The members of Congress are being warned that hitching their political fortunes to the BBL bandwagon and an administration facing rising dissatisfaction is courting dire electoral backlash.

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TAGS: amando doronila, approval and trust ratings, Benigno Aquino III, column, congress, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), opinion, president Aquino iii, pulse asia, Pulse Asia opinion survey
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