The only question now is what other surprises the majority will pull, whether in the Senate or the House, in furtherance of subverting the results of the elections which loudly proclaimed public antipathy towards the rule of the one president they’ve consistently disapproved of over the last four years. But as Mrs. Arroyo and company would probably proclaim, it’s not about popularity. And it’s not about democracy either.

Vantage Point / Business Mirror
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No.26, August 5-11, 2007

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’ s net satisfaction rating has dropped from its previous negative 46.7 percent in January, says IBON databank; it is now negative 62 percent. A July IBON survey showed that only 10 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with Mrs. Arroyo’s performance, while a huge 72 percent were not.

The IBON findings confirm the results of other surveys. Alone of all Philippine presidents since surveys were ever taken, Mrs. Arroyo’s satisfaction rating has stayed in the negative column for some four years. Popular Mrs. Arroyo certainly isn’t. But she’s tried to make a good thing out of a bad thing by declaring that she would “rather be right than popular”.

It’s a formulation that has appealed to the snob instincts of people who have basic issues with democracy, particularly its “one-person- one vote” principle, which says that the vote of a worker counts as much as that of an industrialist, a tenant’s as much as a landlord’s, a student’s as much as a professor’s.

This basic antipathy to one of democracy’s core principles was boosted by the election of clueless actors (some do have a clue) and other celebrities since 1986. In their minds way above the hoi-polloi, the middle class brought down Joseph Estrada in 2001 despite his 11 million votes–most of which, they secretly reasoned, anyway came from the great unwashed. The country’s experience with Estrada made “popularity” a curse word with most Filipinos assuming that what it meant was the seemingly mindless adulation the legions of the poor reserve for actors, singers, and other entertainers.

That’s the sense in which Mrs. Arroyo and her speech writers have been using “popularity” since they found out that it would take a million years, possibly longer, for Mrs. Arroyo to even approach the level of worship Estrada enjoys even today.

But “popularity” has meanings other than hero worship or idolatry. In governance, it’s in the sense of approval of how an administration governs, what policies it’s implementing, and whether the governed think it’s doing its job. Popularity is in this sense at the core of democratic governance, and decides whether an administration, having been tried and tested, deserves the sovereign power that’s been delegated to it, or should be thrown out.

Over the last six years the particularities of the above issues of governance have become critical in terms of, for example, whether the economic progress for which the regime claims credit has made a difference among the majority. (The answer is apparently “no”. Despite last year’s growth, 77 percent of Filipinos, up from 67.6 percent in 2006, today consider themselves poor.)

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