By BENJIE OLIVEROS
How could one explain the dip in the net satisfaction rating of President Benigno Aquino III from 51 percent in November 2010 to 46 percent in June 2011? Should the Aquino administration be alarmed?
Publicly, Malacañang is shrugging off the results of the most recent survey of the Social Weather Stations. “I’m really not that concerned with the popularity. It will go up and down.” President Aquino was quoted as saying. “What’s important for us at the end of the day is if we can face anybody and say we’re working instead of just trying to look good,” he said. Well, this was practically how former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tried to dismiss the continuous dip in her net satisfaction ratings before. If President Aquino would say in the future that he has to make unpopular but necessary decisions, then it would be deja vu of the nightmare kind.
Why is there a sudden change of heart in the administration’s views of SWS surveys? Aquino used to be so concerned about surveys. When the net satisfaction rating of President Aquino dipped to 51 percent in March 2011 from 64 percent in November 2010, the president complained that the projects and accomplishments of the administration are not being made known to the public. He also criticized columnists for painting a negative picture of the government. (Well, if a columnist would not be critical, he or she might as well join Ricky Carandang of ANC/ABS CBN and Manuel Quezon of the Inquirer who both gladly accepted the invitation of President Aquino to join the presidential communications group.)
This was more so in the past. During the presidential campaign, when surveys showed that Aquino was leading his rivals by a mile, he practically declared himself as president. The Liberal Party declared then that the only way that Aquino would lose was through cheating.
Perhaps, there is something more behind the seemingly nonchalant attitude because the Aquino administration has cause for concern. One should look not merely at the recent 5 percent drop, but at the fact that Aquino’s net satisfaction rating has been continuously sliding. It is not going up and down as Aquino said, it has been going down consistently.
And this is not normal, as an analyst from UP-NCPAG or the University of the Philippines–National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) claimed in an interview with 24 Oras of GMA 7. Table 1 NET SATISFACTION RATINGS OF PRESIDENTS of the Social Weather Stations shows the behavior of ratings of past presidents. Current President Aquino’s mother Cory had a 53 percent net satisfaction rating in May 1986 (three months after assuming the presidency in February 1986), 72 percent in October and 69 percent in March 1987, a dip from October but still much higher than in May 1986. Fidel V. Ramos had a net satisfaction rating of 69 percent in July 1993, 62 percent in September, 65 percent in December and 67 percent in April 1994. Joseph Estrada had a net satisfaction rating of 60 percent in September 1998, 61 percent in November, 67 percent in March 1999 and 65 percent in June 1999, before its downward spiral from October onwards.
Surely, the dip in the net satisfaction ratings of President Aquino is not the result of its unheralded achievements. No other president in Philippine history, except the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, had a larger communications team than Aquino: he has two communications groups.
Aquino even has one of the two biggest media networks and one of the largest selling newspapers in the country on his side.
It pains this writer to say but what former president Arroyo’s son and Ang Galing party-list Rep. Mikey Arroyo said is partly true: President Aquino should stop blaming the former administration and start doing something about the country’s problems.
“Kung walang korap, walang mahirap” was Aquino’s rallying call. And yet, corruption is still prevalent and poverty is worsening.
What has the Aquino government done about all the corrupt practices his government uncovered such as at the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the National Food Authority (NFA), among others? He virtually privatized the NFA, which bred more corruption and legalized the smuggling of rice, as revealed by the NFA union, and replaced former Arroyo officials with his friends, whom he has been loyally defending against charges of corrupt practices.
The first thing that the Aquino administration should have done was to run after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Merceditas Gutierrez is out of the Office of the Ombudsman and plunder cases have been filed against Arroyo, one by lawyer Frank Chavez citing the diversion of funds from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration to the PhilHealth, and another by progressive groups Bayan and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas citing the fertilizer fund scam. But still the Aquino government is taking its sweet time in running after Arroyo, raising doubts whether he is really intent on doing so, and has been ignoring the plunder cases filed by Chavez, Bayan and KMP.
“There can be no reconciliation without justice,” Aquino said during his inaugural address. But no victim of enforced disappearance has been surfaced and there has been no justice for victims of human rights violations. In fact, political killings and other cases of human rights violations have been continuing and political prisoners remain in jail.
Mrs. Edita Burgos has filed a criminal case against former officials of the 56th Infantry Battalion, who were identified as responsible for the disappearance of her son Jonas. Likewise, Mrs. Concepcion Empeño and Mrs. Erlinda Cadapan, mothers of missing UP activists Karen and Sherlyn respectively, filed criminal cases against AFP officials responsible for their daughters’ abduction, including the infamous retired Major Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.. Recently, the Supreme Court found the military responsible for the abduction of the two UP students and farmer Manuel Merino and ordered the AFP to release the three. The AFP continuously denies its involvement despite the finding of the highest court in the land. And yet, not even a whimper is being heard from Malacañang. Mrs. Edita Burgos is right in saying that President Aquino should now command the AFP to surface the Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Merino.
Also recently, the United Church of Christ of the Philippines filed a civil suit against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her top AFP officials for attacks against the church and the human rights violations committed against its members. What is Malacañang’s reaction? It is “watching with interest” the developments in the case.
During his June 12 Independence Day speech, President Aquino said that the challenge for his administration is for the Filipino people to achieve freedom from hunger. He boasted about the governments Conditional Cash Transfer (read: dole out) program. But the results of the SWS survey on hunger shows that for the first quarter of 2011 the number of those who experienced involuntary hunger went up to 20.5 percent or 4.1 million families. Those who reported they were unemployed reached 27.2 percent of 11.3 million, an increase from 18.9 percent or 7.4 million in September 2010 and 23.5 percent or 9.9 million in November 2010. In the meantime, prices of oil, basic commodities, services, and utilities continue to rise.
So to the Aquino government, enough with the lofty speeches and get to the business of solving the nation’s problems. That is, unless the Aquino government’s perceived solutions are the same as that of the previous Arroyo administration, which only worsened the country’s woes.