House member attributes Duterte's high ratings to stance vs 'oligarchs'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
House member attributes Duterte's high ratings to stance vs 'oligarchs'
President Rodrigo Duterte is accorded foyer honors upon his arrival at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City on October 6, 2019 following his official visit to the Russian Federation.
Presidential Photo / Simeon Celi Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — Results of the recent Pulse Asia Inc. survey that suggested that President Rodrigo Duterte's approval rating surged to 87% in December can be attributed to the president's stance against "oligarchs," an administration ally in the House said Sunday.

A fisherfolk federation, meanwhile, played down the results, saying these showed the sentiments of oligarchs and not the masses.

"The people see how President Duterte has been reining in the oligarchs and the monopolies, not just in water services but also in telecoms and transport. This is reflected in the high ratings the president got from Luzon and from the ABCD income segments," Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (Bagong Henerasyon party-list) said.

"These trust ratings quantify the massive political capital President Duterte has and which he is willing to use against the oligarchs who have controlled Filipino lives for far too long," she also said.

Oligarchs, originally a Russian term, refers to a small group of people in control of a country or government.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. meanwhile tweeted that the president's high ratings show he has the people's support.

"Just because the winning candidate keeps winning and gets more popular despite the vocal distress of the unpopular losers doesn't mean he's become an autocrat. It means he's become all the more the right popular choice so far as the populace is concerned. Sino pa?" he said.

Rep. Lawrence Fortun (Agusan Del Norte), a member of the House minority bloc, meanwhile said the high rating "bode well for the implementation of new laws, programs, and projects we in Congress support with the legislations we push for and our work in the committees."

He said the "high approval and trust ratings should be taken advantage of by our highest government officials in pursuing meaningful reforms in governance and ensuring the efficient implementation of urgent programs for our people."

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo called the President's approval rating "historic" and "unprecedented." 

In a statement, Panelo said, "The figures of the survey graphically show how the Filipino people are united in cementing their support to PRRD, and in agreement with the government programs geared toward uplifting the social and economic condition of the masses of our people."

A survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority in December said that poverty incidence had fallen to 12.1% in recent months, which meant that around 5.9 million Filipinos were no longer considered poor in 2018. 

The results were tagged by House solons as one of the biggest achievements of the Duterte administration. 

Fisherfolk doubt survey

“With all the economic crises hounding the poor sectors this year, it is very unlikely that majority of the people would approve Duterte of positive responses,” Pamalakaya chairperson and former lawmaker Fernando Hicap meanwhile said in a press statement.

However, think tank Ibon Foundation in a release said that the methodology of the PSA, which is run by the government, severely underestimated the plight of the poor and consequently resulted in a cherrypicked and untruthful conclusion. 

The PSA's report itself said that the monthly poverty threshold for a family of five stood at P10,727. With these numbers, government officials claimed that a family of five could subsist on P7,528 spent on food.

"This latest approval rating is a clear repudiation of the fabricated tale and the false narratives of the haters of the president including the foreign entities that have joined the fray with blinders in their eyes," Panelo said in his statement. 

But for Pamalakaya, the survey is all the more telling of the administration's "detatchment" from the realities on the ground. 

“The very questionable part of the survey is does the respondents represent the characteristics of the population, based on the share to their own definition of classes,” Hicap said.

The former House solon put into question the respondents involved in the data gathering of the survey as well as its transparency, pointing out that the total number of respondents and their background were not disclosed. 

However, according to reports from The STAR, "the survey had 1,200 respondents and an error margin of +/- 2.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level."

Pulse Asia's website says that the group believes that “a periodic measurement of the public pulse is a key ingredient for creating a robust democracy.”

"We could only presume that Class ABC includes the oligarchs, big landlords and corrupt bureaucrats, while Class E includes the peasants, workers, fisherfolk, indigenous people and other poorest sectors in the country," Hicap said. 

“Even on the survey, it is clearly shown that the class where the oligarchs belong are ecstatic, while the poorest remain stagnant."

Pulse Asia's survey shows that the results in both trust rating and performance ratings from Class E respondents stayed the same at 80%, while ratings among classes ABC and D shot up in December by more than 10% each. 

Pamalakaya said that the survey should cover those affected by the Rice Liberalization Law, Manila Bay reclamation projects, Chinese occupation in the West Philippine Sea, human rights abuses and IP displacement. 

Peasant groups have long been rallying against many of the President's policies, which they say are anti-poor.

The Southeast Asia Globe has also reported that these were part of "Duterte's anti-poverty crusade" which exists outside of his bloody 'war on drugs,' in which many of the victims of extra-judicial killings were members of the urban poor.

“If those sectors affected by Duterte’s programs and policies were covered by the survey, he would be lucky if he had a non-negative response," Hicap finished. 

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