AFP’s ‘brownie points’
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2020 - 12:00am

Enjoying a record high in satisfaction rating that Filipinos gave to the performance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on their duty to protect us from communist insurgents and local terrorists, an equally big number of Filipinos believe our military can capably defend our country’s sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea (WPS) and other external aggression.

This is sort of a vote of confidence to our country’s military capability amid the feared consequence of the impact of the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

Based on the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey results, military got +74% net satisfaction rating with just 5% answered they were dissatisfied out of the 1,200 respondents from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. On the specific question how they see the AFP’s handling the WPS territorial dispute, 62% of the survey respondents expressed their satisfaction while 26% were undecided, and only 12% were a little dissatisfied.

These survey findings were shared to us by Vladymir Joseph Licudine, SWS deputy director for survey design, and analysis and training in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle in Malate last Wednesday. On the high public satisfaction rating of the AFP, Licudine credited it to the decisive actions of the military in having contained the Maute terror reign that led to the Marawi siege in 2017.

Likewise, Licudine explained, the AFP’s enhanced image were due to the continuing exploits of the military men and women as the “frontliners,” or the first ones at the scene in every man-made disasters and natural calamities erupting every now and then around the country.

The AFP thus rightfully earned the trust and confidence of the Filipino people as protectors of the Republic.

The latest SWS survey results on the AFP performance were first presented to no less than President Duterte during a joint command conference meeting with the Philippine National Police (PNP) held last Tuesday at Malacanang. As their Commander-in-Chief, President Duterte was reportedly pleased to learn about the much improved public perception of the military.    

The same SWS report was presented the next day to our Kapihan sa Manila Bay by Licudine who showed the line graphs tracking in particular the AFP’s satisfaction grades through the years. Licudine pointed to particular timelines during which the military establishment suffered in public opinion polls in the past and recovered. But based from their records, he noted, it was shown the AFP has gained the highest public satisfaction rating so far in this latest survey conducted from Dec. 13-16 last year.

According to Licudine, the survey respondents were first asked whether they are happy and satisfied or not with the AFP’s performance in taking care of its troops and in dealing with the Abu Sayyaf and Islamic State (IS) local terrorist group, and other man-made and natural calamities. Among the 100% aware of what the AFP has been doing to attend to these domestic threats, Licudine pointed out, 79% were satisfied, with only 5% dissatisfied, or a net rating of +74%. This is within the range of “excellent” as far as the SWS grading system applies, according to him.

Visibly elated over the latest outcome of the SWS survey was AFP official spokesman, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, who was also our guest in our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast news forum. “This is a welcome development for us because we in the AFP highly value public trust,” Arevalo gushed.

Arevalo raved on the latest military establishment’s “excellent” rating as a big departure from the AFP’s poor public image in the past when they were bashed by left-leaning groups over alleged human rights violations, if not stirred up corruption issues against them. He pointed to the SWS survey results as the best proof Filipinos do not believe the continuing black propaganda also by other anti-government groups against the military over persistent accusations of “red-tagging” of supposed non-governmental organizations as communist fronts.

The AFP performance rating was included in the SWS survey during the regular opinion polls they conduct in order to gauge the general public awareness and knowledge on the official activities of the various national government institutions. The SWS survey was not commissioned nor paid for by the AFP, Licudine clarified. He disclosed there were only four “rider” questions related to the AFP on the opinion polls that the SWS conduct every quarter.

Based from the SWS survey, it indicated the AFP is more popular in areas outside of Metro Manila. This is because, Licudine pointed out, the military personnel do not only directly deal with the enemies of the state and other internal security threat elements. More importantly, he likened the military establishment as the face of the government that the people immediately see during natural calamities where the AFP are the usual first responders like in last year’s series of strong quakes in Mindanao.

Arevalo echoed the sentiments of the uniformed services headed by AFP chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. that the AFP owes much of the high public regard to the entire military from the contributions of other national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) in doing their respective roles that enabled the military to effectively perform its mandated tasks.

Arevalo expressed the AFP’s gratitude to the unwavering support of President Duterte to sustain the needed military equipment and attending to the welfare of the uniformed men and women that help them in the discharge of their duties.

Arevalo looks forward to the additional and better military equipment under the AFP modernization program in line with President Duterte’s battle cry of self-reliant defense capability, especially once the Philippine exit from the VFA comes into effect. Can such morale boost from the “brownie points” of the SWS survey help the AFP after exit from the VFA? Stay tuned.

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