‘Significant erosions’

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Uh-oh, that’s not a slip, that’s a plunge.

Into their second year, Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte are seeing their approval and trust ratings plummeting by double digits from June to September, across all regions and classes.

This is according to a survey conducted from Sept. 10 to 14 by reputable pollster Pulse Asia, which described the latest ratings as “significant erosions.”

Marcos’ approval rating fell from 80 to 65 percent; Duterte’s from 84 to 73. BBM saw the biggest fall among the poorest, Class E, by a hefty 29 points from 82 to 53 percent, followed by the affluent Classes ABC, by 22 points, and Class D by 12 points.

Duterte, meanwhile, saw the biggest drop of 18 points among Class ABC, from 72 to 52 percent, followed by Class D at 11 percent and Class E, at eight percent.

Public trust was also down by 14 points for Marcos, at 71 percent, and by 12 points for Duterte, at 75 percent. The biggest drop for BBM was in both Class E and Class ABC, at a hefty 21 points. Duterte saw a smaller though still double-digit fall of 11 to 13 percent across all socioeconomic classes.

Both the President and VP saw the biggest fall in trust ratings in Luzon, at 20 and 18 points, respectively.

Leaders of the super majority in Congress – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Speaker Martin Romualdez – also saw their approval and trust ratings falling during the period.

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It must be emphasized that the ratings of BBM and Duterte remain comfortably high for the second year of their term, with the VP continuing to enjoy higher numbers than the President.

They still enjoy majority approval and trust ratings. Also, the downtrend is not unusual; there’s typically no other way to go but down for survey ratings of presidents in this country.

And yet a double-digit drop in both approval and trust within just three months cannot be easily brushed aside. Surely even the Marcos and Duterte camps are trying to pinpoint the possible reasons for the public dissatisfaction.

The usual practice is to identify the raging issues during the period when a survey is taken. Because BBM and Inday Sara suffered significant drops, speculation revolves around the issues that might have negatively affected them.

In this case, the controversial issues in September were the spike in rice prices, with price caps on two varieties as the band-aid solution, and the juggling of confidential funds from the Office of the President to the OVP.

BBM is particularly vulnerable to rice issues. Not only because he is the concurrent secretary of agriculture, but because his impressive approval rating upon assuming office was partly anchored on his campaign promise (dialed down to an “aspiration”) of rice at P20 a kilo. This OPM (oh promise me) remains fresh in people’s minds.

Today, even the palay farmgate price is at P22 (farmers want P23), making P20 a kilo at retail look like a hallucination.

Sugar prices, meanwhile, refuse to come down from the stratosphere. It doesn’t help that industry players (and even certain members of the .001 percent) are pointing to persons close to BBM as the ones reaping billions in unconscionable windfall at consumers’ expense.

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Another event in September was BBM’s sneaking off (again! – with only a last-minute notice to Palace reporters, who might have bothered him by tagging along, and to his bosses the taxpayers) that he was off to Singapore for the Formula One Grand Prix. Why the initial secrecy about the trip? Forthrightness has never been a strong suit of Marcos Junior.

The five-day birthday junket, with his usual coterie, was justified through his attendance at the Milken Institute’s Asia Summit. Really, officials can always find a speaking engagement abroad to justify jet-setting at taxpayers’ expense.

As for Class E, the rice price caps merely prompted dealers to reclassify all their rice varieties as special or premium, priced from P50 to P60 a kilo, so they wouldn’t have to sell at a loss.

That P15,000 subsidy, to be distributed to sari-sari store owners (like other forms of ayuda) even during the campaign period for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, will barely cover the losses of small retailers who complied with the price caps.

Yesterday, a Department of Agriculture official said the government is set to lift the price caps, so retail prices will soon reflect normal market forces.

Meanwhile, minimum jeepney fares are provisionally going up by P1. All economic analysts see inflation rising further in this fourth quarter.

A related survey conducted by Pulse Asia during the same period showed an 11-point jump to 74 percent in the number of people dissatisfied with the administration’s performance in addressing what remains as the most urgent public concern, inflation.

Blaming Vladimir Putin and other external forces won’t wash, when people are aware that hefty fuel excise taxes are also a major factor in high domestic pump prices.

Survey ratings can of course change, but the administration will have to implement something more convincing than price caps to arrest the erosion of its ratings in managing inflation. Public dissatisfaction in this area has been consistent in all surveys taken since the start of Marcos 2.0.

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