Death knell

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Members of the House of Representatives were hoping for a dialogue with senators on Charter change while Congress is not in session, during the long break starting before Palm Sunday.

Alas, it was not to be. Senate President Migz Zubiri took off for Switzerland for the annual assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva, during which he called for a “pause” to war – not the one raging between the two chambers of the Philippine Congress over Cha-cha, but global wars.

Other senators must have left the country as well to get away from the scorching heat not just from El Niño, but also from the House nagging to get to work on Cha-cha ASAP because time is running out. On what? The Marcos administration has four more years to go. But the 19th Congress is counting down to the end of its three years in 2025.

The senators will likely prolong their vacation. Spring, with its pleasantly cool temperatures, has started in the Northern Hemisphere. And then there’s that survey conducted from March 6 to 10 by Pulse Asia, showing a hefty 88 percent of Filipinos opposing Charter change. So there’s no reason for the senators to cut short their vacation and rush back home to discuss Cha-cha with House members.

Because of the reputation of Pulse Asia, this survey could be the death knell for the latest push for Cha-cha as envisioned by the House.

Unfortunately for the folks lambasting the Cha-cha survey, Pulse Asia is not one of those fly-by-night pollsters that provide the results sought by the commissioning client. Polling costs millions and such clients should find either a credible pollster, or better uses for their money. While Pulse Asia also conducts commissioned surveys, the one on Cha-cha is non-commissioned.

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The comments from several key House members on the Pulse Asia survey indicate a chamber in panic mode. Will they shift to Plan B (or is it Plan A, the original?) and proceed with the people’s initiative to rewrite the Constitution? Several House members have stressed that PI is merely suspended.

But if PI is revived, will President Marcos – a believer in reliable surveys as far as we can tell – go along with it, considering that overwhelming 88 percent opposition to Charter change? That number is about as high as the consistent results of polling on Filipino sentiments against China on West Philippine Sea issues.

BBM had previously said (at least according to Senator Migz) that he wanted the Senate to take the lead on Cha-cha. But it looks like senators are enervated by the scorching Philippine summer, like those poor public school students and teachers, and would rather wait for the cooler months to get down to the complicated task of amending the Constitution.

Alongside the survey on Cha-cha is a commissioned one, conducted by Pulse Asia, which must also be bad news for the House and its leadership: Sen. Raffy Tulfo and Vice President Sara Duterte are statistically tied (with a difference of one percent) for the 2028 presidential race.

In the commissioned survey on 2028 “presidentiables” taken in April last year by the other reputable pollster, Social Weather Stations, VP Sara topped the list at 28 percent – a wide margin from Tulfo’s 11 percent. The margin could be wider if the three percent of the VP’s father former president Rodrigo Duterte (at fourth place) would be added to her rating.

Former VP Leni Robredo came in third at six percent. She also placed third in Pulse Asia’s poll taken last month. This latest survey was conducted amid what VP Sara described as an organized smear campaign against her.

Also noteworthy is that in both surveys, VP Sara’s ally Sen. Imee Marcos was among the respondents’ picks – fourth in Pulse Asia and seventh in SWS. Meanwhile, the VP’s nemesis, Speaker Martin Romualdez, was not among the choices in SWS. In Pulse Asia, he merited mention, but with a preference rating of less than one percent.

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Since the poll last month was commissioned, Pulse Asia can’t be criticized for conducting a survey on potential candidates for a presidential race that is still four years away. As I noted, however, surveys don’t come cheap. Why would people spend a lot for such a survey this early? Who stands to benefit?

The survey frontrunners will likely see the ranks of their friends, fair weather or otherwise, increasing – with all the concomitant perks. The frontrunners can have a stronger voice in influencing public policy. Take that, tambaloslos!

And who would lose?

The same survey frontrunners, who could suffer the fate of former vice president Jejomar Binay and former House speaker Manny Villar. “Presidentiables” who peak early also draw enemies early along with special operations to bring them down.

VP Sara is seeing this now; Raffy Tulfo could soon see the same.

Yesterday, Pulse Asia released the results of its performance survey on the top four officials of the land, taken on March 24 this year and compared to the ratings on Dec. 23, 2023. This survey showed the VP’s performance rating down by seven points, from 74 percent in December to 67 percent last month.

BBM suffered the worst drop among the four top officials: 13 percent, from 68 to 55 percent. He should wonder if his favorite cousin is dragging him down. Speaker Romualdez saw his rating fall by eight percent in the same survey, from 39 percent in December to 31 percent.

The main controversy last month was not rice or inflation, but Cha-cha. Surely BBM sees the significance of Migz Zubiri, beset by coup rumors amid his reluctance to dance the Cha-cha, being the only top official who registered an improvement in his performance rating, from 49 percent in December to 52 last month.

How might pro-Cha-cha congressmen react?

Why, they might go to the Supreme Court, to stop those pesky surveys.

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