Category: surveys

Is it the end of Binay?

Marvin A. Tort

With his resignation from the Cabinet last Monday, it appears to be the beginning of the end for Vice-President Jejomar Binay’s presidential ambition. Amid corruption allegations and ongoing investigations, his poll numbers are down. Based on the latest Pulse Asia Survey, he is now at second place in the 2016 presidential race with 22%.

Senator Grace Poe, who was elected to national office for the first time in 2013, has snatched the lead from him with 30%. Following Binay at third is Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with 15%. And tied at fourth place are Interior Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II and former President and incumbent Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada, both with 10%.

Also on the list are Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Alan Peter Cayetano, and former Senator Panfilo Lacson. Note that in Pulse Asia’s June 2015 poll, a relatively high 87% of those polled expressed a clear preference for a particular or specific presidential contender. Only 2.5% did not have a clear choice or had refused to reply.

Does this now mean that the Binay presidential bid is dead in the water? Not necessarily so. With 11 months to go to the May 2016 election, a lot can still happen. This can turn just as quickly as they did for Binay in the last three months. Just last March, he was still in the lead with 29%, and Poe was second with 14%. Estrada and Duterte shared third with 12% each. Since then, Binay and Estrada went down, while Poe, Duterte and Roxas climbed.

Pulse Asia had noted that during the survey period, the voting public was exposed to various news reports. Of these, in my opinion four items had the most significant impact on the survey result:

• Binay’s investigation by the Ombudsman and the continuing hearings at the Senate of his alleged corruption, including the freezing of his bank accounts by the Court of Appeals as requested by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

• A Commission on Audit (CoA) report which claims that P670 million from 49 lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund and the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program, which were released through the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, ended up in the hands of several questionable nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

• A meeting between President Benigno S. C. Aquino III and Senator Grace Poe in connection with the possibility of the latter running as President or Vice-President in May 2016 under the Liberal Party and the disqualification issue based on her alleged lack of residency.

• The exchange of words between Vice-President Binay and Senator Poe, with the former saying that the next Philippine president should have experience and the latter replying that quality of service and honesty are more important than length of service or experience.

Of these four, three had a negative impact on Binay, directly or indirectly, while the same three had a positive impact on Poe. Moreover, there was no significant pickup, either by the public or politicians, of the CoA report on more pork barrel funds going to questionable NGOs. This particular issue “died” a natural death, it seems.

Crucial here is timing, obviously. A seven-point drop for Binay from March to June is big but not unexpected. The timing of the CA order to freeze his bank accounts (which tend to prejudge his guilt) was significant. And so was the timing of the meeting between the President and Poe (which tend to indicate his possible endorsement of her candidacy.)

In the September 2014 survey, Binay fell 10 points in just about 10 weeks. Timing was also crucial, as the poll was held at the height of the media frenzy on allegations of corruption and hidden or undeclared wealth against him and his family (wife Elenita as former Makati mayor; and son Jejomar, Jr. as Makati mayor).

In particular, it was on Sept. 11, while the Pulse Asia survey was ongoing, when former Makati Vice-Mayor Ernesto Mercado testified at the Senate on Binay’s alleged kickback of 13% from each public works project in the city. He also claimed that bags of money were being delivered regularly to the Binay household, and that money would occasionally be received by Binay’s daughter Nancy, now a senator. The same September Pulse survey already showed Senator Grace Poe as the top choice for Vice-President in 2016 with 31% (up from 26% in June 2014).

Despite her 30% at present, I am not putting my money on Poe just yet. I sense that a lot of “research” is now going on, with her detractors looking hard for things or issues — no matter how small — that may be used against her in the “appropriate” time. Again, timing is the main consideration here.

In 2013, Poe and another Binay ran for a Senate seat at the same time. Poe got over 20 million (51%) to land at No. 1 in the Senate race, while Binay (Nancy) got 16 million votes to land at No. 5. Was this a prelude to 2016? Can we expect the same results when Poe goes up against Nancy’s dad in May?

In 1992, Fidel Ramos needed just 23.58% or 5.3 million votes to become President. In 1998, Estrada needed just 10.7 million votes. I believe that Binay has better chances of winning in a three- or four-cornered fight in 2016. Poe is likely to get the upper hand in a one-on-one with the Vice-President.

In October 2009, President Aquino polled at 44%, while Senator Manny Villar 19% and former President Estrada 11%. By May 2010, Aquino won with 42% of the votes. Estrada came in second with 26%, and Villar third with 15%. Also that October, Roxas polled at 37%, while Binay at 13%, coming in third after Senator Loren Legarda’s 23%. Binay eventually won with almost 42% of the votes, followed by Roxas with almost 40%, and then Legarda with over 12%.

Both Estrada and Binay surged from October 2009 to May 2010, by 15 and 29 percentage points, respectively. Estrada came in second partly because Aquino was a strong contender to begin with. But had Aquino opted out of the 2010 poll, Estrada would have been the likely winner. But Binay managed a win even against a stronger contender like Roxas, although he had no major “baggage” at the time. Also, in May 2010, Aquino got just 600,000 more votes than Binay.

Despite everything that has been hurled at Binay since last year, and while his poll numbers have dropped, his trust rating still went up. In the latest poll, Binay reportedly recorded “the only majority trust rating” in the quarter with 57%, up by 15 points from 42% in March. Aquino’s latest trust rating was 50%, up from his record-low 36%.

Binay’s approval rating is at 58% while Aquino is at 54%. The Senate as an institution, and where Senator Grace Poe belongs, recorded an approval rating of only 40%. This is higher than the House of Representatives’ 35%, but lower than the Supreme Court’s 44%.

Does this mean then that despite the corruption allegations against him as a former city mayor, people still trust the Vice-President? That people still perceive him as performing better than the President and other officials? That at this point, he is even more trustworthy than the President? If so, can he keep or improve on that trust, and can he turn it into votes?

surveys and the filipino elite

after reading randy david’s  Surveys and public opinion, i googled for more and found that, while it is conceded that election polls can influence voters in different ways:

The bandwagon effect, when voters rally to the leading candidate;
The underdog effect, when voters rally to the trailing candidate;
The demotivating effect, when voters decide not to vote because their candidate is already sure to win;
The motivating effect, when voters go to the precincts because the polls alerted them to the election; or
The free-will effect when voters cast their votes to prove the polls wrong.

and that, while even congress passed the Fair Election Act in february 2001, providing that

5.4. Surveys affecting national candidates shall not be published fifteen (15) days before an election and surveys affecting local candidates shall not be published seven (7) days before an election.

surprise, surprise, the davide supreme court ruled in may 2001 that

§5.4 is invalid because (1) it imposes a prior restraint on the freedom of expression, (2) it is a direct and total suppression of a category of expression even though such suppression is only for a limited period, and (3) the governmental interest sought to be promoted can be achieved by means other than suppression of freedom of expression.

googled some more and stumbled on this find: The Politics of “Public Opinion” in the Philippines (2010) by Eva Lotte E. Hedman, research fellow, London School of Economics.  excerpts [bolds mine]:

Since the restoration of formal democratic institutions and practices in 1986 … the Philippines has seen a more gradual and limited transformation in the mobilisation of voters. This change is inextricably linked with the increasing circulation in Philippine politics and society of what is commonly referred to as “public opinion.” As argued in this paper, the sheer accumulation and anticipation of surveys, reflecting back to the (disaggregated) public their (aggregated) opinion, have become inextricably linked to dynamics of bandwagoning, as well as to efforts at what scholars have described as “political branding” (Pasotti 2009). [Journal Of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 29(4), 97-118. 101. Retrieved April 8, 2013.

… “public opinion” has gained greater circulation as political discourse and social fact in Philippine politics and society, with the popularity and poll ratings of candidates – rather than the construction and maintenance of machines – viewed as an increasingly effective and decisive mode of voter mobilisation. This trend is perhaps most evident in the close correspondence between pre-election surveys and the performance of presidential contenders at the polls in the 2010 elections. However, the rise of public opinion has also come to influence the process of election campaigning itself, as seen in the floating and junking of candidates, the party-switching of politicians, and the unravelling of coalitions, all developments noted by informed observers of the presidential elections of May 2010.[103-104]

Indeed, in the wider context of multiple parties and candidates for office without political platforms or programmes of any real distinction, the apparition of an opinionated public in survey after survey is worthy of note as a phenomenon in its own right. That is, aside from the specific content of any one survey, public opinion polling has emerged as an institutionalised practice in the Philippines, an established social fact. As already noted, the sheer increase in surveys is ample testimony to this reality (Chua 2004). Beyond the increasing number and frequency of surveys, moreover, there is mounting evidence of considerable media interest in and political controversy over the “reported findings” of surveys, focused on the facts and figures of specific polls, but also, importantly, on the very claims to professional objectivity and scientific method that lie at the heart of the production of public opinion for public consumption. As the accumulation and anticipation of surveys have achieved both momentum and continuous reproduction and circulation, the significance of public opinion as such thus extends well beyond the (instrumental) uses and abuses of surveys to encompass (structural) effects of a different order in Philippine politics and society. [105-106]

Beyond the focus on technical problems and solutions associated with polling, or the attempts at restricting the practice itself, the rise of “public opinion,” as a phenomenon in its own right, appears in a very different light, as do its purported effects, when viewed through the critical lens of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, and others writing in a similar vein. As argued by Bourdieu more than thirty years ago, “public opinion” is “a pure and simple artefact whose function is to dissimulate the fact that the state of the opinion at a given moment is a system of forces, of tensions” (Bourdieu 1979). Polls and surveys, it has been argued, are thus instruments “not of political knowledge but of political action,” whose deployment inherently devalues other forms of collective action – strikes, protests, social movements – and rests on a “formally equalitarian aggregative logic” that ignores and obscures the profound realities of deprivation, poverty, and social inequality in countries such as the Philippines (Wacquant 2004; Champagne 1990). [110-111]

Viewed from this perspective, the rise of public opinion can be more readily seen to have coincided, at the outset, with the emergence of a new form of political action in the Philippines. This new political activism was directed, not merely at Marcos’ ailing dictatorship, but also, importantly, against the labour strikes, student protests and peasant movements that surfaced in the factories, the campuses, and the haciendas of the country, precisely at a time when the Communist Party of the Philippines, and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, emerged the single largest such organisation (in opposition, not in control, of state power) anywhere in the world. Long before the institutionalisation of “public opinion” through polls and surveys after the resurrection of democracy, it was this struggle for “hearts and minds” that unleashed the “will of the people” into Philippine political discourse, as seen in the high-profile campaigns to collect one million signatures on a petition for Cory Aquino to run for president in 1985, to organise as many volunteers for Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections) in 1985-86, and, finally, to oust an authoritarian regime by means of People Power in February 1986.[110-111]

At first glance, it may appear that the funeral corteges and petition drives which helped to jump-start the presidential campaigns of two generations of Aquinos, a full quarter-century apart, remain a thing apart from the rise of public opinion as political discourse. Indeed, in the case of “Cory”, the public spectacle that propelled her into popular consciousness coincided with the first appearance of the Philippines’ foremost polling institution, the Social Weather Station (SWS) in 1985 and thus pre-dated the wider circulation of public opinion as political discourse under post-Marcos conditions of democratic elections. By contrast, public opinion surveys had already become firmly established aspects of Philippine election campaigns by 2010, when Noynoy’s successful presidential candidacy was acclaimed as something of a foundational moment and unique repertoire in the rise of public opinion in the Philippines [112]

While typically associated with progress and change, and, indeed, with “new citizens-cum-voters”, “People Power,” as an – perhaps all too – familiar repertoire of protest, may also have emerged as part of the obstacles to further democratization in the Philippines.

As for the new forms of voter mobilisation themselves, the May 2010 presidential victory of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III also signals the limited transformative potential associated with the politics of “public opinion”.

Unsurprisingly, the nature of such change reflects, in key respects, broader patterns in Philippine politics, as shown above. However, the limits to the transformative potential of “public opinion” also stem from the very deployment of polls and surveys, with their formally equalitarian aggregative logic, and concomitant devaluation of other forms of collective action and solidarities. “When used as a gauge of ‘public opinion’ […] polls not only miss the mark but shift the target,” and, thus, it has been argued, “offer at best a naïve and narrow view of democracy” (Salmon and Glasser 1995: 449). In the context of the Philippines, this shifting of the target and narrowing of the view of democracy first came into its own during the widespread popular mobilisation surrounding the rise of the first Aquino presidency. With a second Aquino elected president of the country, “public opinion” may have emerged as social fact in Philippine politics and society, but for all the countless quality of life surveys and political polls conducted in the past quarter-century on a pluralistic one-person, one-vote basis, it is difficult to dismiss the charge levelled by critics that the practice of polling serves to obscure profound realities of deprivation, poverty, and social inequality in the country today. [115]

so there.  in effect the fiipino elite has managed to appropriate, co-opt, and spin “public opinion” and “people power” to serve only its interests.  political dynasties forever.   ironic, no, wicked, that it’s under cover of “freedom of expression.”

maybe we should just boycott elections, as in jose saramago’s Seeing (2007), where government held elections and nobody came.  maybe then the ruling elite will finally get the message: tama na, sobra na, palitan na ang bulok na sistema!