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The maturation of Philippine democracy

For Philippine democracy to thrive, it needs more


public opinion organizations to guide the voting public
By Prof. Alfredo S. Sureta, Jr.
Executive Director
StratPOLLS, Inc.

(December 16, 2009)

(The author of this paper is professor of Political Science at the University of the East. He earned his masters degree
in Political Science cum laude at the University of Sto. Tomas where he is currently working on his doctoral degree.)

The American setting

When then Sen. Barack Obama and rival Sen. John McCain figured in the 2008
US presidential elections, no less than twelve polling organizations tracked the contest
from start to finish with a variation of weekly, daily and exit polls.

Poll results by established and upcoming media trade names and polling
organizations such as NBC-Wall Street Journal, ABC, Fox News, CNN, Gallup,
Rasmussen, NBC News, Bloomberg, Pew Research Center, to name a few, were
published side by side every day in the newspapers, posted on the Internet and even
aircast on television. Twelve organizations “predicted” an Obama victory although they
all differed in figures. (Out of the twelve, two polling organizations had McCain
“winning” by a thread.) No results were identical and each one bore a variance from
the other of 5%-10%---and even more in some instances. This is what we call
American democracy at work, a mature democracy.

(For the latest sample on current US political issues, please visit the website

The Philippines setting

The dominance by SWS and Pulse Asia (not necessarily in that order of
credibility) in the post-Edsa restoration of democracy in the Philippines is
understandable since they are the early players in political polling.

(The “Father of Philippine Political Polling” is the eminent Col. Simeon Ventura
(Ret.), a former Fidel Ramos protégé and former undersecretary of the DILG during
FVR’s term. He predicted with fair accuracy the victory by then DND Sec. Ramon
Magsayay over the incumbent Pres. Elpidio Quirino in the presidential campaign of
the early 1950s. After Colonel Ventura, other players and organizations came into the
scene which offered professional services in both political polling and market research
services like the PSRC, Trends MBL, ARO, to name a few. They were staffed by
graduates of courses in statistics and political science.)
Interlocking directorship
within two polling firms

The SWS was founded in 1986 by Dr. Mahar Mangahas, Prof. Felipe Miranda,
then DPWH Sec. Jose P. de Jesus (under President Aquino), Mercy Abad among others
while Pulse Asia was founded in the 90s when Prof. Felipe Miranda separated from
Mangahas and bolted SWS. It should be noted that Mangahas is the cousin of the late
presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. while some of the prominent members of the
board and stockholders of Pulse Asia are blood relatives of Sen. Benigno “Noynoy”
Aquino III, official candidate for president of the Liberal Party. The corporate records of
both firms that are available at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will
also show interlocking directorship with several personalities appearing as
stockholders of both SWS and Pulse Asia.

Felipe Miranda, Rosalinda T. Miranda, Gemino H. Abad, Mercedes R. Abad, Jose P. de


Jesus appear in SEC records as being founders and or stockholders of both SWS and Pulse Asia.

Mercedes R. Abad who is president of TRENDS-MBL is the one who used to conduct the
field research for both SWS and Pulse Asia.

Jose P. de Jesus of Pulse Asia was the DPWH Secretary during the time of the late Pres.
Cory Aquino.

Antonio O. Cojuangco and Rafael Cojuangco Lopa of Pulse Asia are cousins of Sen.
Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Cojuangco Aquino III.

Error in 2004 Exit Poll

These two polling organizations are recognized as industry leaders in the public
opinion polling in the Philippines. For the past two decades their poll surveys were
considered the industry models in terms of methodology and accuracy, except in the
2004 exit poll when SWS issued a public apology for its “wrong forecast” of the
outcome of the presidential contest in NCR. The polling firm made an extensive
explanation on the reason for a glaring error in its data where they “predicted” a
victory by Pres. Gloria Arroyo in the NCR when it was the late Fernando Poe, Jr. who
actually won convincingly in NCR just as my group of pollsters had predicted.

I was then working on a parallel but different Exit Poll in 2004 with a team of
pollsters from Proberz (represented by Prof. Ed Tayao), The Center (by Ed Malay) and
Data Advisors (by Art Valenzuela). We “predicted” an FPJ victory in NCR and an Arroyo
victory in the national tally by a very slim margin of 700 thousand votes. We were
proven correct in that Exit Poll.

The right of the public to be informed;


level the playing field

Although the latest survey results by SWS and Pulse Asia appear to be fairly
accurate, StratPOLLS is calling for a level playing field, that is, for more survey firms
to participate in public opinion polling in the Philippines and for the results of their
efforts to be published side by side with other polling organizations---similar to the
practice in the United States---to give the public a wider latitude for decision-making.
We are supporting the call made recently by leading media practitioners and
businessmen for the final passage in the Philippine Senate of Senate Bill 3308 or the
Freedom of Information Act. “We cannot overemphasize the vital role that a Freedom of
Information Act will play in the maturation of Philippine society and politics.” (Please see
attachment at the end of this paper.)

For a change, and for a better change, Philippine media must present side by
side all the polls results of legitimate polling firms namely: SWS, Pulse Asia,
StratPOLLS, The Center, Ibon Foundation, Asia Research Organization, among others
as shown below, and let the public discern from the data:

Table 1 Comparative results of Presidential Polls 4th Qtr 2009


Delos
Pollster Date Aquino Villar Estrada Teodoro Gordon Madrigal Villanueva
Reyes
SWS Dec. 09 46.2 27 16 4.6 0.9 0.2 1.1
Pulse Asia Dec. 09 45 23 19 5 1 1
StratPOLLS Jan. 2010 36 26 15 11 5 1 .25 4
The Center Dec. 09 31 24 19 10 8
Ibon Foundation (Nothing Available from its website)
Asia Research (Nothing Available from its website)

Pollster Date Roxas Legarda Manzano Binay Chipeco Yasay Sonza


SWS Dec. 09 43.3 32.0 2.6 10.2 0.3
Pulse Asia Dec. 09 39 37 2 14
StratPOLLS Sept. 09 47 25 11
The Center (Nothing Available from its website)
Ibon
(Nothing Available from its website)
Foundation
Asia Research (Nothing Available from its website)

No polling firm ever called it accurately, as yet

In the history of polling in the Philippines, not a single polling organization had
called it accurately, “to the decimal” as the old line goes. The actual post-election
results always differed from pre-election surveys. (Please see Page 3, “SWS glaring
error in 2004 Exit Poll”)

But the polling firm who called it the closest, gets the best credit. That is what I
would call forecasting the election with “fair accuracy.” Perceptions established in pre-
election surveys can always be overcome by the efficacy of the political operations of
the candidates. The candidate with a nationwide network, and who has the capability
to bring the voters from their residences to the polling precincts, will always have a
higher or better chance of winning.
So what’s the use of pre-election polls? Candidates and campaign planners who
subscribe to surveys are playing it correctly and wisely as they know where and how
to hit the opponents in the last stretch down the road.

More polling firms, lesser risk


of getting gypped

StratPOLLS believes that the expansion in the number of polling firms will
enhance not only the credibility of the science of polling in the country but would also
allow for a better flow of information to the voting public on the agenda and platforms
of candidates in the upcoming elections.

We at StratPOLLs believe that the time has come to expand the players in
public opinion polling in the Philippines, reason why StratPOLLS was established last
August to provide the public with another source of credible political and market
research service. Our polling firm is a sister company of some of the leaders in media
namely, the Business Mirror, Philippine Graphic, DWIZ and Home Radio.

IN CONCLUSION, and to illustrate my point of free expression in the United


States, let me present the results of the latest opinion poll (Table 2 below) on current
US political issues, posted on the website
Notice that out of the nine US polling
organizations as listed, both USA Today-Gallup and Rasmussen Reports posted
the “dissenting opinion.” There is no cartel and no monopoly of polls.

2010 Polls (Landscape: United States of America)


Barack Obama's Handling of Afghanistan War: Do you approve/disapprove of Obama's handling of
Afghanistan?
Some of the polls included in the average may be outdated since the latest poll for each of the pollsters
are averaged in.

Table 2 Comparative poll results on Pres. Obama’s handling of the Afghanistan war

Pollster Date Approve Disapprove


NBC WSJ 12/11-14/09 46 42
AP GFK 12/10-14/09 52 40
ABC 12/10-13/09 52 44
Fox 12/8-9/09 49 44
CBS 12/4-8/09 48 38
Bloomberg 12/3-7/09 48 43
USA Today Gallup 11/20-22/09 35 55
Rasmussen Reports 11/19-20/09 35 41
CNN 10/30-11/1/09 42 56
APPENDIX A
(PHILIPPINE) SENATE PASSES S.B. 3308 ON 2nd READING (Freedom of Information Act)
by
Tuesday, 08 December 2009

(PHILIPPINE) SENATE PASSES S.B. 3308 ON 2nd READING


AMID DARK CLOUD OF MARTIAL LAW, LEGISLATORS GIVE LIGHT

On 7 December 2009, the Senate approved on second reading Senate Bill 3308, or the Freedom of
Information Act. With time fast running out on the 14th Congress, we appealed to our Senators not to kill
the bill. They delivered; the country is now a giant step closer to the passage of a progressive and
responsive freedom of information act.

We, representatives of over 100 organizations and coalitions from various sectors comprising the Right to
Know. Right Now! Campaign, express our congratulations and deep gratitude to the Senate, under the
leadership of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, for pulling through for the Filipino people.
We especially express our congratulations and deep gratitude to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano for
decisively shepherding the bill through the committee process, and with Majority Leader Juan Miguel
Zubiri, for taking it forward in plenary. We thank Senator Joker Arroyo and Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.
for their statesmanship in withdrawing their additional interpellation to quicken the pace of the bill. We
thank the various bill authors for providing the measure the bipartisan support that it needs. With the
interventions of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Senator Arroyo in interpellation, and the
amendments introduced by Senators Santiago and Escudero and by the committee, the Senate has done
its legislative duty of ensuring a robust measure.

We renew our congratulations and gratitude to the Lower House under the leadership of Speaker Prospero
Nograles for passing its counterpart measure, House Bill 3732. We especially thank Representative Erin
Tañada, chairman of the Technical Working Group in the House Committee on Public Information, for his
decisiveness and efficiency in pushing for the bill’s passage even before the close of the first regular
session. This allowed the Senate sufficient time to review the bill. In this endeavor Rep. Tañada had help
from Representatives Joel Villanueva, Del De Guzman, Riza Hontiveros, Satur Ocampo, Bienvenido
Abante Jr., Juan Edgardo Angara, and other authors of the bill.

When finally passed into law, the Freedom of Information Act will make the Constitutional right to know
and the state policy of full disclosure of transactions involving public interest fully operable. While the
right to information has been held by the courts to be executory, it is difficult to enforce in practice. There
is no standard procedure in dealing with requests. There is no law clarifying the exact scope of the right.
The state policy requiring government to fully disclose transactions involving public interest does not have
the implementing mechanics. There are no effective sanctions to deter or make accountable the violation
of the right. As a result, requests for information are routinely disregarded or denied based on arbitrary
exceptions.

We cannot overemphasize the vital role that a Freedom of Information Act will play in the maturation of
Philippine society and politics. Freedom of information gives flesh to the principle that public office is a
public trust. Without proper information, we cannot hold public officials accountable for anything.
Freedom of Information is also a necessary condition for the effective exercise of other rights by the
people. The freedom of the press, of speech and expression, as well as the right to petition the government
for redress of grievances can only be fully and responsibly exercised by an informed press and citizenry.
The same is true for the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable
participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision making.

Even as we acknowledge the giant step forward afforded by our legislators in passing the bill on second
reading, we cannot pause even for a moment. The clock is still ticking fast. Amid the cry for justice for the
victims of the gruesome murder of journalists and civilians in Maguindanao, and under the dark cloud of
Martial Law, we claim our freedom of information. Now more than ever we need to secure for the people
the political rights that both empower and protect.

We call on the Senate to sustain the momentum by immediately approving the bill on third reading. We
call on both Houses of Congress to forthwith name their respective representatives and convene the
bicameral conference committee for this measure and finally approve the act for signing and approval by
the President.

We call on other groups to join us in the fight for what is guaranteed to us by the Constitution. We ask
you to march with us to the Senate on Monday, 14 December, to assert our freedom of information, to
thank our Senators, and to sustain the momentum for the long-overdue passage of the Freedom of
Information Act. Let it be the lasting contribution of the 14th Congress and of all of us to political and
governance reform in the country, to benefit our generation, and the generations to come. !

APPENDIX B

QUESTIONS ASKED BY US POLLSTERS ON PRESIDENT OBAMA’S


HANDLING OF THE AFGHANISTAN WAR

Question Wording by Pollster


NBC WSJ: "Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing in handling the war in
Afghanistan?"
AP GFK: "And please tell me if you approve, disapprove or neither approve nor disapprove of the way Barack
Obama is handling each of the following issues. How about the situation in Afghanistan?" If unsure: "If you had to
choose, do you lean more toward approving or disapproving of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation in
Afghanistan?"
ABC: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Obama is handling the situation in Afghanistan?"
Fox: "Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing on the following issues?... Afghanistan"
CBS: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation with Afghanistan?"
Bloomberg: “Do you approve or disapprove of the job he [Barack Obama] is doing with managing the war in
Afghanistan?"
USA Today Gallup: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation in
Afghanistan?"
CNN: "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation in Afghanistan?"