POSTSCRIPT / April 6, 2000 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Latest Erap poll survey report: Type I or Type O?

IN the same way that some businesses have two books of account – one for internal use only and another for showing to City Hall and tax agents—there are sometimes two reports prepared from the data culled from a commissioned opinion survey.

One survey report is for the internal use and guidance of whoever commissioned the survey. It’s an honest report that tells it as it is. Let’s call this report “Type I,” for Internal or inside use.

Another report, based on the same survey data, is sometimes put together for public consumption. It’s dressed up or angled for some propaganda purpose. Let’s call this second report “Type O,” for Outside or propaganda use.

A Type I survey report does not always tally in all details with the Type O report. What a politician tells himself and what he tells the people are two entirely different things. What his pollsters tell him in private (in a Type I report) does not always jibe with what they tell the people (Type O: report).

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NOW we want to know what readers think of the last Malacañang-ordered survey showing President Estrada allegedly enjoying a 5-percent net approval rating for the first quarter of 2000 – which was exactly his rating in the last quarter of 1999.

Our questions to readers are: (1) Is the latest survey report showing a 5-percent net approval rating for President Estrada a “Type I” or a “Type O” report? (2) Why do you think so?

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IN your response, please write either “Type I” or “Type O” and give a one-paragraph reason or comment.

Purely for statistical purposes, we ask readers to please indicate their age, sex and location. Additional information such as name, profession/business, pets, hobbies, school, etc., would be interesting although not crucial to our survey.

Send your response by email (preferred), postal mail or by some fast means, or leave it in our pigeonhole in the STAR office in Port Area. Please write “POSTSCRIPT POLL” on the mail envelope or on the Subject line if sent via email so it can be easily sorted out.

Emailed responses with attachments will be deleted outright without being opened. For faster handling, email must be sent directly to and not through the STAR email addresses.

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WE advise letter-writing brigades not to waste valuable time and resources joining this POSTSCRIPT survey, because we can spot organized mass mailing in whatever guise it comes.

To minimize the distorting effects of organized email, readers are advised to use only their original email addresses given by their Internet Service Providers (ISPs) instead of secondary addresses such as yahoo and hotmail. Coursing email through the ISPs will help us track and verify email messages.

We will count as one all responses coming from or using the same return address. A response bearing the names of several persons will also be counted as one.

So, what do you think: Is the latest survey report of a 5-percent net approval rating for President Estrada a “Type I” or a “Type O” report? Do not delay sending your response!

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THE latest report of a positive 5 percent approval rating came right after two telephone surveys in Metro Manila showed President Estrada dropping first to negative 13 percent in February, then to negative 32 percent in March.

The positive rating came amid the wild clapping of the Estrada chorus in fulfillment of a Malacañang prediction that the President’s poll standing was to “bottom out” or level off by last March.

“You’ll see,” smug Palace propagandists told the public last month, and the predicted bottoming out came to pass indeed. They must have known something the public did not know.

As the Estrada boys had predicted, the 5 percent approval rating in the last quarter of 1999 was maintained through the first quarter of 2000 for a six-month leveling off despite other surveys showing a negative dive for the President.

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BUT hold your breath. The same Palace quarters are now saying that with the bottoming out, the President has reached the lowest possible level — and there is now no other way, they say, for President Estrada to go but up.

That’s as good as saying that the next Malacañang survey will have a Type O report showing a resurgent President Estrada gaining in the approval game. The only point of internal debate is by how much Mr. Estrada will be made to appear to go up.

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IF the political weather by June (end of second quarter) would have improved and there would not be much restiveness, the second quarter’s Type O report is likely to attempt a great leap of faith in the approval rating of the President.

But if there would be a little problem in the President’s actual approval rating (in the Type I report) by June, the jump in his approval rating (in the Type O report) would be made small, but still a perceptible improvement over the first quarter’s 5 percent.

And if the times would go from bad to worse by June, the President’s pollsters may cross their fingers and keep the same 5-percent level of net approval. Everything would be done to keep the line from going down in the second quarter chart.

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OPINON surveys are, like newspaper publishing, big business. Some cynics call them rackets, no offense meant.

Opinion survey firms do not embark on costly nationwide surveys for the fun or the academic exercise of it. Like the rest of other operators in the market, pollsters have to make money.

The big money comes mostly from clients who commission complicated periodic surveys and similar studies. If you’re small-time, you cannot afford them.

At the end of their fiscal period, the survey firm’s officials have to submit a positive financial report, if not hefty dividends, to their shareholders.

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IN the case of Malacañang, which is a pollster’s dream client, since it is not President Estrada’s money anyway, he can throw millions in taxpayers’ money in one survey.

A series of quarterly surveys requiring two types of report cost a fortune. But what the heck, it’s Juan Pasang Cruz and not the Holy Trinity of San Juan carrying the heavy financial cross anyway.

What if you’re only an opposition leader looking in and you want a survey? Worse, suppose you want both Type I and Type O survey reports? Can you tap government funds for such a costly survey?

President Estrada’s stock answer to that is “Mag-presidente muna kayo!” (Try being president first!)

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SOME people are comparing the 5 percent net approval rating of President Estrada and the 70 percent of Vice President Gloria Arroyo, jumping to the conclusion that if elections were held tomorrow, Arroyo would handily beat Estrada.

There is no point of comparison. The two top officials of the land do not have the same job. In fact, Arroyo is hardly doing anything as vice president except to wait for the overworked heart of Erap to stop beating. What performance in office of the Vice President can we talk about?

Arroyo is also social welfare secretary, a post that takes her to many places for continued exposure. But even as head of a watered-down, devolved line department, there is no extraordinary performance that she can crow about that would warrant a 70 percent rating.

What are we saying? We think there’s something queasy with her alleged 70 percent approval rating. We’re tempted to say that that figure must have been plucked also from a Type O survey report.

But if I were Erap Estrada, that would be exactly what I would do – keep high Arroyo’s rating to prevent other adventurers in the opposition from getting ideas about the post to be vacated by a one-term president.

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AS we said in an earlier POSTSCRIPT, whatever they or we think of President Estrada, he would be able to serve out the remaining four years of his term.

A vacancy occurs only if he is impeached, if he resigns, is incapacitated or dies. None of the above seems likely to happen.

Senate Minority Leader Teofisto Guingona puffed himself up days ago and hurled the challenge to Erap Estrada to resign amid what he called the growing discontent and restiveness.

Guingona’s call for resignation is funnier than an Erap joke. The senator is like a flea telling the dog to roll over and play possum.

Then there’s another lawmaker, we can’t remember the name, who dared Mr. Estrada to call a snap election. How can he do that under the Constitution that defines in clear terms the line of succession? Even a senator would know that a snap election is not one of the legal options.

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PRESS Secretary Rodolfo Reyes is lucky he is soon moving out of the snakepit. ABS-CBN executive and STAR columnist Ricardo Puno is taking the hot seat on April 15.

Instead of a spokesman, Mr. Estrada should hire a ventriloquist for the Palace circus. We have seen how presidential spokesman Fernando Barican would contrive an expertly woven explanation of some delicate presidential decision – only to see the President later wade into an ambush interview and say something else disastrous.

If Barican were a ventriloquist, he could throw his voice in the direction of the President whenever the Boss ventures to open his mouth without a script.

Bon voyage to Rod, and good luck to Dong!

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 6, 2000)

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