POSTSCRIPT / January 6, 2000 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Come, let your opinion be counted in Erap poll

WE were pleasantly surprised by the first wave of respondents to our survey of readers’ opinion launched Tuesday regarding the drop in the net public approval rating of President Estrada.

The question posed to readers was: What are the three main reasons for the drop to five percent of the net approval rating of President Estrada in the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations?

Responses can still be sent to Postscript, or relayed by other means to us in the STAR office. Please write “ERAP POLL” on the email/fax Subject line or on the envelope if mailed or delivered.

* * *

HOURS before the STAR hit the streets Tuesday morning, we were already receiving responses from abroad. The first respondent was Bing Ramos of Hayward, California, followed by Santiago Sirilan of Chicago, Illinois.

This seeming oddity is explained by the time difference between the US and the Philippines, as well as our publication schedule. Even before the STAR print edition is available in Manila, our Online edition is already published in the Internet. At that time, it is daytime in the US, while most of us here are still asleep.

The result is that STAR readers in the US can access the paper ahead of those in the Philippines! And with their Internet connection, they are able to react ahead.

* * *

WHILE we have received a great number of responses, we will wait for more reactions before we start publishing (possibly on Sunday) the running results of the survey. Meantime, let us share some statistical notes on the respondents.

The men dominated the first wave. Only one out of every three respondents was female, and the females tended to be younger.

The respondents came mostly from the age brackets 31-35, 41-45, 46-50, and 51-55 years. We hope they won’t mind being mentioned, but the youngest respondent was Jewellyn Dizon, 21, using an Ateneo de Manila University email address. The oldest at 74 was a man from Marikina using a address, with another, a professor emeritus in Zamboanga City, following at age 73.

Aside from several readers in the US, there were respondents from the Middle East who held supervisory positions in their work place. One out of every five respondents was writing in from abroad.

* * *

WE are interested not only in the numbers, particularly readers’ rating of the most likely reason(s) for the drop in the President’s political stock, but also in why the respondents assessed his predicament that way.

While we ask respondents to indicate only their age, sex, and address, we made optional their explaining their answers. Some 80 percent of them took time to explain, which made the responses more interesting.

Students of contemporary politics, including we dare say public relations handlers of President Estrada, may find the comments of respondents not only interesting but also instructive.

* * *

IF you have not sent in your response, kindly do so immediately so your considered opinion will be counted. It is important that those at the helm of the government are in touch with public opinion.

Please arrange your three answers to the question in this descending order: (1) MOST LIKELY REASON for the drop in the President’s net approval, (2), MORE LIKELY, and (3) LIKELY reason. We will assign corresponding weights to the numbered answers.

In your responses, please go straight to the point. Use brief one-liners. Also indicate if, for some reason, you won’t like to be identified or quoted in any report on the survey results. Otherwise, we presume we may freely name and quote you.

* * *

IN one of his bullish moments, President Estrada again charged into the press gallery, saying that a critical press was one of the reasons for the dismal drop of his poll rating in the December survey of the Social Weather Stations.

We wonder if that was his personal opinion or if it was only whispered to him by his Midnight Cabinet or his media managers.

This is another case of the President being misinformed and misled. Many times, the President makes the wrong move or says the wrong thing because those who are paid to continually supply him with management information feed him horse manure.

If he or his media advisers know any better, they would not blame the press for his wobbly standing at the polls. Such drunken talk only strains further the relations between the President and the press.

* * *

THE President and his fumbling advisers must be reminded that they are in full control of a sizeable segment of public and private media. They have one of the most expansive and expensive media infrastructure ever assembled by anybody in this country.

They also have access to a bulging war chest, made more formidable by intelligence funds that require no detailed accounting.

All they have to do is use wisely this infrastructure and that mega-fund to put across any message that may occur in the President’s mind in his more sober moments.

* * *

THE President has at his disposal not only government trimedia communication facilities, but also private media whose owners are just dying to ingratiate themselves to Malacañang.

The President has his regular radio and TV programs using private media where, backstopped by his lieutenants and Ronnie Nathanielz types, he can say what he wants in any manner he wants.

His boys also control a formidable group of newspapers taken from Kokoy Romualdez of a previous dispensation. Their combined circulation is enough to swamp competing newspapers.

* * *

ASIDE from this, Erap Estrada is now being handled with kid gloves by a major newspaper whose owners recently waved the white flag to gain back lost business and protect their other mercantile interests.

Another big newspaper known to kowtow to whoever sits in Malacañang is also still around ever ready to do the bidding of the President and thereby assure continued protection of the owner.

In addition, there are smaller papers owned and operated by his friends who are oozing with money and are therefore equipped to do a thorough job of dishing out propaganda for the Boss.

So what unfriendly media is the President whining about?

* * *

HAVING mentioned, even if superficially, the ultra-friendly media chorus surrounding the President, we hasten to add that this newsman does not begrudge the President and his media friends their symbiotic relationship.

All is fair. Each to his own racket.

We have been in this bruising business long enough to have learned to accept the reality of some media owners seeking presidential favor with the use of their newspapers or radio-TV network.

* * *

WHEN the owners of a major paper, hurting from advertising losses, recently sought an audience with the President to arrange a modus vivendi, we were not a bit surprised. We’ve seen that before and were, in fact, expecting it.

One lesson from this abject surrender is that, as Chino Roces and Eggie Apostol used to say, it is always best that publishers are not engaged in any other high-profile businesses aside from newspapering.

Another lesson we have to relearn is that it is extremely difficult fighting City Hall.

So that, for a sitting President to reverse this line and whine about a supposedly critical press and blame it for his falling political stock is to play the absurd.

* * *

THERE more credible reasons why the President’s popularity is in a steep dive. The Postscript survey of readers is likely to identify these reasons. The people themselves will tell us how they rate the President and why.

We cannot believe that the President still does not know the real reasons. We cannot believe that he has been that isolated from reality.

For as long as our President fails or refuses to acknowledge reality, he will not be able to move forward or to salvage his fast-eroding political standing. He has to start somewhere, and that somewhere must be on solid facts, on reality.

* * *

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

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