POSTSCRIPT / December 30, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Duterte -- the man to beat in 2019 polls

EVERYTHING considered, President Duterte would still be the man to beat if a referendum on his presidency were to be held simultaneously with the election of members of the next Congress in May 2019. His endorsement would boost a candidate’s chances of victory.

Duterte’s pulling power was indicated in the Dec. 6-11 nationwide survey of the Social Weather Stations that found 74 percent of adult Filipinos satisfied with his performance, with 15 percent dissatisfied, and 11 percent undecided.

Until other credible independent surveys show otherwise, or unless there is a major supervening event resulting in a substantial erosion of his public approval, Duterte appears to be in full control.

The President is not running in 2019, but the midterm election that year will serve as a referendum of his acceptability as leader of a country in a difficult transition.

There is no effective political opposition to speak of in the first place. The remnants of the Liberal Party defeated in 2016 are in disarray, with no unifying leader, no nationwide machinery down to the grassroots, and no war chest to fund a serious campaign.

Opposition stalwarts, most of them tainted, have been intimidated into silence or acquiescence. There are impressive new faces, but there is no ideological glue that binds them except for their common desire to rid the country of Duterte and his ilk.

The eight senatorial aspirants of the opposition have earned sympathy in social media, but blogs, tweets and gifs do not vote. Their strategists have to figure out how to convert “follow” and “like” into votes at the barangay/precinct level.

Duterte and the turncoats and hangers-on who have jumped onto his bandwagon enjoy the advantage of the incumbent’s power, as well as the billions in private and public funds within his reach. With his iron-grip on power, how can a timid opposition topple him?

 Duterte caps 2018 with ‘very good’

THE SWS fourth quarter survey gave Duterte a “very good” net satisfaction rating of +60 (74 percent satisfied minus 15 percent dissatisfied). This is up by 6 points from the very good +54 in September 2018.

This brings Duterte’s 2018 annual average net satisfaction score to +54, which while it is 5 points below his “very good” average rating of net +59 in 2017, is still considered “very good” by SWS.

His December net satisfaction rating has gone up in Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Balance Luzon, as well as in all socio-economic classes, and among high school and college graduates.

The 6-point rise in Duterte’s net satisfaction rating from September to December this year was due to increases of 22 points in Metro Manila, 13 points in the Visayas, and 3 points in Balance Luzon.

In Mindanao, Duterte’s home base, his satisfaction rating was “excellent” at +73 (83 percent satisfied minus 10 percent dissatisfied), although down by 4 points from +77 (82 percent satisfied minus 5 percent dissatisfied) in September.

The question that SWS interviewers asked 360 respondents each in Balance Luzon, Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao was:

“Maaari po bang pakisabi ninyo kung gaano kayo nasisiyahan o hindi nasisiyahan sa pagganap ng tungkulin ni Rodrigo Duterte bilang Presidente ng Pilipinas. Kayo ba ay lubos na nasisiyahan, medyo nasisiyahan, hindi tiyak kung nasisiyahan o hindi, medyo hindi nasisiyahan, lubos na hindi nasisiyahan, o wala pa kayong narinig o nabasa kahit na kailan tungkol kay Rodrigo Duterte?”

(“Please tell me how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with the performance of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines. Are you very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, undecided if satisfied or dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, or you have not ever heard or read anything about Rodrigo Duterte?”).

 ‘Vote straight!’ exhortation not illegal

FORMER President (now Speaker) Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was acquitted on Dec. 17 of electoral fraud charges by the Pasay Regional Trial Court after finding no evidence that she had rigged the 2007 senatorial elections as alleged.

Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay RTC 112 ruled: “For failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of accused Arroyo beyond reasonable doubt and moral certainty despite ample opportunity and even without evidence in (her) favor xxx the charge of electoral sabotage is hereby ordered dismissed.”

The court granted Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence, which means that the former president did not bother to present evidence. She found no need to submit evidence as the charge was, according to her, without basis.

The judge dismissed the claim of former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas that he heard Arroyo say “Dapat 12-0 sa Maguindanao, kahit ayusin o palitan pa ang resulta.” (It should be 12-0 in Maguindanao, even if you have to fix or change the results).

Election lawyer Romy Macalintal said the dismissal of the electoral sabotage case would benefit all political parties and their candidates in the May 2019 election, especially in the senatorial race.

He noted that the complaint against Arroyo was based solely on her alleged exhortation to the public to “vote straight” for her party’s senatorial bets in 2007. While the case was dropped on Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence, the basic reason for its dismissal was that mere encouragement by parties or political leaders to “vote straight” for their candidates is not an election offense.

Macalintal said: “There is nothing illegal or unlawful to campaign for the entire slate of a political party or group especially so that the Constitution allows multi-party system in our electoral processes.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 30, 2018)

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