POSTSCRIPT / July 11, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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80% rating boosts Duterte’s control

THE LATEST Social Weather Stations survey saying that eight out of every 10 adult Filipinos are satisfied with the performance of President Duterte gives him at the midpoint of his term psychological boost to carry out his most controversial plans.

The 80-percent grade given him is record-setting. It beats the comparative midterm poll ratings of all his predecessors after the 1986 EDSA Revolt — Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Erap Estrada, Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino.

The SWS conducted its nationwide survey June 22-26 by interviewing 1,200 adults who had been selected to speak for the 108 million Filipinos scattered over 1,488 towns, 146 cities, 81 provinces and the national capital region.

You know anyone in your locality or circle who had been asked the survey question: “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?”

Duterte’s net satisfaction rating of +68 percent (80% satisfied minus 12% dissatisfied), described by SWS as “very good,” generally cuts across urban-rural areas, economic sectors, sexes, age groups, educational levels, etc., so the rated satisfaction is well spread out.

As expected, Duterte’s followers hailed the survey while his detractors questioned it. The nation remains divided, despite the recent May 13 elections showing him looking like he has practically consolidated political power through the ballot.

We are waiting to see how the competing Pulse Asia survey will improve on that “very good” 80-percent rating given by SWS. For both polls to look credible, we think they should reflect more or less the same strong support for the same Duterte. If they don’t, there’s something wrong.

The surveys’ reporting similar high approval of his presidency, which is expected, would help nip destabilization and coup plots, protest marches, an inquiry by international bodies of violations of human rights of Filipinos, and a spreading impression of a traitorous sellout to China.

That is one propaganda value of poll surveys in a worrisome period of doubt and desperation of the rulers.

Favorable polls help condition the people to accept a creeping consolidating of power — such as the virtual Executive capture of both chambers of the Congress – making it easier to block impeachment, push Charter Change and legislation laying the basis for controversial administration plans.

Suddenly, the amendment or revision of the Constitution to tailor it to Duterte’s ulterior agenda looks feasible, after the surveys appeared to have given the President a renewed vote of confidence.

With his supermajority control of the Congress, Duterte could rewrite charter provisions on the national territory, access to natural resources, foreign participation in business ventures, the dividing of the country into autonomous regions to accommodate political dynasties, and lifting term limits.

As Duterte’s approval and satisfaction ratings hit 80 percent, true or not, he could do almost anything – especially in the face of the opposition’s debacle in the last elections, of critics having been sufficiently intimidated, and of political opportunists flocking to his swelling camp.

 Du30 didn’t appoint Speaker, he anointed him

A GOOD example of how political control can blur the lines between what is legal and illegal, between what is proper and improper, is the selection by President Duterte of the Speaker of the House of Representatives who should be chosen by his peers.

As squabbles appeared to delay the Speaker’s election in time for the convening of the 18th Congress on July 22, Duterte simply stepped in and chose Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to share the term, with Cayetano holding the first half.

Netizens assailed the open interference as a violation of the separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislative branches. But conditioned by the by-now-normal meddling by Malacañang in the internal affairs of co-equal bodies, the debaters have quieted down.

Don’t tell anyone, but even this tired observer has sort of accepted the political reality. When Clintonology @Simply_Clinton asked on Twitter “Inaapoint na ngayon ang House Speaker?” we replied: “Hindi ina-appoint ang Speaker. Ina-anoint.”

Answering an email of media colleague Nonnie Pelayo, we tried sounding like an expert: “If you’re referring to Duterte’s showing his preference for Speaker, that’s only persuasive, not coercive, and therefore not a violation of the concept of separation of powers. Duterte will not install the Speaker; the House will. It being not a culpable violation of the Constitution, it is not impeachable.”

On a signature campaign to file an impeachment complaint against the President’s perceived violation of the Constitution on the separation of powers, we cautioned:

“Duterte’s detractors better be careful about filing an impeachment complaint that will surely fail in a Congress ruled by his proxies. A failed impeachment will bar the filing of another one within one year of the earlier complaint.” (We remembered our late friend Oliver Lozano, esq.)

Duterte himself explained, and we want to give him the benefit of the doubt: “There seems to be crisis already. Nobody is willing… I am not interfering in the work of legislation. We are just talking about leaders only, there is nothing to do with the independence of the… up to that point it’s all politics.”

When we dump time-honored rules laid down to ensure orderly processes and a respect for the rights of others, however, we invite chaos. But try telling that to a President who has just received a sparkling 80-percent satisfaction rating.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 11, 2019)

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