Callousness and 7 Years of Gloria Arroyo's Performance Dissatisfaction

by Jesusa Bernardo (First published at Newsvine on 19 Dec. 2007 Updated 17 August 2008 HKT) The latest satisfaction survey ratings on Philippine President Gloria Arroyo goes beyond confirming what had been a protracted negative perception and sentiment of the Filipinos towards her presidency: it shows that she is seen as the most unpopular and the worst leader the Southeast Asia country had seen in 22 years. In October last year, a different survey revealed how Filipinos regard her as the "Most Corrupt" president, beating the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the title. True to her apparently indurate character, seven years of unofficial public expression to her regime have sadly only fallen on deaf ears.

The latest figures from the 2008 second quarter study of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) polling firm shows a negative (-) 38 net rating, even lower than the previous record low Arroyo herself has set in 2005 at the height of the "Hello Garci" wiretapped tape controversy that purportedly proved she rigged the 2004 presidential elections. Arroyo, whose assumption to the presidency has been hounded by questions of legitimacy, is the only Philippine President to ever post negative ratings based on various periodic surveys. Beginning October 2005, her ratings have consistently been in the negative range. According to the SWS survey held from June 27-30, 2008, only 22% are satisfied while 60% are dissatisfied with the performance of Arroyo, leaving her with a Net Satisfaction rating of –38 (% satisfied minus % dissatisfied). The net figure represents a new record-low for all post-Martial

Law Presidents, surpassing the previous record of –33, which Arroyo herself posted in May 2005.

The research study shows that all areas of the country are highly dissatisfied, as the ratings hit record bottoms across all socio-economic classes. It shows that for the first time, the gross dissatisfaction registered at majority levels in all areas studied: Metro Manila, 63%; rest of Luzon, 60%; Visayas, 56%; and Mindanao 62%. Even in Arroyo’s traditional ‘bailiwick,’ the Visayas region, satisfaction rating of the controversial President plummeted to a record low of -33. The dissatisfaction among the ABCs or middle-to-upper classes also worsened, as members of these groups are now just as dissatisfied with Arroyo as the Filipinos belonging to class D. Worth mentioning is an earlier SWS performance satisfaction survey held after the October 2007 grant of pardon to deposed President Joseph Estrada. Despite the grant of executive clemency to the defamed but still popular former leader, Arroyo still received a net negative satisfaction rating of (-) 16 during the last quarter of 2007. The negative mark came despite the general public approval of the executive clemency she granted to former President Joseph Estrada in October. The same survey showed that 54 percent of Filipinos approved of the pardon to Estrada, who was accused, tried and found guilty of Plunder under very controversial circumstances. Another earlier survey by SWS presented the majority belief of Filipinos (62%) that Estrada did not engage in corruption during his term; majority also expected his acquittal from the charges pinned against him by Arroyo's government. Historical surveys from 2001 until 2007 have depicted how Filipinos increasingly disbelieved the accusations of Plunder against Estrada.

Arroyo came to power in 2001 through EDSA 2, a civilian-backed military uprising that removed Estrada from power. The International Herald Tribune reported that the "opportunist coalition of church, business elite and left,” and former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Corazon Aquino orchestrated the uprising that culminated with the defection of the top military brass. The defamed President was elected in 1998 with the highest percentage of plurality lead votes in the entire electoral history of the Philippines since gaining its Independence: Estrada garnered a lead of 23.7% from his nearest rival House Speaker Jose de Venecia. Following President Estrada’s arrest on charges of plunder by the Arroyo administration in 2001, a much larger civilian uprising known as EDSA 3 tried but failed to reinstate him because they lacked the prerequisite support from the military. The Only President to Ever Score Dissatisfaction Arroyo is the only president, since 1986 when the SWS surveys on Philippine presidents began, to ever receive negative net performance ratings, and for persisting periods, at that. Even the predecessor she helped depose, President Joseph Estrada, never crossed the neutral or zero level satisfaction rating. Well into the height of the "Erap Resign" demonstrations led by two former Presidents and herself, the business elite and the Roman Catholic Church, Estrada held on to a +9 net public satisfaction rating in the December 8-17 last quarter survey of 2000. As a matter of fact, even as Vice-President, Gloria Arroyo already earned the dissatisfaction and distrust of the Filipinos. The same fourth quarter SWS survey for 2000 demonstrated a foreboding of what would be her place in public perception for the next seven years. Apparently because of her role in the 'Erap Resign' movement calculated to benefit her as the constitutional successor, the survey firm reported that Gloria suffered "EXTREME CUT IN POPULARITY," earning a --6 performance satisfaction rating. Additionally, SWS president Mahar Mahangas' report on their last survey on Estrada's presidency, showed that the former leader enjoyed a relatively high +11 net national trust rating; in stark contrast, the same survey presented a net

distrust rating of 11 points as Estrada's next-in-line. The survey that measured the trust confidence of the people was conducted some two weeks before Estrada was forced to leave Malacanang (January 6-9, 2001), The president to hold the distinction of having received the lowest net SWS satisfaction rating next to Arroyo was Fidel Ramos, who received net ratings of +1 and +2 in two quarters of 1995; however, even the former leader considered to be a "minority president" never crossed the negative line of public satisfaction. Uncannily and ironically for a President that was supposed to have been installed by popular uprising and likewise supposed to have won the May 2004 elections, Arroyo has suffered negative net satisfaction ratings for practically 15 out of her total 28 quarters as president, or over half of her regime. Only two years into Arroyo's administration, the incumbent leader dubbed by Estrada's supporters as the "power grab president" began her nearly consistent show of negative satisfaction, as according to SWS periodic survey studies. Even her "best" consecutive show of two quarters in 2004 is tainted with doubt because there were allegations that her administration unduly influenced the SWS survey results during the period by sending "advanced" PR and outreach mission teams to the targeted SWS sampling populations, the knowledge of which they somehow managed to obtain. Filipinos' dissatisfaction with her has been negative such that she has practically lowered the benchmark for surveys on presidents. Every time there has been a percentage movement nearer zero level, Arroyo's drumbeaters would joyously proclaim that she has gained public acceptance--seemingly forgetting or ignoring the fact that her overall performance is still adjudged as negative or unsatisfactory. Where before, social weather polls that showed presidents were nearing the dissatisfaction mark would set them into almost a state of panic and take appropriate measures, Arroyo's continued unsatisfactory performance betrays her callous regard of what the Filipinos think. The highest public level of net satisfaction rating she obtained was +30 percent while the previous lowest rating was -30 percent. The country's past post-Martial Law presidents all shared satisfaction ratings that nearly hugged the +70 percent at their peaks and of course, never once fell into the embarrassing position of being negatively adjudged by the people. The extraconstitutional ascent to power, an almost endless litany of corruption issues, and allegations of cheating in the May 2004 elections that have marked Arroyo's presidency are generally thought to account for her protracted most unsatisfactory performance. In October 2007, results of a nationwide survey conducted by Pulse Asia adjudged Gloria Arroyo as the dirtiest or “Most Corrupt President” in contrast to Estrada, whom she deposed, who is regarded as the second cleanest or second “Least Corrupt President” in the history of the Philippines.

The SWS and Pulse Asia are established polling firms in the Philippines. The head of the SWS, considered Asia's oldest, is a recipient of the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) Helen Dinerman Prize. Pulse Asia, on the other, is headed by University of the Philippines professor Felipe Miranda. National survey results of the two research polling firms are oftentimes cited by Arroyo in her State of the Nation Address and in certain other government pronouncements. ________ References: Bowring, Philip. "Filipino Democracy Needs Stronger Institutions" 22 Jan. 2001. International Herald Tribune. December/4th Qtr. 2000 SWS Survey: ERAP Hangs on to +9 Net-Satisfaction, as Classes and Regions Polarize. Social Weather Stations. Historical Philippine Presidential election results: The Philippine Presidency Project Mangahas, Mahar. "16 Feb. 2001." Social Weather Stations. Pulse Asia Survey on the Least Corrupt and Most Corrupt Presidents in Philippine History: Additional Findings on Corruption-Related Issues. ( Second Quarter 2008 Social Weather Survey: PGMA's net rating falls to record-low -38. Social Weather Stations.

SWS 4th Quarter Survey: Ratings of GMA, Davide, Congress, Supreme Court Suffer Amid Political Discord. Social Weather Stations. SWS media release to the 2007 4th Quarter survey that shows Arrobo's renewed slip to 2-digit negative satisfaction and public approval of the Estrada pardon: Fourth Quarter 2007 Social Weather Survey: GMA's net satisfaction rating falls to -16, even if 54% approved her pardon of Erap. ( SWS survey held weeks before the Sandiganbayan judgment, which shows an overwhelming majority of Filipinos now do not believe that Estrada engaged in corruption as President: September 2-5, 2007 Social Weather Survey: Majority expected Erap to be acquitted. ( Tabular data on Arroyo and Comparative data on the four Presidents: Net Satisfaction Ratings of Presidents Philippines, May 1986 to June 2007. Social Weather Stations. (