Lawmakers weigh in on low numbers in survey
MANILA - The pork barrel scam has taken its toll on the public's opinion of lawmakers, based on the latest Pulse Asia Survey taken from September 14 to 27, 2013.
Pulse Asia said the controversy regarding the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of several lawmakers appears to have adversely affected public opinion regarding the performance and trustworthiness of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
The overall approval ratings of these institutions dropped during from June to September 2013.
The survey showed minus 14 percentage points for the Senate and minus 15 percentage points for the House of Representatives.
Likewise, trust in these institutions eased markedly (-15 and -19 percentage points, respectively).
On the other hand, disapproval for and distrust in the Senate and House of Representatives became more manifest between June and September 2013 (+10 and +12 percentage points versus +8 and +12 percentage points).
The Senate also experienced an increase in its disapproval and distrust ratings in the Visayas (+14 and +16 percentage points, respectively) and Class D +11 and +14 percentage points, respectively).
Only two of the top five officials of the Philippine government obtained majority overall approval and trust ratings.
The trust ratings of the Supreme Court, meanwhile, remained unchanged.
Most Filipinos remained appreciative of the quarterly performance of only President Benigno Aquino and Vice-President Jejomar Binay (79% and 77%, respectively).
Meanwhile, one in two Filipinos (50%) also approved of the work done by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon. Almost the same overall approval and indecision ratings were given to House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. (37% and 41%, respectively) and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno (42% and 39%, respectively).
The disapproval scores of these key government officials ranged from 7% for Aquino and Binay to 19% for Belmonte.
Aquino and Binay also obtained majority national trust ratings (76% and 74%, respectively). For Drilon, a near majority of Filipinos (46%) trusted him.
PDAF scandal fallout
It also appears that the controversy surrounding the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) involving some lawmakers adversely affected public perception of Drilon's performance as he experienced a marked decline in his national approval rating (-12 percentage points) and an increase in his overall indecision figure (+9 percentage points) between June and September 2013.
Indecision was the plurality opinion on the matter of trusting or distrusting Belmonte (41%) while Sereno registered virtually the same overall trust and indecision figures (40% and 39%,respectively).
Distrust was more pronounced toward Belmonte and Sereno (21% and 18%, respectively) than Aquino and Binay (7% and 6%, respectively).
The overall performance and trust ratings of four of the country’s five leading government officials remained generally constant between June and September 2013/ Public assessment of the performance of the top five Philippine government officials remained basically unchanged during the period June to September 2013.
Even the movement in President Aquino’s overall approval score (+6 percentage points) is considered marginal due to the survey’s overall error margin of +/- 3 percentage points).
Only the Supreme Court succeeded in getting a majority approval rating (53%) while none of the three – the Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court – enjoyed the trust of most Filipinos.
In September 2013, 53% of Filipinos approved of the work done by the Supreme Court. In contrast, the Senate and House of Representatives registered nearly the same approval and indecision ratings (39% versus 36% and 37% versus 38%, respectively).
Meanwhile, one in two Filipinos (50%) trusted the Supreme Court. The Senate obtained almost the same trust and indecision ratings (36% versus 39%) but indecision was the plurality sentiment toward the trustworthiness of the House of representatives(42%).
Belmonte downplays survey results
In a text message, Belmonte shrugged off the survey results. "I’m happy about PNoy’s score. That’s what counts."
Belmonte was not at the Batasan as of press time. His daughter, Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, reacted in defense of her father.
“I think comparatively, maybe it might be lower than the others but I think in relation to other speakers of the House and other houses of Congress, mataas pa rin rate niya. He’s still quite happy," Belmonte said. "He always tells me current Congress and previous Congress that he still got higher ratings than other congresses. Lagi niya iniisip, challenge ito. We will work harder para itaas ang tingin ng tao."
She was also not surprised by the survey, considering the fallout from the pork barrel scam. For her part though, she pointed out that her dad was not a member of Congress at the time that the scam allegedly happened.
Akabayan Rep. Walden Bello said he is not surprised by the survey results. "I can understand why the public trust in both chambers has gone down because of the way both chambers are involved in pork."
To remedy this, he offered this advice: "One of the things we have to do now is pass the freedom of information law. If Malacanang gives the signal, it can be passed within a week."
"The President should listen to this this is a sign we're taking this seriously. If we're to open up to maximum transparency, what we should do is immediately pass FOI Act," he said.
A fellow FOI advocate, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat added, "the only solution is pass the FOI. Kahit anong statements pagpapaliwanag sa pork barrel, mistrust is already planted. The only way to reverse is to pass the FOI [bill]. It has to come from Congress."
However, House public information committee chair Rep. Jorge Almonte claims it's more of perception. "I will say that when the reporting does not cover everything, there will be a sudden change in the perception of people. The trouble is we're judged by perception, not by facts. What’s important is we ought to be judged by facts."
Asked if he agrees that passing the FOI bill will help save Congress’ reputation, “Two different things but I'd like to think the interest of the country should be considered. We have to pass laws not only for sometime but all time."
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said, "natural iyon na babagsak ang trust ratings ng institusyon na involved sa pork barrel scam."
He cited the downtrend in previous surveys, as well as the public outrage over the scam.
Colmenares said the lateness of the Senate’s probe and the refusal of the House to probe the scam may have made things worse.
He advised the legislature to completely abolish the pork barrel system if it wants to save itself.