I have placed the Philippine Trust Index table at the top of this column so readers can quickly refer to it as I discuss the substance of the index, its survey base, and its startling conclusions on how our people view six key institutions of society, in terms of their level of trust in them.
The presentation of the 2014 Index in Makati on October 27, was low-key and without fanfare. But in a sense, the event was just as dramatic and significant as the Supreme Court’s announcement last July of its long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Its judgment was just as harsh as the SC decision.
And its capability to discomfit Malacañang and its temporary occupant is just as real.
When a responsible communications company, aided by a reputable graduate school of business, publicly reports that based on its survey of public opinion throughout the archipelago, the Government of the Philippine Republic is viewed by our people as the least trustworthy institution in the country, it is an event of more than routine interest. It is news. And it is definitely a worthy subject for a column.
Palace caught off-guard and speechless
It gets more sticky when you delve into the survey’s findings.
The survey’s main conclusions can be quickly summarized and could cause indigestion for some people.
1. Of six social institutions (the Church, academe, media, government, non-government organizations and business), the government is the least trusted by our people, with only 11 percent of respondents expressing trust in government.
2. In turn, the Church (encompassing all religions and congregations) enjoys the highest level of trust among our people, with 75 percent of respondents expressing trust in it.
A friend remarked to me that it was a good thing EON did not include in the survey non-formal institutions like jueteng, cockfighting and the CPP-NPA–they might rank higher than the government in the public’s esteem.
In the face of the deflating survey results, the usually voluble spokesmen and spinmasters of President Aquino had nothing to say. They did not shrug off the index or challenge its findings; they did not parse or rationalize or pass blame to the Gloria Arroyo administration. In a word, they were just constipated, perhaps waiting for their master to get their juices flowing.
When informed about the index, top officers of both houses of Congress were not surprised and seemed resigned.
Survey methodology and scope
The 2014 Philippine Trust Index is subtitled “Understanding
the trust landscape In the Philippines.”
Respondents in the survey are members of the population who are identified as the “informed public”—adult Filipinos between 25 to 65 years old, who have completed at least three years of tertiary education—and “the general public.”
EON The Stakeholder Relations Firm designed and conducted the survey for the first time in 2011. It undertakes the survey in cooperation with the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.
The first Index was presented in September 2011. Interviews nationwide were conducted from May to june 2011.
The second PTI was conducted in 2012, with interviews undertaken from October 2012 to December 2012. It was presented to the public in February 2013.
The third PTI survey was undertaken by EON from May to June this year. It was officially presented on October 27.
The 2014 survey covered 1,626 respondents from both the informed and general public. Face-to-face interviews with respondents from urban and rural areas in NCR, North Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were conducted.
Diminishing trust in government
The new survey’s findings show that the Church remains the most trusted institution among the general public at 75% rating. This is followed by Academe (53%), Media (33%), Business (13%), and NGOs (12%). Last on the list is the Government, with a trust level of 11% among the general public.
That government enjoys the least trust of our people is saddening, and should alarm the Aquino administration because the three PTIs cover years when Aquino was at the helm of government. And it is a story of diminishing trust ratings from 2011 to 2014.
In the first trust index, government had a high trust rating of 40 percent. And the Office of the President had the highest rating among government agencies.
This year, everything is all down. Government trust is down to a low of 11 percent. Individually, The Office of the president appears bent on contesting with the Senate the dubious title of least trusted government institution.
Tracking trust ratings over the three study periods, the Church and Academe enjoyed an increase in trust ratings since 2012. Interestingly, the Church saw a significant increase of 21% among informed publics in urban areas. On the other hand, the Government experienced the opposite, with its trust ratings sliding during the study period. Trust ratings among government agencies also dipped since 2012, with the largest drops observed for the Office of the President and the Senate.
Across all of government, Congress enjoyed the least trust.
The presidency enjoys only marginally better ratings. While both houses of Congress are distrusted by our people, the Senate fares worse than the House. The Senate now enjoys the sorry distinction of being the least trusted institution in Philippine society.
The roles have reversed because senators now command even more pork than congressmen. In the past, only congressmen were entitled to a share of the pork barrel, because they represented specific legislative districts. The invention of pork for senators is the single most corrupting development that has weakened our legislature.
Leadership is about trust
Considering the heights of Aquino’s erstwhile approval and trust ratings, it must be asked why the President has sunk so low in the public’s esteem. What caused the precipitous decline?
The answer may lie in the definition of leadership itself, and the President’s clear failure to provide enough of it.
Warren Bennis, the well-known leadership teacher, scholar and best-selling author, summarized memorably the essence of leadership in a simple epigram:
“Leadership is about trust— about people.”
And he proceeds to enumerate and explain the four ingredients of the creation of trust in an organization or a group. These are:
First, the leader must have competence. The followers have to trust his or her capacity to do the job.
Second, there should be congruity between what the leader says and what he does. Action is congruent with the leader’s vision.
Third, people want constancy in their leader. They want to know that in the heat of battle, their leader will support them, defend them and come through with what they need to win.
Fourth and finally, the leader must be caring. The leader cares about the lives of the people with whom he works, he empathizes with them.
Competence, congruity, constancy and caring—these are precisely the qualities that Filipinos are missing in their president. As well as in Congress and its leadership.
We have a government without serious leaders today. We have for leaders politicians who absolutely have no gravitas, which roughly means “moral seriousness.” No one commands respect.
Distrust and doubt began with Aquino’s infantile slogans. “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” [If there are no corrupt people, there are no poor] quickly became a parody of itself. The result is a record number of corrupt and poor people in Philippine history.
“Tuwid na daan” (straight path philosophy of governance) turned crooked, once budget Secretary Butch Abad got to work and Mar Roxas started plotting his route to the presidency.
When Aquino proclaimed the Philippines under his watch as the new Asian economic miracle, foreigner and native alike were incredulous.
The inability of our people to trust their government is not just lamentable; it is dangerous for the nation and for our standing in the world.