The “excellent” satisfaction and trust rating garnered by President Rodrigo Duterte in the recent nationwide survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia surveys is proof that Duterte still has his finger on the nation’s pulse.
Clearly, the slew of political controversies during Duterte’s first 100 days in office has had no effect on his individual popularity with many Filipinos. International condemnation for his violent and bloody crackdown on drugs pushers, his repeated and expletive-laced rants against Obama and other international leaders, and his inadvertent reference to Holocaust and Hitler, have hardly made a dent on his image among our countrymen.
Duterte’s high rating is all the more remarkable considering that it comes amid a sinking peso, and an underhanded campaign by his political adversaries – funded by the Yellow Army and their well-heeled supporters – to discredit his war on drugs (and collaterally, his administration) by resurrecting the issue of his alleged links with the Davao Death Squad (DDS).
As chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Senator Leila De Lima – PNoy’s Justice secretary and long-time critic of Duterte, who, as head of the Commission on Human Rights, investigated Duterte’s alleged connection to vigilante death squads – produced self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who claimed that the then Davao City mayor ordered the killing of suspected criminals.
But Matobato’s accusations failed to stick to Duterte. The numerous glaring inconsistencies in Matobato’s testimony and his many outrageous declarations permanently damaged his credibility. That it took him more than three years to surface and tell-all didn’t help his cause either.
When the story of de Lima’s “star witness” failed to gain traction, Duterte’s critics have taken to attacking his “war on drugs” as anti-poor. For instance, in their report to the United Nations, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) headed by Chito Gascon – a former top official of the Liberal Party – claimed that the war on drugs by the Duterte administration has “targeted and negatively affected the poor.”
The “excellent” performance and trust rating received by Duterte, however, effectively debunks the argument that his war on drugs is a war against the poor.
First off, in Pulse Asia’s “Presidential Performance and Trust Ratings” survey, where Duterte’s overall performance scored an approval rating of 86 percent, the sectors allegedly affected and targeted by the drug war – the class D (or the “masa”) and the class E (or the “poorest”) – gave him a “excellent” performance approval rating of 86 percent and 88 percent, respectively.
A similar SWS “Awareness and Trust” survey showed that 84 percent of the “masa” (class D) has “much trust” in Duterte, with his net trust rating staying as “excellent.” His trust rating among the poorest (class E) dipped slightly to 80 percent but nonetheless remained “very good.”
Moreover, in the Third Quarter 2016 SWS survey on the “Satisfaction with the Government’s Campaign against Illegal Drugs” conducted from Sept. 24-27, 2016, Duterte received an “excellent” net satisfaction rating of 76 percent, with more than eight out of 10 Filipinos saying they were satisfied with the performance of the government in its campaign against illegal drugs. The SWS survey also found that more than eight out of 10 Filipinos believe the government’s campaign against illegal drugs does not discriminate by class.
Segregated by class, the survey results show that 84 percent of the respondents from the masa (class D) and 86 percent from the poorest sector (class E) said they were satisfied with the campaign against illegal drugs. Why? Because even though it is true that a disproportionate number of masa or the poor are casualties of the drug war, it is also the masa or the poor who are most victimized by drug-related crimes and are most affected by the drug menace in their communities.
Not surprisingly, the June 2016 SWS survey on “neighborhood fears” found a record-high fear of drug addicts among Filipinos, with more than sixt of 10 Filipinos (64 percent) agreeing that there were already very many people addicted to banned drugs in their neighborhood, and more than five of 10 Filipinos (53 percent) are afraid of walking on the streets at night because it is not safe to do so.
These neighborhood fears are definitely not unfounded. Although methamphetamines are a serious problem in the country, which has the highest usage rate in Southeast Asia, there was little proof on how pervasive the drug problem really was – until Duterte’s war on drugs.
So far, the PNP has registered almost 750,000 “surrenderers” for its “Oplan Tokhang,” a program where those on a drug watchlist voluntarily surrender to avoid being targeted by police operations. Meanwhile, the surrender and confession of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa brought out into the open the oft-rumored involvement of politicians in the drug trade.
But it is the exposé of the drug lords from Bilibid that exposed the gravity of the drug menace and shocked many Filipinos. It reveals how the illegal drug trade in the country flourished with the cooperation, or at the instigation, of top government officials – and how it has corrupted and co-opted entire government institutions.
So it should not surprise anyone that despite De Lima’s claim that the country now has “death squads on a national scale,” there is no public outrage over the rising death toll in Duterte’s war on drugs.
With his excellent trust rating, Duterte still has enormous political capital and goodwill to make drastic changes in order to address the top concerns of ordinary Filipinos: affordable healthcare, quality public education, inexpensive housing, cheap basic goods, and more well-paying jobs. A daunting challenge indeed.