The SWS mobile ‘survey’ and an Indonesian tycoon’s potential, crucial role in our elections


Part I
The SWS-Bilang Pilipino Mobile “Surveys” are so seriously flawed that their results are highly questionable. Their operators can easily manipulate them to portray any candidate as the frontrunner. They should be stopped immediately.

An insult to us Filipinos, the subsidiaries of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) – controlled by Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim – solely run the technical operations of this “survey,” and would, therefore, be in a position to manipulate the project’s results if they chose to do so. This could mean that for the first time ever in our history – except perhaps the American CIA intervention in the 1950s – a foreign entity, an Indonesian, could play a big, even crucial, role in our presidential elections.

Voting preference surveys in this country have become crucial not really for convincing weak-minded voters to go for the poll leaders. Huge amounts of funds – at least P5 billion for presidential contest – are required for the expensive print and media ads and for the all-important mobilization of a grass-roots machinery to cover the archipelago before and especially on election day. Without a real political party system, candidates have to rely on donations by tycoons and businessmen.

The tyranny of polls in this country is that businessmen, being opportunistic, rely on polls to determine which candidate they should support financially. Many even allocate their contributions in accordance with each candidate’s percentage ratings in such polls.

I put the word “survey” in quotation marks when referring to this SWS project, as it is not really an opinion poll as we know it, but involves getting the views of the same permanent panel of about 750 people.

Yet, a big part of the “survey”’s deception is in its name itself, as most people could be misled to think it is the same kind of surveys SWS and other pollsters have been doing, which is to pick randomly – for each survey – respondents, from 1,200 to 3,000 people, weighted as to their geographical residence to reflect the population in the case of a national survey.

The SWS mobile “survey,” though, is totally different from legitimate polls as we know them.

Behind the SWS mobile “survey” for the May elections: from left, SWS head Mangahas, PLDT’s controlling stockholder – the Indonesian Anthoni Salim – and his top executive, Manuel Pangilinan.

Behind the SWS mobile “survey” for the May elections: from left, SWS head Mangahas, PLDT’s controlling stockholder – the Indonesian Anthoni Salim – and his top executive, Manuel Pangilinan.

Instead of taking a random sample for each survey run, or those taken every week, the SWS mobile “survey” organized a panel of 1,200 people, who were given cellphones as an incentive to participate. The cellphone service is free for use in the duration of the project and would be owned by the users after the elections. With its response rate, according to SWS President Mahar Mangahas, declining from the time it started to just 63 percent, the panel consists of just 750 people. At most it is an oversized “focus group,” whose views are collected – cheaply – through SMS messaging.

Views of same people

What this SWS project has done and will be reporting are the views of the same 750 people initially picked, with a few changes as one panelist may not respond in one survey but does so in another. This is not what legitimate opinion polls do, which is to get the views of different sets of 1,200 people for each “run” of a survey. Getting different sets of respondents, in fact, is crucial to a normal poll’s validity, as this corrects the biases of just one sample.

Yet SWS and its media partners, – which are all part of Indonesian tycoon Salim’s media conglomerate in the country – report the “surveys’” results as if they were no different from the usual, legitimate SWS polls. For instance, the Philippine Star’s (the biggest newspaper in Salim’s conglomerate) recent headlines: April 2 – “More than half in Bilang Pilipino SWS poll have ‘much trust’ in Ombudsman;” April 3 – “Poe, Duterte in statistical tie for top spot in Bilang Pilipino SWS poll; April 5: Escudero tops Bilang Pilipino-SWS poll; Marcos least liked VP bet to win.” It is not reported as an SWS Mobile Poll, just an SWS Poll.

The validity of the usual opinion polls is derived from natural sciences’ logic, in which, for instance, a quality-control engineer takes a pint of beer from a huge vat, and, assuming consistency in that vat, concludes that the quality of all the beer in that vat is so-so. However, to make sure that the result of that pint’s examination is not a fluke, the engineer takes different samples and examines them also to come up with a reasonable judgment on the beer quality of the whole production run.

Using this analogy to describe the SWS mobile “survey,” it is the same pint of beer that had been taken once, which the “quality-control” engineer analyzes every day to check the quality of the beer the factory produces. What if, as the SWS mobile “survey” does really, the original pint was taken from some part in the vat that was so different from the rest of it?

I’m quite sure Mangahas knows this is not what “mobile opinion polls” in the US and elsewhere mean, which takes different samples each time a survey is taken, with respondents interviewed not face-to-face by the pollsters, but through cellphones. This actually has become the prominent method in polls in the US and elsewhere because of the decline in the use of fixed-line phones, their former means of communicating with respondents.

Such polls in the US, however, require much expensive manpower as cellphone owners hate getting unsolicited texts or calls, and telephone companies are barred by law from giving out to third parties private cellphone numbers. Hence, in the US, pollsters have to dial more than 20,000 random numbers just to complete a 1,000-person survey. The response rate has also declined steeply, with one leading pollster, Pew Research Center, reporting by 2014 a measly 8 percent response rate.

Mangahas and his partners invented a cheaper form of mobile “surveying” – simply giving a cellphone to a permanent panel of respondents for them to send their responses. It gives us the false impression that SWS is merely doing the kind of mobile-phone polling most often used in the US, but which is actually an entirely different thing.

Not a poll, but a panel

Mangahas’ mobile “survey” is obviously so totally different, and if there were a professional organization of pollsters here, it would likely demand the dropping of the term “survey,” and replacing it with something like “What our especially-picked 750-person panel thinks today.”

There are fatal flaws in Mangahas’ project that will not qualify it to be called legitimately as an “opinion poll:”

First, legitimate opinion polls must take different samples every time a survey is run, to counter the possible bias of one sample. The SWS “survey” has just one permanent sample.

Can we even trust that his panel is representative of 50 million Filipinos, the estimated number of voters? Mangahas claims the SWS picked the panelists randomly. But why should we trust him, when he lends his institution’s imprimatur to what aren’t really “opinion polls” as we know them? Can he provide us with some documentation to show how the panel was selected? Was he manipulated into picking a panel that consists of partisans for a certain candidate?

Somebody, in fact, had sent me a Facebook message April 2: “A friend of mine, a supporter of Poe and a friend of the Aquinos proudly announced to our circle of friends “dalawang beses na ako na survey.”

I thought at that time that this was preposterous since the odds of being picked twice in two surveys are close to the chances of one person winning the lotto two consecutive times. But after studying the SWS Bilang Pilipino Mobile “Survey,” I realized this was because the person, being included in its panel, has been therefore, already surveyed twice.

Second, the reports on the SWS mobile “surveys” do not even explain that only about 60 percent of its panel members have been responding. For instance, in its press release entitled: “Poe, Duterte in statistical tie for top spot in Bilang Pilipino SWS poll, it reported that 34 percent of respondents” preferred Duterte, 31 percent Poe, 17 percent each for Binay and Roxas, and 1 percent, Santiago. That means a total 100 percent response. How does Mangahas reconcile that then with his own disclosure that the panel’s response rate has just been 60 percent?

And third, the panel itself and its results are so vulnerable to manipulation by the entities that run these fake “surveys.” Unlike the case of Smartmatic, Mangahas’ mobile “survey” involves technology and processes that haven’t been made open to scrutiny by any other outside party. What if its technology partners are able to manipulate the way the responses of its 750-man panel are transmitted to the SWS and summed up?
Panel’s views can  be manipulated

Not only that. Here’s the big danger.

Only the SWS’ telecom and technology operators know the cellphone numbers of the 1,200 persons picked to make up the panel.

What if they manage to send text messages to this panel denigrating certain candidates and praising the candidates they prefer, disguised as TV5 “newsbreaks.” What if, just before the panel members are asked to respond as to their preferences, leading questions are asked that increase the chances of them picking a preferred candidate? If you believe these are preposterous, read a comprehensive article by Bloomberg on such tech-based black-ops, which it claimed helped Mexico’s president elected in 2012,

What are the companies involved in this SWS mobile “survey?” Mangahas disclosed in his column that the project’s software is by Voyager Innovations and the cellphone service provided free by Smart Communications. Its media partners are TV5 Network (including its website and the Philippine Star group of publications.

This is what makes this project pretending to be a survey so anomalous. Voyager Innovations and Smart Communications are 100 percent subsidiaries of PLDT. TV5 and Philippine Star are firms that were officially set up by the telecom giant’s Beneficial Trust Fund – the employees’ pension fund, but controlled by its management – and which have received altogether P18 billion in funding from PLDT directly or its units.

And who controls PLDT? Since 1998 when President Estrada helped him take over the telco giant, it is the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim, who is also the controlling stockholder now of the biggest public-utility conglomerate in the Philippines, with the famous Manuel V. Pangilinan actually only as his chief executive in the country with minimal shares and providing a public face to the corporate management. Don’t we have laws that ban a foreigner’s participation in any way in our elections?

Salim’s conglomerate consists almost entirely of public utility firms that are vulnerable to government regulations, and therefore, to that government’s President. This is really the first time ever that one tycoon — and a foreign one — is the major player in strategic public utilities: telecoms (PLDT), power (Meralco), water distribution (Maynilad Water Services), and expressway operations and construction. Would you believe Salim isn’t interested in the outcome of the presidential elections?

I had pointed out this clear and present danger to our sovereignty in several of my columns in the past two years on the Salim conglomerate. Salim now has in place a well-oiled machine for controlling a population’s mind, and even to convince them which candidate to vote as President. First, a content generator made up of his news enterprises in print, broadcast, and the internet; and second, a content disseminator consisting of his cellphone firm Smart Communications, the biggest in the country, and his cable news network. And now another content generator: the SWS Mobile “Survey.”

What has become of our country?

On  Wednesday, facts – from the reports of his companies themselves — that Salim controls PLDT and its media conglomerate.


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  1. For me I will not base my vote on what surveys said rather I’ll search more on what they are topping this survey. This is just a guide and for us to think how do we will use our one vote. Now this article is attacking private sectors that helped our kababayans. Helping then educated with the current situation that we are having. Enlightening then on what’s the happening in the political scene.

  2. I never did pay much attention to surveys anyway, which I feel are all vulnerable to flaws and manipulation. But I have to wonder why in this season of surveys, Mr. Tiglao singled out the Bilang Pilipino survey. Ah, but of course, Mr. Tiglao, former head of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Regional Committee for Metro Manila and Rizal province, has an axe to grind against the business sector, which this article shows supported the survey. In this time when we have to choose a leader that will pull us out of the mess the Aquino cabal has left behind, the last thing we need is the obsolete xenophobia that has kept us in the Stone Age amongst ASEAN members as far as foreign ownership in businesses goes. Instead we should amend that Constitutional provision to allow more jobs and food on the table which our flawed nationalism has failed to provide.

  3. Harush Nandwani on

    Let the blind lead the blind.. somehow they have fooled the public for so long that they belueve they can go on forever….

  4. july sesenando on

    since this govt is inutile and maybe in cahoots with these people (?), only GOD can save us

  5. The blind lemmings will not think for themselves and will in a heartbeat convict anyone without due process in social media. Sad that the younger folks will vote from perception instead of being an edified voter. Ignorance at the ballot box is nothing new….

  6. I believed in survey 100% if the top is very high, just like during the time when Estrada won the Presidential Election, where in the 2nd to him in survey is almost half percent only. But this kind of survey at present, SURVEY’S FOR Election 2016, which is only 2 points lead or 3 points lead, this is something dubious. But this means also that all the aspirants are close to each other. The 1st 2nd and 3rd in survey will go to achieve and possibly it will be for the 2nd and first in the Survey that the next President will be voted.


  8. Rudi Miranda on

    Congratulations! Graphic and animated sleuthing. Thank you! Really, money talks to make wicked people walk. Wow Salim!

  9. Arnaldo Rafer on

    Good work Mr. Tiglao for exposing Mr. Salim ,Mr. Manny Pangilinan and Mr. Mangahas faulty SWS opinion poll surveys.

  10. same old song with a different tune. Of course surveys are just surveys, it does not even reflect 30% (or less) of the voters. Binay used to lead, and of course that was not real either.:Poe then followed as the leader, again, it is not real. What I can say is, if you follow facebook and other media especially those that reflect the sentiments of the people from OFWs to the poor victims of injustice, Duterte has become the favorite. And oh yes, he cusses, as I do, because certain events and people deserve to be cussed! And with the long years of injustice, who cares if all the criminals and drug lords are thrown into the ocean? They deserve their fate. The poor who did not enrich themselves through power and greed and stealing, had been victims of injustice for a long long time, why not turn around and throw all the corrupt people into the peak of mayon or taal volcano? let them walk their way up to survive. we don’t want them anymore. that is why the people pushed duterte to run, that is why there is no more room for the binays nor the poes and aquinos and the roxases, etc, we the poor are so fed up with the politicking that allows the powerful and the rich to step on our sick bodies deeper into the mud. No more of that!

    • Although Duterte might be leading the survey now, I still not vote for him since Duterte is the major financier of the NPAs in Mindanao. The city of Davao collects taxes and part of this goes to the NPAs as a revolutionary tax. Majority of the intellectuals (most especially the absentee voters in the U.S.) still doubt Duterte stand on the Spratly Islands. I just hope that Duterte will not win for it will result to abuses of his children who consider themselves as above the laws of the land. Please pray to save the Philippines from the Binays and Dutertes.

  11. The surveys in whatever form has one main factor, that Jojo Binay continues to slid downward. The vaunted core of 24% among the masses that will never change their mind on Binay and according to his rabid partisans will propel him to presidency is eroding as the election gets nearer.This development is turning the Binay camp into a panic mode.Any neutral observer will conclude that the momentum is going to the executioner Duterte . If he continues to gain on Poe specially in MetroManila , Duterte will be our next president. The filipinos who are desperately seeking for a change can at least comfort themselves that all their problems will be solve by Duterte within three months.

  12. Kalukuhan yang survey na yan sa aking pag masid malayo ang lamang ni Mayor Duterte sa kanyang mga katunggali.Duterte para sa tunay na pagbabago.

  13. Anything electronic/digital surveys are easiest to manipulate and control. The favorable results to the highest bidder or who they support.

  14. Well, do you know that BS Aquino, CJ Sereno, and MVP Pangilinan are all A.B. Economics majors of Ateneo de Manila. FYI, economics standard in Ateneo is the course to take to be able to meet the QPI requirements and stay to graduate in Ateneo. You be the judge.

  15. Dear Mr. Tiglao,

    I have been avidly following your articles on Salim and the MVP Group. I have also been following your stories about your former paper the Inquirer.

    In case you missed it in the Panama Papers, one of the names in the list of people with offshore accounts, provided by the journalist group that prepared the report is Maria Auxilia Prieto Rufino, who is none other than the owner of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Marixi Prieto. The self-righteous paper has not highlighted this fact.

    • What a revelation! Another tax evader or “avoider” from the Philippines. I have been waiting for Sudduetsche Zeitung to release the entire leaked documents into the Net. Just like Imee Marcos, the Henry Sy, et al, all will soon be exposed. Let us just hope that there will be other newspapers who will reveal all these names.

      What is disappointing about PNoy and his Government is the apparent lack of concern and failure to create an investigating committee to delve into this kind of schemes. As usual, a case of “Noynoying”? Contrast this with the action of other countries such as Argentina, Pakistan, UK, and even Russia! Not only did these countries announced planned investigations, but they are now taking steps to ensure that such tax avoidance would be minimized, if not eliminated. In Finland, the PM was forced to resign just because his name showed up in the leaked documents. In the UK, PM David Cameron has released his tax returns just to prove that he did not benefit from his deceased’ father’s offshore fund. In the Philippines, what is the response? As usual, “nada”. Where is BIR when you need it!

    • If this is true – Well Mrs. Prieto should be exposed . PDI is good only for political persecution of perceived enemies of the Aquino Administration of which Mrs. Prieto and PDI is forms part.