Public distrust and how it impacts
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-04-17
Survey firm Pulse Asia had a media release on April 11, 2007 on the public trust/distrust ratings of selected public figures and groups and its findings are consistent with the results of other past surveys. The opposition continues to be perceived as public darlings compared to Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and her key officials.

Compare the following selected results:
Name Big TrustUndecidedDon’t trust
Manuel Villar 41% 31% 25%
Cory Aquino 41% 25% 24%
Joseph Estrada 38% 32% 29%
Fidel Ramos 25% 33% 41%
Kiko Pangilinan 54% 30% 16%
Mar Roxas 52% 32% 16%
Alan Cayetano 47% 34% 18%
Joker Arroyo 44% 32% 23%
Mike Defensor 32% 39% 29%
Chiz Escudero 53% 30% 16%
Ben Abalos 20% 39% 40%
Comelec 32% 40% 28%
Gen. H. Esperon 16% 41% 41%

I would think that the root cause of the distrust trace all the way to the Garci Tapes crisis. GMA, Team Unity’s Mike Defensor, AFP Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon and Comelec Chairman Ben Abalos are all associated one way or another to the Garci scandal.

GMA was the supposed beneficiary of the 2004 election operation. Ben Abalos was seen as a silent accomplice. Gen. Esperon was named in the Garci tapes. Mike Defensor, defender of GMA at one time even tried to present a foreign expert to dispute the Garci tapes. But the ploy fell apart when the foreign expert suddenly dissociated himself from participating in Defensor’s extravaganza. To the public eye, FVR’s attempt to help relieve the buildup of pressure on GMA to resign may somehow also have put the former president in league with the perceived Garci rogues’ gallery.

The highest distrust ratings of 40% or more were registered for GMA, Abalos, Esperon and FVR. GMA, Abalos and Esperon are directly associated with Garci. The national trauma over the Garci Tapes is confirmed by the recent SWS (Social Weather Stations) survey that shows 1 in every 3 Filipinos or a ratio of 2 to 1 — believes that there will be cheating in the coming elections.

Considering the tremendous effort now being exerted by civil society and Church groups to prevent a repeat of the massive fraud in the 2004 elections, the inordinately high number of people who are convinced there will be cheating in May underscores a truly high level of public distrust. Gen. Esperon’s distrust rating could altogether be incited by his insistence to position troops in Metro Manila where the Opposition enjoys major voting support bases.

The big number of folks who think that cheating will occur could also be prodded by the climate of impunity that characterizes the GMA regime. How many times have we seen the regime outdo itself in committing acts that defy public norms and sensibilities?

I again also note that the number favorable to GMA is 25% which I’ve mentioned in previous columns as the steady base of support for her. In every poll that measures GMA’s negative satisfaction ratings, her support consistently hovers around that 25% level. There would be around 40 to 50% who would express dissatisfaction over her performance versus around 25% who would approve.

In the SWS survey gauging voting trend in the local elections, administration support also registered near that 25% pro-GMA figure. In the April 4 SWS local election survey release, Team Unity support registered at 25% for gubernatorial, 28% for congressional and 33% for mayoralty candidates.

That unequivocally attests to the consistency and reliability of a public conviction on the matter of approval or disapproval of the administration’s performance. Seen from various angles and perspectives, whether in national or local issues, the administration is unable to score a support rating higher than its average of 25%. Despite the Opposition’s poorly organized and poorly financed campaign, their standings are greatly boosted by the strong anti-GMA sentiment — as expressed by the survey showing 41% who say they do not trust her versus the mere 25% who still do.

It was only after the Holy Week break when the Opposition started running a thematic campaign to highlight the most potent public issues against the GMA regime. It coincides with Senator Serge Osmeña’s takeover of the campaign and Serge’s firm belief on the power of media, especially television, giving less attention to field events like rallies and motorcades.

That thematic campaign should become a major factor in winning over to the Opposition most of the undecided bloc. It should also rev up the anti-GMA passion among those who already support the Opposition. It is doubted if regime efforts at this point can still reverse the minds of the 40-50% who favor the Opposition.

Distrust is a very difficult conviction and emotion to reverse. GMA may be able to reverse adverse public opinion on issues like EVAT. It is not quite as easy to do that with public distrust.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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