ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas
When the “noynoying” concept went viral, Malacanang spokesmen pointed to President Noynoy Aquino’s high approval ratings to stress that those who were “noynoying” during protests and rallies do not reflect the sentiment of the Filipino people. Now that the latest Social Weather Station survey showed that his net approval rating has dropped by nine percentage points, the Palace spokesmen downplayed the poll results, saying that they were simply the result of the recent rise in oil prices and the transport strikes.
Aquino himself made an even bigger turnaround and said that the rating drop must be ignored and that governance “should not be survey-driven.”
“Governance is about doing what is right, which sometimes entails some sacrifices, for the good of the people,” he said. Why is this line so familiar? Because Gloria Macapagal Arroyo echoed the same line every time a new survey showed her declining ratings.
The survey results showed that 68 percent of the respondents said that they were satisfied with President Aquino’s performance while 19 percent said that they were not, with a net satisfaction rating of +49. This is down from his “very good” rating last December of +58 percent (71 percent satisfied, 13 percent dissatisfied).
The decline followed a consistent pattern of diminishing approval ratings for Aquino since he assumed the presidency on June 30, 2010. His approval rating in July 2010, just a month after he became president, was 88 percent, meaning his ratings have dropped 20 percent in 19 months.
Malacanang spokesmen seem unfazed by the decline, but if this pattern keeps up, Aquino would have a negative net approval rating on his fifth year.
While his rating remained “very good” among the Class ABC at +62 (79 percent satisfied, 16 percent dissatisfied), among the Class E at +52 (68 percent satisfied, 16 percent dissatisfied), his rating dropped significantly among the Class D or the poor masses—from +58 in December to +46 (67 percent satisfied, 20 percent dissatisfied).
But it did not worry deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, who saw a silver lining in the ratings drop when she said that the President’s “very good” rating among the upper- and middle-income classes suggests that they understood the external reasons for the oil price increases. And the rest of the people didn’t?
Aquino and his Palace spokesmen can sugarcoat the rating decline any which way they want, but the fact remains that the poor, the very people who elected him and hinged their hope on his promise of deliverance, are not satisfied with what he has been doing or not doing.
It is not a coincidence that the drop in ratings happened at the height of the rapid rise in the prices of oil and basic commodities, the worsening blackouts, and the transport fare hikes. These are the things that matter most to the people, especially those that belong to the so-called Class D.
The spectacle of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona obviously roused the interest of only the middle and upper classes, and the majority of the people realized that Aquino has not done much to provide them relief from high prices, low wages and unemployment.
Kilusang Mayo Uno chairman Elmer Labog said the administration’s upbeat pronouncements over record highs in the stock market, improved investor confidence and credit rating upgrades, would be for naught unless it addressed hunger and poverty.
“A public that grows poorer and hungrier by the day would be unable to stomach such claims,” Labog added. “In the end, people will believe what they feel in their guts, in their stomachs, more than what they are being told by the government.”
Arroyo made the same claims about the economy during her nine-year term, but along with the satisfactory economic growth, the poverty and hunger incidence also grew because only the rich gained from her economic policies while leaving behind the poor. Obviously, the same is happening under Aquino’s term despite his claims of promising economic indicators.
His refusal to lift or even reduce the 12-percent value added tax (VAT) tax on oil, for example, will not help the poor at all despite his claims that the revenues from this tax is being used to fund the cash transfer program for the poor and to subsidize jeepney drivers. The poor need jobs and better wages, not temporary dole-outs or subsidies.
We all know that business owners are hardly affected by the VAT because they only pass on the added costs to the consumers by raising the prices of their goods or services. It is ultimately the poor consumers who carry the burden of the additional tax. And yet, Aquino refuses to even give them relief from the high prices by temporarily lifting or reducing the VAT on oil.
While the government has benefited from the windfall on VAT funds amid the rising oil prices, the people that Aquino claims to his “boss” are suffering from the resulting high prices. If his heart were really for the people, Aquino would have listened to their pleas.
Aquino raised the people’s hopes when he became president. The high hope has turned to disappointment in just 19 months. And it shows in the surveys.