Daily Archives: July 7, 2005

Exit strategy

A couple of hours ago, the big story was Fidel Ramos, proposing a "graceful exit" for the President through a fast-tracked shift to the parliamentary form of government. Essentially, the proposal meant that the influential former president had reached the fateful conclusion: GMA won’t be able to complete her term.

And then, at 8 pm  (Malacanang issued the advisory about GMA’s "important announcement" only about 30 minutes before airing), the President spoke on national radio.

She said emphatically that she would not resign her office, and then announced a package of major changes: she asked her Cabinet members to tender their courtesy resignations, she promised to focus on "fundamental changes" (meaning constitutional change), she said she would "reach out" to political parties and civil society.

The reaction, as sourced by various radio stations and by ANC, followed predictable patterns. Those who had called for her resignation (for instance, Marvic Leonen of the UP College of Law) analyzed her unanticipated speech by acknowledging the systemic problem that GMA unexpectedly identified (she called it "the Big Truth") but declining to gloss over the "first" problem: what Leonen called the integrity of the electoral system and the President’s alleged assault on it.

Administration allies, including Cabinet secretaries, welcomed the speech, praising the President’s decisive actions.

The political opposition belittled GMA’s attempt to (to use Sen. Lacson’s word) "preempt" an alleged plan by Cabinet members and other government officials to resign from the administration en masse.

What I found missing from all this was the acknowledgment that, without saying it outright, the President had reached the same conclusion as Ramos: she needed an exit strategy, and this was it.

The headlines tomorrow may well be about the Cabinet revamp, but the real story would be her embrace of constitutional change. That’s her way out.


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One on one

Still on the Pulse Asia survey. I have no doubt that it was conducted professionally; the polling firm’s track record is almost impeccable. But I still have reservations about the survey itself. For instance, has Pulse Asia done one-on-one surveys before? Many of the questions in the survey offer a direct comparison between Estrada and Arroyo.

Question 26, for instance. "Kung ikukumpara ang uri ng pamumuhay ng inyong pamilya ngayon sa ilalim ng administrasyong Arroyo, sa nuong panahong sa ilalim ng administrasyong Estrada, masasabi ba ninyo na ang uri ng pamumuhay ng inyong pamilya ay …" and then there follows three choices: improved, remained the same as before, and worsened.

A perfectly legitimate question, of course, but at the same time I can’t help thinking that if the question were rephrased, say by removing the reference to the two presidents, the answers might be substantially different.

Just wondering.

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Comeback Kid?

How likely is an Estrada restoration?

The Inquirer uses the improvement in his numbers in the latest Pulse Asia survey as the main story’s second lead.

An interesting finding from the survey was how the President’s misery has led to "a remarkable political resurrection" for deposed President Joseph Estrada.

"The former President may already have about 40 percent of the public — a truly impressive multitude — ready to consider a leading role for him again in this nation’s political drama. President Arroyo might well be former President Estrada’s best resource in effecting his remarkable political resurrection," Miranda said.

But does the fact that the June survey was "commissioned by opposition groups identified with deposed former President Joseph Estrada," as the Star noted, skew the results? Not necessarily, but the numbers are worth a closer look.

A clear majority of those polled, or 55 percent, said it was "not right" for the deposed president to be reinstalled in Malacanang. (The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.)

Of those who nixed his return to the Palace (plus the 15 percent who said they were undecided, if the polling firm’s note about the new base is an accurate guide), a strong plurarity of 49 percent said the former president should just stay out of politics. Add the 8 percent who said Estrada should just pack his bags and live abroad, and you have, again, an outright majority who wish to see him leave the political scene.

Some restoration.

To be sure, 19 percent of the survey respondents said that, given current conditions, he was the best person to lead the country (after Vice President de Castro). But the "best person to lead the country" question was asked without reference to legal or constitutional processes (the how of things; in the absence of such context, including George W. Bush would have probably yielded surprising results). Also, in the follow-up question, 26 percent of respondents said the prospect of Estrada leading the nation was unacceptable. This was not as much of a sinker as Arroyo’s 42 percent unacceptable rating, but it was statistically in the same boat as Senator Ping Lacson’s 28 percent.

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Now showing

Pulse Asia has uploaded its latest survey, complete with tables. Now we’re talking.

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As bad as a coup

I have some reservations about the latest Pulse Asia survey, the one the polling firm calls Project ST-0506. The results came in an unusual format, without the usual charts and tables that would have enabled a reader to check the interpretation against the data. In fact, when I asked the paper’s research director if she had come across any such chart or table, her first reply was to say she needed to verify whether the survey was legitimate in the first place. In other words, the survey report even looked different.

But yes, it is the real thing. And Pepe Miranda was on the radio a few times yesterday, explaining his findings.

This was the result that struck me the most:

Among alternative political scenarios that would be most inimical or destructive of the national interest, retaining her to serve the full constitutional term (22%) is adjudged equally bad as a coup where the military and police determine who will govern among civilian politicians (22%) and marginally the same as a coup where the military and the police themselves directly rule the country.

The prose could stand some pruning, yes? But the main idea is clear enough: five more years of GMA is as bad for the country as a military-backed civilian government, and "marginally" as bad as a military junta. Talk about the "sitting president’s critically marginalized situation."

(But the finding, as presented, raises the need for the data again. For instance, just how many of the survey’s 1,200 respondents thought direct rule by a military junta was bad? Marginally more than those who abhor the idea of five more years of GMA? Or marginally fewer? I can’t tell, from the survey results as released.)

The lead in the Inquirer’s banner story today is based on a finding from the same cluster of results, about the President’s "growing marginalization."

DEBUNKING Malacañang’s claim that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues to enjoy public support, results of a survey by an independent polling firm show that more than half of Filipinos believe there are better leaders to replace Ms Arroyo.

"(A) sizable majority (61 percent) think that alternative scenarios serving the best interest of the country exclude President Arroyo remaining in office," Felipe Miranda, founding president of Pulse Asia Inc., said yesterday in a report titled "Filipinos at yet another crossroads of history."

The Star led off with the mixed finding on resignation.

A survey by Pulse Asia Inc. commissioned by opposition groups identified with deposed former President Joseph Estrada showed that Filipinos were "split" and indicated there was still "no runaway majority opinion" to support calls for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation.

Pulse Asia research director Felipe Miranda drew these conclusions yesterday from survey findings indicating that the President garnered what he warned were "record-breaking" highs of disapproval and distrust ratings at 46 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

The online consortium of the Manila Times and ABS-CBN also devoted its lead to the result on resignation, but with a decidedly different (and from the looks of it wire-written) take.

President Arroyo is more unpopular than her disgraced predecessor Joseph Estrada and almost half of Filipinos think she should resign, a survey by leading pollster Pulse Asia showed on Wednesday.

The survey of 1,200 people across the Philippines was taken on June 20-23 — before Arroyo’s stunning admission she had talked to the election commissioner during vote-counting for the May 2004 presidential election.

The story in the Manila Standard Today dwelt on the findings regarding alternative political leaders.

Vice President Noli de Castro is perceived by Filipinos to be the best to lead the country in case President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo steps down in the aftermath of the jueteng and tape scandals buffeting her administration.

A Pulse Asia survey conducted June 20-23 revealed that 30 percent of the people wants De Castro as successor to the President while 19 percent prefers deposed President Joseph Estrada and 16 percent, Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Obviously, a story with legs, but running all over the place.

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