Published on September 30, 2014.
Much has already been said about the incident involving Budget Secretary Butch Abad and a score of student protesters at the University of the Philippines the other week. Inquirer reporter Erika Sauler’s summary sentence, in a report she filed a few days after the incident, can serve as a helpful wrap-up: “As he exited the auditorium [and made his way] to his vehicle, a group of protesters from Stand UP (Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP) ganged up on him, calling him a thief as they threw crumpled pieces of paper, placards and coins in his direction.” Other reports described one protester grabbing Abad by the collar.
Regardless of where one stands on the issue, whether the students were justified in their violent protest or not, the incident seems to me to demonstrate that words in fact have consequences in the real world.
When the Supreme Court released its decision finding parts of the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional, the following two paragraphs were immediately taken as justification for the anti-DAP position.
“Nonetheless, as Justice [Arturo] Brion has pointed out during the deliberations, the doctrine of operative fact does not always apply, and is not always the consequence of every declaration of constitutional invalidity. It can be invoked only in situations where the nullification of the effects of what used to be a valid law would result in inequity and injustice; but where no such result would ensue, the general rule that an unconstitutional law is totally ineffective should apply.
“In that context, as Justice Brion has clarified, the doctrine of operative fact can apply only to the PAPs that can no longer be undone, and whose beneficiaries relied in good faith on the validity of the DAP, but cannot apply to the authors, proponents and implementors of the DAP, unless there are concrete findings of good faith in their favor by the proper tribunals determining their criminal, civil, administrative and other liabilities.”
In other words, President Aquino, Abad and other officials were deemed guilty until proven innocent (or possessing good faith). I think there is a straight line from this extraordinary inversion, from Justice Brion’s hand, to Abad’s collar.
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The September 2014 Pulse Asia survey bears repeat reading. I have already taken a preliminary look at the likeliest cause of the sharp drop in Vice President Jejomar Binay’s presidential voter preference rating (in a news analysis published on Inquirer.net a couple of hours after the survey results came out). But how other political personalities fared in the survey makes for an intriguing read too.
The survey has some good news for Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, whose rating almost doubled, from 7 percent in the June survey to 13 percent in September. The biggest gain comes from the geographic bloc that conventional wisdom thinks is most hostile to the controversial politician most associated with the government’s response to Supertyphoon “Yolanda”—the Visayas. From 11 percent in June, the proportion of Visayas-based survey respondents who said they would vote for Roxas if the elections were held today (that is, on the day the survey was conducted) rose to 22 percent.
In truth, Roxas’ numbers rose across all the four geographic blocs, even in traditionally oppositionist Metro Manila (from 4 to 9 percent). Next to the Visayas, Mindanao had the biggest gain: from 11 to 19 percent.
But there seems to be a socioeconomic divide in Roxas’ latest reversal of fortune. The proportion of respondents classified as ABC who said they would vote for him essentially held steady, from 7 percent in June to 8 percent in September. But he seems to have found traction with the country’s more disadvantaged sectors: 12 percent of Class D voters now say they would vote for Roxas, up from 8; while 19 percent of Class E voters say they now support him, up—dramatically—from 6 percent.
In other words, Roxas’ support among the country’s poorest has tripled in the last three months.
Like I said, good news for Roxas. But since it is best to look at surveys as snapshots, that is, as a slice of time, it is too early for his supporters to claim momentum. Roxas has enjoyed better numbers before, and indeed looked like he could retain enough of his early lead in the surveys to win the vice presidency in 2010. He’ll need data from two or three more quarterly surveys before he can gain a clearer view of his 2016 prospects.
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The fortunes of Sen. Grace Poe are a little harder to read. The downtrend seems to be clear: From 15 percent in the March survey, her presidential voter preference rating has slipped to 12 percent in June and now to 10 in September. On the other hand, her ranking as the most preferred candidate for vice president has solidified between June and September.
To simplify a bit, about a quarter of voting-age Filipinos last June would have voted for her as a vice-presidential candidate, across geographic blocs and demographic classes. In September, her numbers went up to about 30 percent in each category (from a low of 29 percent in both Mindanao and Luzon excluding Metro Manila, to a high of 36 percent in Metro Manila).
Perhaps the public has taken her at her word, that she was not currently interested in seeking higher office, and declined to see her in a presidential context. But the solidifying support for a vice-presidential run? Maybe it’s the public’s way of pushing her in a direction she isn’t yet ready to go.