If you wish to get an objective and accurate picture of the state of the Philippines under Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo, get yourself independent data that are untwisted or unmanipulated by the propaganda machinations of the administration and, to a very limited extent, of the opposition. Survey data and other statistics from independent and established local and international polling firms and watchdog institutions will prove reliable. Facts and figures from the local Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia survey groups and Transparency International (TI), Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, and Amnesty International (AI) should together provide the most accurate and unprejudiced picture of how better off or how worse off the Philippines currently is from the time Arroyo grabbed the presidency from Joseph Estrada in January 2001 through the EDSA 2 "People Power" backed by the military's top brass.
Hunger and Poverty in the Philippines
The level of hunger and poverty experienced by the Filipino masses under the Arroyo administration is reflected in the yearly survey of SWS on "self-rated poverty and hunger". As of November 2006, record high levels of "overall hunger" and "severe hunger" were recorded by the SWS survey for the quarter. The 19.0% Total Hunger and 15.1% Moderate Hunger represent unprecedented levels that far exceeded the highest levels recorded during Joseph Estrada's administration--14.5% and 9.2% levels, respectively. The highest level of Severe Hunger, at 6%, was also recorded during Arroyo's administration, in March 2001.
In 2007, hunger in the Philippines turned out for the worse as Arroyo beat her own record of economic and political mismanagement. The previous record high of 19.0%, reflected consecutively in the last quarter of 2006 and 1st quarter of 2007, was surpassed in the 2007 3rd quarter SWS survey that showed a hunger deterioration of 2.5 points from the end of the previous year. The new record, a national proportion of 21.5%, represents some 3.8 millions of Filipino families who suffer from involuntary total hunger. The latest survey results also present another record high since 1998: Filipinos now experiencing hunger 'A Few Times' or 'Only Once', or Moderate Hunger, is now at the highest ever at 17.5%.
Worsening Personal and National Quality of Life
A similar survey conducted by Pulse Asia in 2005 confirmed the present dire difficulties faced by Filipinos. The July 2005 survey shows a majority—a total of 67% of Filipinos—believe "the circumstances of their families as of the survey period [to be] worse than their circumstances a year earlier." The 2005 survey, timed with Arroyo's Ulat ng Bayan, also reveals how a resounding majority of 80% of Filipinos believe that "the national quality of life now is worse than in the previous year and expect it to be even worse in the year ahead."
These findings lend a sort of medium-term trend to Pulse Asia's pre-election 2007 survey showing how majority of Filipinos consider themselves worse off now than three years ago. This majority figure of 54% sharply contrasts with the 11%, or only 1 in every 10 Filipinos, who see their personal circumstances as having improved in the past three years. The April 2007 figure represents an increase from the 49% recorded in April 2004, or a worsening QOL of the Filipinos.
The same survey also showed how two out of every three Filipinos (65%) perceive the overall situation of their countrymen to be worse off now than in 2004. This sentiment is expressed by a considerable-to-big majorities of from 60% to 76% across the Philippine's geographic areas and notably, also across the socio-economic classes. Those who say otherwise—that the state of their countrymen has improved at this point—account for a negligible 7 percent. Thus, these individual and national QOL survey results seem to belie the loud pronouncements of Arroyo on the supposed improvement in the country's economy under her presidency.
Dissatisfaction with, & Distrust, of Arroyo: the Only RP President to Ever Score Negatively
Judging from the SWS and Pulse Asia periodic surveys on the satisfaction and trust ratings of Presidents, it is clearly shown that only during Arroyo's presidency is the level of public satisfaction and confidence ever at a negative and consistent low.
While the performance satisfaction ratings for the past presidents, including Joseph Estrada, easily exceeded the 65 percent levels during their peaks, Arroyo's net satisfaction only reached the 30 percent level as its highest: this less-than-satisfactory 'achievement' would subsequently be negated by her lowest net satisfaction rating of –33 percent, recorded in the 2nd quarter of 2005. In the latest 4th quarter 2007 survey, Arroyo earned a net dissatisfaction rating of 16 percent—which registered despite the majority approval (54%) of her grant of pardon to former President Estrada.
From 2004 until the last survey in November 2006, the net satisfaction ratings of President Arroyo were at a consistent negative. Her first brush with negative public satisfaction, however, came a year earlier: in the 1st quarter of 2003, the Filipinos' satisfaction with Arroyo dipped to a historically unprecedented negative14 points. For over half of her controversial regime, Arroyo would go through an arduous, yet loudly unsuccessful, struggle to satisfy the Filipino public. In fact, what the twenty-one-year-long SWS survey data on the net performance satisfaction of four Presidents show is that never before since the end of Martial law has the Philippines been served by a President unaccepted by the general population.
Given the worst-than-failing net ratings given by the Filipinos, it is hardly surprising that Arroyo has largely garnered distrust from the people she has vowed to serve. Based on the ABS-CBN/SWS January 6-9, 2001 Arroyo actually came from a distrust rating of (negative) 11 points some two weeks before she helped succeed in deposing Estrada and took over from him as President in January 2001. Soon after taking over Malacanang, with the mainstream media largely hailing her constitutionally suspect ascent to power, however, Arroyo's trust ratings recovered and even shot upward.
This trend would not hold for so long, though, because later surveys would portray plurality distrust towards her, particularly after 2004. Beginning 2005, Pulse Asia's period surveys would show how the negative trust towards Arroyo hovered between 59% and 42%. The latest distrust ratings of Gloria Arroyo came through the October 2007 Ulat ng Bayan Survey reveal that the percentage of those who distrust her is a majority plurality of 46%, as opposed to only 23% who trust her. The figure of distrust represents an upward movement in Arroyo's overall distrust rating from the pre-election research conducted from November 2006 to April 2007. For the said five-month period, the poll research showed an average distrust of a plurality of 42% of Filipinos, in contrast to a mere 24% who trust Arroyo (undecided respondents averaged 33.5%). Results of this Pulse Asia national survey are consistent with findings reflected in the various geographic areas and all socio-economic classes. It is also notable that between the months of July and October 2007, Arroyo registered double-digit margins of increase (11 -19 percentage points) even in her traditional bailiwicks--the Visayas and Classes ABC.
Filipinos' Desire to Do away with Arroyo's Presidency
A more direct expression of the Filipino public's rejection of Arroyo is seen in the separate surveys of the SWS and Pulse Asia conducted in two consecutive years. These survey studies reveal that beyond distrust and dissatisfaction, majority of the people actually want the President installed in 2001 by the military-backed EDSA 2 to be out of Malacanang.
In mid 2005, Pulse Asia undertook a nationwide survey on "Alternative Political Scenarios and Best and Worst Persons to Lead the Country Now." The survey study results showed that as of July 2005, only a mere total of 26% of Filipinos favor Arroyo's continued stay in power until the end of her term, while a decisive majority of some 73% think it would be "most beneficial" for the country if she either "resigns or is impeached," "resigns and she is replaced by a [junta], or "removed from office using any means." It is most interesting to note that this survey research came only within a year after Arroyo supposedly won in the highly controversial 2004 Presidential polls.
This Pulse Asia survey would be corroborated to a certain degree by a later SWS survey that asked the people's opinion regarding the resignation or removal of Arroyo. In March 2006, some 44% believed that it would be beneficial for the country if Arroyo resigns from Malacanang—almost double the 23% those who think otherwise. As to the option of removing her through People Power, a plurality of Filipinos (48% agree; 27% disagree; 21% undecided) also think any such development would be good for the Philippines. It is notable that this SWS survey reveals a direct relationship between the public's dissatisfaction with Arroyo's performance and the Filipinos significant "desire for her to be toppled, regardless of the way for this to come about."
Corruption in the Philippines
Surveys have a way of revealing or highlighting what the media may choose to ignore or have inadvertently overlooked. In October 2007, the corruption-related survey of Pulse Asia disclosed the majority view that Gloria Arroyo is regarded as Philippine history's "Most Corrupt" President ever. This most unpalatable distinction of having topped the most corrupt list of Philippine leaders—even surpassing the image of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos—obviously is a reflection of the immoral brand of governance Arroyo has wielded since EDSA 2.
Certain apologists or supporters of the Arroyo administration could argue that the local SWS and Pulse Asia are biased survey research firms. However, even independent international watchdog and survey firms portray a bleak picture of the obtaining situation in the country. To start with, the 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) tool of Transparency International gives the Philippines a score of 2.5 (out of the best possible 10), based on the "perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." This very low CPI score of 2.5 would be posted anew in 2007, based on 9 surveys. The 2006 and 2007 CPI scores represents a significant worsening of corruption in the country when compared with the 2.8 score in 2000 during President Joseph Estrada's last year in office. When viewed in the context of the use of the corruption issue to rationalize the constitutionally suspect unseating of President Estrada back in January 2001, the CPI score comparison becomes all the more telling.
Even in terms of the holistic National Integrity System (NIS) Study of Transparency International, the Philippines is shown today to be a "country with institutionalized corruption" that is plagued by "the lack of will power to stamp out corruption, the nagging problem of morality in leadership and the absence of respect for the rule of law." The 2006 Philippines report show a big gap persists "between catching 'small fry' and 'big fish'; between rhetoric and reality, and promise and performance."
Perception of the Government's Efforts on Corruption
How Filipinos really view the much-touted anti-corruption campaign of the Arroyo administration is revealed by the Global Corruption Barometer 2006 tools of the global corruption watchdog Transparency International. Survey data on how ordinary citizens "assess their government's fight against corruption" show that an overwhelming majority of Filipinos negatively view the administration's efforts. A mere 21% positively rate Arroyo's anti-corruption campaign, as opposed to a total of 78% of respondents who believe otherwise: 23% think the Philippine government "does not fight at all," 31% think the campaign is "not effective," while 24% hold that the administration "does not fight but actually encourages" corruption.
In the 2007 Global Corruption Barometer 2007 report, this pessimism regarding corruption is maintained. Approximately 79% of the respondents expect corruption in the Philippines to actually worsen in the next three years. The survey results pinpoint the Police, the Parliament and Political Parties to be most affected by this corruption. The same report also showed a significant depreciation in the trust of the people towards the Philippine government's anti-corruption effort. A very significant percentage, 64% of respondents, now say that the campaign to rid of corruption is "not effective"–a figure that is more than double the 2006 figure of 31 percent.
Even the latest corruption survey of the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy lends support to the perception of severe corruption in the country. The 2007 survey of expatriate businessmen in Asia lists the Philippines as currently the "most corrupt" among 13 countries and territories surveyed in the continent. The story that appeared in the International Herald Tribune quotes from the survey report that "People are just growing tired of the inaction and insincerity of leading officials when they promise to fight corruption." Part of the survey shows that the respondents even gave the judicial system a nearly appallingly perfect 9.06 out of 10 score, with 10 as being "ineffective."
State of Human Rights in the Philippines
The extent and severity of obtaining human rights violation in the country under the Arroyo administration is most objectively seen through the holistic study of the renowned international human rights group Amnesty International (AI). While the military and police may dismiss human rights reports by Karapatan and other local groups for being produced by entities infiltrated by or sympathetic with the CPP-NPA or perhaps, Muslim terrorist groups, the AI 2006 report represent a study independent of political ideology or affiliation. The following are excerpts from the Amnesty International Report 2006 for the Philippines:
"Scores of leftist activists were killed by unidentified assailants, often reportedly linked to the armed forces. Peace talks between the government and armed groups – Muslim separatists in Mindanao and communist rebels – made limited or no progress. Arbitrary arrests, unlawful killings, torture and "disappearances" were reported in the context of military counter-insurgency operations. Armed groups were responsible for abuses including hostage-taking. Complaints procedures, investigations and criminal prosecutions of suspected perpetrators of human rights violations were often ineffective. Criminal suspects in custody, including women and children, were at risk of torture or ill-treatment by police. Death sentences were imposed but no executions were carried out."
AI's 2007 report paints a similar state of human rights violations. The political killings of leftist activists are supposed to have continued as the government went on a declaration of "all-out war" against the communist rebels. While the government did establish a police task force and a Commission of Inquiry in order to investigate the killings, unfortunately these "resulted in only a limited number of arrests and prosecutions."
References (in consecutive order):
SWS Degree of Hunger in Households: July 1998 to February 2007
4th Qtr. 2007 SWS Survey
Pulse Asia's April 3 - 5, 2007 Pre-election Survey on Quality of Life (QOL)
Pulse Asia's July 2005 Ulat ng Bayan Media Release
on Concerns, Coping Strategies & Perceptions of the Poor
By Dr. Mahar Mangahas
16 February 2001
Pulse Asia's October 2007 Ulat ng Bayan Survey
Media Release on Presidential Performance ratings and Trust ratings
Pulse Asia's April 3 - 5, 2007 Pre-election Survey
Media Release on Trust Ratings of Selected Public Figures and Groups
Pulse Asia's July 2006 Ulat ng Bayan Survey
Media Release on Presidential Performance and
Trust Ratings and the National Administration's Performance
SWS Net Satisfaction Ratings of Presidents, May 1986 to 2007
4th Qtr. 2007 SWS Survey
2005 Pulse Asia Most Beneficial/Constructive Political Scenarios Table 1
Pulse Asia's October 2005 Ulat ng Bayan Survey
First Quarter 2006 Social Weather Survey: Options For Toppling GMA:
Coup Gets Split Opinions, People Power Gets 48%, Pro-Resign Gets 44%
Transparency International CPI Report 2007
Transparency International CPI Report 2006
Transparency International CPI Report 2000
Transparency International NIS Philippines 2006 Study Report
Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2006 - Report
Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2007 - Report
International Herald Tribune story "Philippines most corrupt, survey says"
AI Report 2006, Asia-Pacific: Philippines
AI Report 2007, Asia-Pacific: Philippines