Why it took PNoy 1 year to approve the 2010 census

Gemma B. Mendoza

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Why did it take President Aquino a year to sign a seemingly innocuous and routinary piece of document such as the latest national census?

MANILA, Philippines – Why did it take President Aquino a year to sign a seemingly innocuous and routinary piece of document such as the latest national census?

Weird things, such as a sizable increase in population in an area which looks like nothing more than an empty field on Google Maps.

This, in essence, was how Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda explained to reporters why the President only signed this year the release of the Philippine national census, which was conducted May 17-June 14, 2010.

“Most telling is the data on ARMM (the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). The growth rate was so huge. It was beyond the growth rate of the entire population,” Lacierda said.

One particularly glaring case, Lacierda said, was a barangay in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao. When the National Statistics Office superimposed the census data taken by the enumerator–the person who took the census–on a Google map, a third or a half of the area where there were supposedly so many people turned out to be an empty field.

Lacierda said such a discrepancy could have an impact on legislative districts and voter population.

Shariff Aguak, formerly known as Maganoy, happens to be the bailiwick of the Ampatuan clan, allies of former President Arroyo and suspects in the infamous massacre of November 2009.

Obsolete data?

Prior to the release, President Aquino has been criticized for inaction on the matter. An opinion piece on www.inquirer.net, for instance, noted that in allowing the report to “molder” on the President’s in-tray, Malacañang effectively hobbled planners for nutrition, health, fisheries down to the barangays. 

“They’re handcuffed to obsolete data, culled from the 2000 census—and 2007 enumeration results. The Department of Education, for example, is hard-pressed to get hard data on the number of the school-age population,” columnist Juan Mercado said.

In a phone interview with Rappler, Lacierda said that the President did not want to approve a census report that the agency in charge of the census itself–the National Statistics Office–admitted to be laden with apparent “inaccuracies.” 

“They flagged it. They said the numbers are inaccurate. They had to redo,” Lacierda said. In an earlier briefing with reporters, he cited as basis for the delay alleged inaccuracies in the report. “The President wanted to be sure.” 

“He, in fact, mentioned: ‘How can I certify to something that is inaccurate?’ So he asked the NSO to do it again para to make sure that what he is certifying is going to be accurate,” Lacierda added. 

Lacierda said the fact that the President already signed the new census report means that he is “satisfied with the accuracy of the census. It took sometime because apparently the President was already informed before and he found out that there were inaccuracies and he could not certify to something that was inaccurate.” – Rappler.com  

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Gemma B. Mendoza

Gemma Mendoza leads Rappler’s multi-pronged efforts to address disinformation in digital media, harnessing big data research, fact-checking, and community workshops. As one of Rappler's pioneers who launched its Facebook page Move.PH in 2011, Gemma initiated strategic projects that connect journalism and data with citizen action, particularly in relation to elections, disasters, and other social concerns.