Senate approval rating plunges post-PDAF, DAP

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The Senate suffers a significant drop in its approval rating after 3 of its members were charged with plunder and 20 more were found to have benefitted from Malacañang's spending program

SIGNIFICANT DROP. The Senate's approval ratings fall by 8 points after the 3 opposition senators were charged with plunder and the DAP controversy. File photo by Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – With 3 of its members facing plunder charges over the misuse of their discretionary funds and 20 senators accepting allocations from Malacañang’s controversial spending program, the Senate’s image got tarnished even more.

A Pulse Asia survey conducted from June 24 to July 2 showed that, compared to the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court, the Senate is the institution that suffered the biggest drop in public approval.

“The Senate experiences a significant drop in its national approval score (-8 percentage points) and an increase in its overall disapproval rating (+9 percentage points). A similar decline in the level of appreciation for the Senate’s work occurs in Metro Manila (-14 percentage points), Mindanao (-15 percentage points), and Classes ABC and D (-9 to -19 percentage points),” Pulse Asia said on Monday, August 4.

The polling firm noted that, in contrast, changes in the overall performance ratings of the Supreme Court and the House were “marginal in nature,” falling within the error margin of +/-3 percentage points.

Pulse Asia added that the only “marked movement” was that in the approval ratings of the Supreme Court, which declined in Class D (-10 percentage points).

Of the 3 offices, the Supreme Court scored the highest national approval and trust ratings at 49% and 42% respectively. The court earned the rating in the survey, which coincided with its ruling striking down key acts under the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a decision President Benigno Aquino III criticized.

The Senate registered lower approval and trust scores compared to the last survey in March (33% to 34%) along with the House (29% to 31%).

“Disapproval for and distrust in the same entities are more pronounced toward the two legislative bodies than the Supreme Court (21% to 23% versus 13%, and 19% to 20% versus 10%, respectively),” Pulse Asia said.

The survey was conducted after the filing of plunder and graft charges against Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr over the pork barrel corruption scandal. The poll was also done after Revilla and Estrada surrendered and were arraigned.

Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla are accused of siphoning off millions of pesos in development funds to bogus NGOs in exchange for kickbacks.

As for the House, the survey was done following calls to impeach President Aquino over the court ruling against the DAP.

Approval, trust in SC ‘constant’

Pulse Asia said that public assessment of the Supreme Court’s work and trustworthiness was “essentially constant” between March and June.

Among the geographic areas and socio-economic classes, the court obtained the only majority approval ratings in Class E (54%) and Mindanao (55%). Other areas and socio-economic classes expressed appreciation of the court’s work (45% to 50%, and 46 to 47%, respectively).

Yet big pluralities to small majorities in the same sub-grouping expressed ambivalence toward the work of the Senate and the House.

“Both legislative chambers obtain practically the same approval and indecision ratings in the Visayas (38% versus 43%, and 40% versus 43%, respectively).”

The 3 institutions did not score majority trust rating in any of the geographic areas, and socio-economic classes in the survey.

Reviving people’s faith?

In the opening of the session on July 28, Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed to “revive people’s faith in the Senate,” an institution that has been under fire for a year now since the pork barrel corruption scandal first broke out.

Drilon also urged his colleagues to fight “falsehoods concocted by cowardly minds” aimed at the Senate.

Yet it remains to be seen how the chamber will restore public trust, especially as Congress tackles the 2015 national budget, a pre-election year budget.

This early, the call of President Aquino for Congress to redefine the term “savings” after the Court ruling on DAP has become divisive, with opposition senators saying it risks circumventing the decision

Observers also warn against the revival of the congressional pork barrel under a new name, and the existence of other forms of lump sum funds in the budget that might be used for patronage politics. – 

June 2014 Pulse Asia Survey: Senate, House and Supreme Court

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