press freedom

Fewer Filipinos think it is dangerous to publish or air anything critical vs Duterte

Aika Rey
Fewer Filipinos think it is dangerous to publish or air anything critical vs Duterte

DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM. Journalists and rights advocates bike for press freedom on February 7, 2020.

Photo from NUJP

(1st UPDATE) This is a big drop from the numbers in November last year when broadcast giant ABS-CBN was shutdown, and with the 2022 elections now fast approaching

Almost five in 10 Filipinos believe that it is dangerous to publish or broadcast anything that is critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, even if it is the truth.

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, conducted from June 23 to 26 but released to the media only on Monday, October 4, showed that 45% of Filipinos agree that it is risky to air or publish sentiments that are critical of the administration.

25% disagreed, while 28% were undecided.

The recent SWS survey is a huge drop from a similar survey conducted in November 2020.

In November, 65% of Filipino believed that publishing or airing something critical of the government is dangerous, as the survey was conducted after the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

Net agreement with the statement was highest in Metro Manila (+28), followed by the Visayas (+22), rest of Luzon (+21), and Mindanao (+12).

Mindanao saw the sharpest drop to +12 from +58 seven months earlier.

SWS classifies scores of +50 and above as “very strong”; +30 to +49 as “strong”; +10 to +29, “moderate”, +9 to -9, “neutral”; -10 to -29, “poor”; -30 to -49, “weak”; -50 and below, “very weak.”

In the 3rd quarter survey conducted from September 12 to 16, the same number of Filipinos still believe it is dangerous for the media to be critical of the Duterte administration. Fewer Filipinos also disagreed with the statement at 19%.

Personal freedom of speech

Fewer Filipinos also believe they can freely speak against Duterte.

Asked if “I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration,” 45% of adults agreed with the statement.

While the net agreement of +18 is an improvement from the May 2021 survey of +5, this is still a huge decline from previous surveys during the Duterte administration.

The September survey also showed largely the same results, with 42% of Filipinos believing that they can exercise freedom of speech. The margin of error for the September 12 to 16 survey is at ±3%.

SWS first used the statement in July 1985, during the Marcos regime. At the time, SWS found only 33% agreed and 29% disagreed with the statement, registering a low net score of neutral +3.

Net agreement rose to a strong +39 in May 1986 and reached its all-time high of a very strong +63 in March 1987.

Its average net score during the term of Cory Aquino was +33; Fidel V. Ramos, +38; Joseph Estrada, +41; Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, +34; and Benigno Aquino III, +32.

Under Duterte, it has ranged from a neutral +5 to a strong +46.

The surveys were conducted using face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults – 300 each in Metro Manila, rest of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

The June survey period was days before Duterte marked his final year of presidency. The rift within the ruling party PDP-Laban was also more apparent at the time of the survey period.

From the time of the previous survey to the June 2021 survey, the Philippine government has been slammed for the slow COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Meanwhile, before the September 2021 survey, Duterte’s party, PDP-Laban, announced its presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2022 elections, as the candidacy of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte for president was being floated.

The alleged corruption in pandemic deals was also being heard at the Senate during the September survey. Duterte has repeatedly defended his friend Michael Yang and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III from any wrongdoings. 

The surveys have sampling errors of ±3% for the national level and ±6% for each of the areas. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.


Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at