MANILA, Philippines – A big majority of Filipinos are satisfied with the military’s performance and have much confidence in its capability to defeat security threats, a nationwide public opinion survey, partially sponsored by the military itself, showed.
The survey was conducted last December, but the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and private pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) publicized findings for the first time on Wednesday, March 4, at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum in Malate, Manila.
Of the survey’s 1,200 respondents from Metro Manila, other parts of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, 79% said they were satisfied with the AFP’s performance, while 5% said they were dissatisfied, for an “excellent” net score of +74.
The rest – 15% – were undecided.
The survey respondents, 300 from each of the 4 main regions, were asked, “Batay sa kabuuang nagawa nila, ano po ang pakiramdam o opinyon ninyo sa Armed Forces of the Philippines o AFP? Kayo po ba ay lubos na nasisiyahan, medyo nasisiyahan, hindi tiyak kung nasisiyahan o hindi, medyo hindi nasisiyahan, lubos na hindi nasisiyahan, o wala pa kayong narinig o nabasa kahit na kailan tungkol sa [AFP]?”
(Based on their overall performance, what are your feelings or opinion about the AFP? Are you very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, undecided, somewhat dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, or have not heard or read anything at all about the AFP?)
The survey also showed a general upward trend in the AFP’s public satisfaction ratings since 2015. The military is more highly rated in terms of public satisfaction than the Philippine National Police, noted SWS Deputy Director Vladymir Joseph Licudine.
Capability to defeat security threats
The military also scored well in terms of the public’s confidence in their capability to deal with the country’s main security threats.
In fighting rebels from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), 79% of survey respondents said they had “much confidence” that the AFP can beat them, while 4% said they had only “little confidence.” The rest were undecided.
Some 75% of respondents said they had “much confidence” that the military can defeat terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf and the Islamic State (ISIS), while 6% said they had “little confidence” it could. The others were undecided.
Fewer respondents gave affirmative answers when it came to the West Philippine Sea and external defense. Only 62% said they had “much confidence” that the AFP can “defend the territories of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea and other places against any foreign threats,” and 12% said they had “little confidence.” More than a quarter of respondents – 26% – were undecided.
Communist rebels, terrorist groups, and foreign intruders in the West Philippine Sea are the country’s main security concerns, and the focus of military operations.
‘Whom you gonna call?’
“You have to take into context the Marawi siege….This is still a residue of the Marawi siege,” said Licudine, explaining the AFP’s excellent survey ratings.
The siege of Marawi City by the ISIS-linked Maute terror group that began in May 2017 was the toughest battle the military faced since World War II, said AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo.
They flushed out the terrorists and regained control of Marawi within 5 months – faster than US-led coalition forces were able to retake Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS – and it inspired public confidence, he added.
Licudine noted positive depictions of the military in TV shows and movies. “In the last 2 to 3 years, there were so many dramas that depict the military na maayos (as being orderly), etcetera. It also helps the image of the military,” he said.
“And you would also notice kasi, wala namang balita na negative masyado sa AFP (there hasn’t been much negative news about the AFP), especially during the martial law time in Mindanao…nothing really serious,” added Licudine, referring to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao from the time of the Marawi siege until it was lifted after December 31, 2019.
It was the military’s professional performance of its duty and its leaders’ commitment to excellence that must have shaped public opinion, along with its “modest modernization,” Arevalo told reporters at the forum.
Even President Rodrigo Duterte calls the AFP an “all-around” service that can be counted upon during natural disasters, accidents, and in any crisis, Arevalo said.
When trouble strikes, “whom you gonna call? It’s the Armed Forces,” the marine general quipped.
The survey was not entirely commissioned by the AFP, but it paid for 4 "rider" questions that were included in the SWS quarterly public opinion polls. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.