World | Philippines

Benigno Aquino popularity rating down

Government officials’ misuse of public funds cited as main reason for plunge in Philippine president’s popularity rating

  • By Barbara Mae Dacanay, Bureau Chief, Manila
  • Published: 15:14 October 14, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manila: President Benigno Aquino’s popularity net rating went down to 49 per cent in September, compared to 64 per cent in June, due to revelations about widespread misuse of public funds by government officials, sources said.

“While an overwhelming majority of Filipinos remain supportive of the President and his agenda, we recognise that the increase in those dissatisfied reflects the depth of anger and disappointment of the people at the way public funds have been stolen [by elected officials],” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a press briefing at the presidential palace.

A survey conducted by the Social Weather Station on 1,200 respondents from September 20 to 23 showed that 68 per cent were satisfied with Aquino’s performance, 19 per cent dissatisfied, or a net satisfaction rating of 49 per cent.

“We share this anger and disappointment [of the people over misuse of development funds].

“No amount of clutter should confuse the true issue at hand: public funds were stolen by elected officials and their cohorts in the bureaucracy and the private sector,” Valte said.

“Rest assured that our pursuit of justice will continue and will in fact intensify as more evidence is gathered [against those who misuse development funds].

“Those who have wronged us will be held accountable. Those who wish to bring us back to the old ways will not succeed,” he added.

Aquino’s campaign against corruption should have strengthened his popularity. The rating drop is a sign that people have a perception that all elected government officials, including the president, not only senators and congressmen at the House of Representatives, have misused the discretionary funds allotted to them, analysts said.

Earlier, Aquino has been criticised for the release in October 2012 of funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Programme (DAP), composed of savings of line agencies.

At the time, some senators received P50 million (Dh4.2 million), and congressmen P10 million even if senators and congressmen have an annual allotment of development funds at P200 million and P 70 million, respectively.

Critics claimed the release of DAP was allegedly a “thank you” note for those who voted to impeach former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012.

There was a clamour for Aquino to oust Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for the lapse in the release of DAP funds, but the president said he himself ordered it.

“This resulted in a backlash in his popularity rating. We don’t know if there will be a cabinet revamp soon,” said professor Mon Casiple,

Revelations that senators and congressmen were allegedly involved in peddling their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), with the help of a private businesswoman, Janet Lim Napoles, who offered 50 per cent refund to the lawmakers, 10 per cent to other government officials, and 40 per cent to her personal bank account, also pulled down Aquino’s popularity for two reasons.

“He did not call for the abolition of the so-called pork barrel, giving the perception that the president was afraid it would also affect his pork barrel,” said another analyst.

“Only three opposition senators were earlier named as involved in the alleged scam, but reports are now saying that administration lawmakers were also involved in the said scam, which increased people’s belief that almost all elected government official misuse their development funds,” said the same analyst.

The handling of the renewal of armed struggle of the Moro National Liberation front (MNLF) rebels which resulted in the takeover of six coastal villages in Zamboanga, also affected the president’s popularity rating, said Casiple.

Aquino stayed for a long time in Zamboanga City, to oversee the situation there, but this resulted in a prolonged conflict, said Casiple, adding that it spoke badly of Aquino’s ability in conflict resolution.

This year, Aquino’s net satisfaction rating fell to “good” at 49 in September, compared to “very good” net satisfactory rating of 64 per cent in June, said the SWS.

In May 2012, Aquino registered a “low good” satisfactory rating of 42 per cent, the SWS compared.

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