Why despite criticisms, Duterte scored high in trust, approval ratings

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 14 2016 05:15 AM

The trust and approval rating of President Rodrigo Duterte released by Pulse Asia Wednesday and the critique of his administration published in local and international mass media are "apples and oranges," the polling company's president said Thursday.

Pulse Asia President Ronald Holmes, speaking on ANC's "Headstart", emphasized that their survey results indicate the "aggregate of individual opinions of Filipinos."

"What we see in international papers or those that are expressed by leaders of international organizations and foreign countries would be expression of the ones that we can consider part of the elite," he said.

Holmes, who is also a political scientist, explained that the "elite" he is pertaining to is not defined by wealth.

"That means really from a group that are expressing opinions that are separate and may be set aside from what can be considered as mass opinion," he said.

"Mass opinion includes the elite actually—it includes socio-economic classes that are relatively more affluent, but you aggregate them with other socio-economic classes," he added.

Duterte scored 86 percent in both approval and trust ratings in his first three months in office, Pulse Asia said in its latest survey, and garnered ambivalence points of 11 and outright disapproval/distrust of 3.

This comes on the heels of Duterte being described by French newspaper The Liberation as a "Serial killer President," narrating how the long-time mayor of Davao City rid his turf of rebels allegedly with the help of the purported Davao Death Squad formed under his watch.

Before this, Duterte's anti-narcotics crackdown also caught the attention of several other international media outfits, like the New York Times and Thailand's The Nation.

But Holmes maintained that "an editorial in a newspaper is a product of the editorial team."

"They might get a sense of how people in their own country position themselves relative to issues like extrajudicial killings. We can say that their position would be something that is justified given the values and the norms that they safeguard," he said.

"Unless we do a survey of let’s say, people in France or people in the United States or people, let’s say, in any other country where there has been criticism against the president, then that’s the only time we can say that there must be a disconnect, and that disconnect might be borne out largely by norms," he said.

Holmes added that they have also asked questions to try to assess and elicit the opinion of the public on the anti-drug war campaign and the methods employed, but they haven't processed the data yet. 

However, he noted that essentially, "the public will be concerned about methods that go beyond the legal boundaries in the sense that they would not in any way condone what has been referred to in media, to what we normally refer to in the human rights literature as extrajudicial killings."

He asserted that the public at the local level is well aware of the extent of the drug menace and that this has been magnified by Duterte, who brought it to national consciousness; but their approval of Duterte and disapproval of the drug war's methods do not necessarily negate each other.

"The other thing that we should consider also is not to harp on the common belief that an approval on the part of the president is an approval of the methods. As I said, they don’t necessarily agree with the methods but they agree that the drug problem has to be solved," he said. 

In what has been a little more than a hundred days of the Duterte administration, Holmes said that the question on extrajudicial killings—whether there are instances of police abuse during operations or those perpetuated by unidentified vigilante groups which may or may not be sanctioned by law enforcement apparatuses—remains unanswered.

"When you’ve established, when media reports have established based on evidence that really there had been extrajudicial killings, that is the time that we should expect really—and I would be quite if there is no public outcry," he said.

"Right now, I think there is this level of trust bestowed on the administration," he added.