MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Majority or 65 percent of Filipinos agree that it is dangerous to broadcast or print anything critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed Friday.
This as the administration saw a shutdown of a major broadcast network and arrests, prosecution and red tagging of journalists.
The survey, conducted from Nov. 21 to 25 last year, also found that less than a fifth (16 percent) of Filipinos disagreed with the statement: “It is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth." Meanwhile, 18 percent were undecided.
The responses have a net agreement score of +49, considered by the pollster as "strong."
This net score increased by 28 points from the +21 reported in July 2020 which was "moderate," it pointed out.
Such sentiment was most prevalent in Mindanao, with a net agreement of +58. It was followed by Visayas with +55, Balance Luzon with +47, and Metro Manila with +30.
Compared to the July 2020 poll, SWS said the net agreement "rose sharply" in Mindanao and in Visayas. The net agreement also increased in Balance Luzon and in Metro Manila.
Belief that critical reporting on the Duterte administration is dangerous rose to +58 from +28 in Mindanao, and +55 from +26 in Visayas.
It also rose from +16 to +47 in Balance Luzon and from +16 to +30 in Metro Manila.
The release of the survey came almost a year since media network ABS-CBN was forced off the air after its franchise expiry— a promise Duterte had made in public speeches. Lawmakers from the House of Representatives eventually rejected its bid for a franchise renewal.
Thousands have lost their jobs in the process amid the pandemic as the company's regional stations were also closed.
Malacañang earlier rejected notions that the ABS-CBN shutdown was linked to Duterte's previous threats to the company, which has been airing critical news against the administration.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Some 65 percent of the 1,500 respondents interviewed by the pollster face-to-face, on the other hand, believe that they could "say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the
Nineteen percent disagreed with the statement while 16 percent were undecided, results from the survey showed.
The net agreement score on the sentiment stood at +46, the SWS said, which was also considered as "strong."
The net score this year, the SWS pointed out, increased by 5 points from the +41 in June 2019.
"This is the highest since the strong +48 in January 2001," SWS noted.
Belief that a person can say whatever he wants openly and fearlessly even if against the administration was highest in the Visayas with a net score of +59, followed by Mindanao with +55, and Balance Luzon with +42.
Net agreement was lowest among respondents in Metro Manila with a score of +28.
Comparing it with the results from the same poll released in June 2019, net agreement rose from "strong to very strong" in Visayas and in Mindanao, up by 12 points and 23 points respectively.
The net agreement was maintained in Balance Luzon but it fell in Metro Manila by 17 points, according to the survey.
In an interview on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, Leo Laroza, the pollster's director for communication and information technology, said results for the two statements were not contradictory.
Laroza pointed out that the first statement “it is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth" points specifically to the act of broadcasting and publishing news from the perspective of the Filipino public.
The second statement "I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration" on the other hand, points directly to their personal freedom of speech, according to the official.
"Mas maihahambing itong pangungusap na ito sa ano ba ang tingin ng ating kababayan sa mga nasa industriya talaga ng paglalathala at pagbo-broadcast. 'Yun ang mga kalagayan na nakikita nila kumpara naman sa pansarili nilang pakiramdam ng kalayaan at pagsasalita," he explained.
(We can compare this statement to what a person thinks of people in the broadcast and publishing industry. These are driven by the circumstances they personally see, compared to what they really feel regarding their own freedom of speech.)
The respondent's answer to the test statement "I can say anything I want," he said, depends on his understanding on the question.
"Nakikita namin na kahit tumataas ang nakikita nila ang panganib... sa paglalathala, o pag-print o pag-broadcast ng anumang kritikal sa administrasyon, nandoon pa rin ang personal sense of freedom of speech," he added.
(We observe that more Filipinos believe that while there is danger on printing and broadcasting anything critical of this administration, they still have their own personal sense of freedom and speech.)
In a press briefing on Friday, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Filipinos had nothing to fear in exercising their right to free speech.
"Iyan po ay garantisado ng ating Saligang Batas at ang Presidente naman po bilang isang abogado ay sumumpa na ipatutupad ang ating Saligang Batas kasama na po iyong tinatawag na Bill of Rights," he said.
(That is guaranteed in our Constitution and the President is a lawyer who swore to enforce our laws, including the Bill of Rights.)
The non-commissioned survey has sampling error margins of ±2.5% for national percentages, ±4% for Balance Luzon, and ±6% for Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao.
- With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News