New survey firm BOSES Pilipinas promises to help Filipinos make informed decisions not only for the country’s next batch of leaders but also on issues affecting their daily life.
BOSES Pilipinas, which stands for Boses, Opinyon, Siyasat, at Siyensya para sa Pilipinas (Voices, Opinions, Research and Science for the Philippines), was launched in an online forum on Wednesday, June 30.
During the online launch, Imelda Deinla, a convenor of the group, said BOSES Pilipinas won’t compete but will complement the work of other polling outfits such as Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations.
“BOSES Pilipinas’ promise to the nation is to provide knowledge and credible information that can assist them in making informed choices, such as choosing the next leaders of our country, the task that the government should prioritize, and better policies that should be done to eradicate poverty and COVID-19,” Deinla said.
It will “secure the Filipinos’ voice on significant public policy issues,” she added. “Our unit would like to contribute further by deepening our understanding of public opinion not only to know what they are, but the whys and how they arrive at these opinions.”
The Ateneo School of Government and its public policy think tank, the Ateneo Policy Center, conceived BOSES Pilipinas. It is partnering with non-partisan, pro-democracy coalition Participate PH.
Having a university-based survey research firm is important not only for the academe, but also to the general public, Deinla said.
“We are duty-bound to observe the highest standards of rigor, transparency and ethical conduct in our work … Our surveys will only be conducted after undergoing a university review, approval of our survey protocols and complying with ethical guidelines,” she explained.
James Jimenez, spokesperson of the Commissioner on Elections (Comelec), praised the group’s objective, saying it ensures a “level of security that the conclusions, the projects undertaken will be undertaken for the right reasons and certainly for enlightenment of the audience.”
BOSES Pilipinas will adopt the use of both numbers-based and observation-based methods of study to collect data from its survey participants. Results of interviews will be intertwined with observations, analysis of media content, and focus group discussions to strengthen research findings.
It boasts of having experts from different universities and institutions in political science, economics, psychology, and mass communication, to name a few.
“Our surveys are actually part of broader social science studies, and we aim to deep dive into the factors that affect or influence Filipino attitudes and perspectives, so we understand what really matters to them and how they want to achieve a better life and society,” Deinla said.
With the drop in survey responses and respondents’ interest, the survey firm is using online, game-based surveys on social media to elicit responses. “We want to make the survey experience more interesting and fulfilling for our participants,” she said.
Asked about the possible implications of having different results from other survey firms, Deinla welcomed it as a “healthy sign” of democracy.
“We encourage diversity and plurality of views. But it’s also high time for people to be more discerning what sort of methods and techniques that these survey outfits have been doing. Are they transparent? Did it undergo a review process?” she explained.
However, Deinla said the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has made surveys more difficult to conduct nationwide, a sentiment shared by Kelly Mulcahy, manager for public policy and research of Facebook’s Data for Good team.
“One of the things that we saw with COVID-19 is that traditional surveys are disrupted, so you can’t do house-to-house surveys. And so social media is a great way to be able to complement and do similar surveys through a different mechanism,” Mulcahy said.
She promised that her Facebook team would help BOSES Pilipinas get the support needed in terms of providing data.
“We’re intended to support partners in the ground. If there is a data gap that we can fill up, we’re excited to help,” Mulcahy said.
One thing that distinguishes BOSES Pilipinas from other survey firms is that it will not accept commissioned surveys from politicians, a concept welcomed by journalist Ellen Tordesillas, co-founder and president of VERA Files, noting that survey results during the election season influence voters’ choices on balloting day.
“Ang dami-daming red flags sa mga surveys natin; sino ba ‘yung dapat paniwalaan natin (Surveys have so many red flags; which should we believe in),” said Tordesillas, who was a reactor in the forum.
“Ang surveys, dapat maging thermometer, ‘yung kukunin niya ang pulso ng bayan. Hindi ‘yung gagawin mong thermostat, ‘yung ikaw ang mag-i-influence ng desisyon. (Surveys should be a thermometer that gets the people’s pulse, not a thermostat that influences a decision),” she said.
Tordesillas explained that some politicians commission surveys to create a bandwagon. Surveys can be altered to make a politician look popular by lining them up with relatively unpopular candidates, she added.
Results of BOSES Pilipinas’ surveys and research will be distributed in different platforms such as videos, infographics, and press releases that are easy for the public to digest.
“We are under a marching order not only to produce scholarly work but also to be able to use outputs for policy and to be able to engage the broader public,” Deinla said,
Citing the collaborative nature of the initiative, the BOSES Pilipinas convenor touts its “partnerships from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao with academic and non-government partners.”
Jimenez said he believes there won’t be an issue in disseminating BOSES Pilipinas’ survey and research results to the media.
“Kapag may mga survey results naman na talagang magkakaroon ng impact sa publiko, I think hahanapin ng balita ‘yung surveys na iyon (If survey results would have a profound impact on the public, I think the news [outlets] would look for those surveys),” he said.
A weapon against election-related mis/disinformation
Both Jimenez and Tordesillas agreed that future research and survey endeavors by BOSES Pilipinas will help address the problems over mis/disinformation, especially those related to the upcoming 2022 elections.
“One of the main problems identified by the Comelec as a red flag coming up to the 2022 elections is the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation. Any initiative that would help educate the public as to the difference between the two would be very helpful,” said Jimenez.
For Tordesillas, the newly-launched survey firm will help provide credible information that would give substance to news reports and would make reportage more interesting.
“When we give the people credible fact-based reports, we give them a tool to make those in power accountable. It will also give an opportunity to people who are most vulnerable to air their concerns. This is giving voice to the voiceless,” she concluded.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)