Pharmally issue affecting gov’t approval ratings: expert

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2021 12:35 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2021 01:24 PM

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MANILA –Alleged corruption scandals--such as the government’s alleged anomalous deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp—may be affecting the public’s appreciation of the Duterte administration's efforts to address issues most urgent to them, a political scientist said Wednesday.

A Pulse Asia survey released Wednesday showed that the public’s approval of government actions to address their important concerns is diminishing.

Public approval on government’s efforts to fight corruption, for example, declined by 12 percent quarter on quarter, and 25 percent year on year.

“For example, this controversial Pharmally scandal that’s under investigation in the Senate, and we see for example President Duterte taking an active role in lawyering, if not, you know, making it hard for the Senate to do its job to conduct a proper investigation of this issue. So I would say that this significant decline for example in how people weighed or assessed the administration’s performance on corruption has something to do with this,” said De La Salle University lecturer Professor Cleve Arguelles.

“We also see in this same survey that what’s back at the top of the concerns for most people, what we want national government to address are really pandemic-related issues such as the pay of workers, controlling the spread of the virus right now, [and] the ayuda, increasing the ayuda, but there’s still a connection. right? Between fighting corruption and these kinds of issues.”

“It’s one thing to see the government perform poorly in terms of, like you know increasing the pay of workers and controlling inflation, another thing to even see it defend or make it hard for the Senate to do its job to investigate corruption in the government,” he added.

Arguelles said the public seems to be taking note of how President Rodrigo Duterte is appearing defensive when it comes to the Pharmally controversy. 

“We see how President Duterte in his address to the nation would even go into details and say, you see, the expiration of the face shield, it doesn’t really matter because you just have to replace some parts of it and it would be okay already.”

“So I think for an ordinary Filipino, it’s quite clear that the President is quite defensive on this issue and I think they’re seeing really through it,” he added.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is conducting a probe on the government’s purchase of allegedly overpriced and substandard face masks, face shields and other medical equipment from Pharmally.

Duterte has blasted the panel’s conduct of the hearings, calling them a “waste of time.” He has also repeatedly insulted Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the committee.

His former economic adviser, Michael Yang, has been linked to the allegedly dubious deals.

Arguelles said Duterte’s trust and approval ratings may dip following the Pharmally controversy.

“I think on this one, rather than President Duterte delegating all the tasks to the members of the administration cabinet, for example to take on the issue of the Pharmally, he’s taking a very active public role about it.”

“So we might see--not for now but we might see--I think we could expect that in the coming quarter for example, that it might not be significant but there will be a decline in public support for Duterte,” he said.

He stressed, however, that it’s important for government to address these concerns as they may affect the performance of administration candidates in the upcoming 2022 polls.

“On the one hand, you know, the pandemic is really affecting the day-to-day life especially among the low-income Filipinos so on that level alone, they should really respond to this, cause Filipinos are sending a message that what the government is doing right now in terms of pandemic response, that’s not enough. This is a call for help,” he said.

“On the other hand, politically, this is also quite crucial for the president if they want to maintain, you know, their value in the coming elections,” he added.

“Because the closer we are to 2022 and if there won’t be changes in the numbers, if the trend of decline would continue, then that’s going to be part of the criteria and what would affect the decision of the voters.”

“That would mean that whoever President Duterte endorses, whoever would be appointed as the successor candidate of the Duterte government wouldn’t have an advantage, right?”

Arguelles also said that the survey results present a “political opportunity” for presidential aspirants who want to win voters over to their side as early as now.

“I think this is really an opportunity for those applying for the job of the president to demonstrate that they do understand the needs of the Filipinos but more importantly, that they have something to show to respond to this very important urgent problems.”

“So for example as soon as they are elected in 2022, what are they going to do? And I think some of the candidates are well-placed to address this because they have executive positions in the past, and they’ve also shown that they can deliver on these issues,” he said.

“This is really a political opportunity for them to bring in, to make clear their position about these issues,” he added.

--ANC, 6 October 2021