The majority of Filipinos not only disapprove of the performance of Chief Justice Renato Corona but also distrust him, results of the latest survey by Pulse Asia Inc. show.
Corona’s disapproval rating rose to 58 percent in March from 24 percent last November as his approval rating slipped to 14 percent from 38 percent.
The survey was conducted from Feb. 26 to Mar. 9 using face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adult Filipinos, at a time when the impeachment trial against the Chief Justice filled the headlines. The opinion poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 3 percentage points.
As expected, the defense panel belittled the Pulse Asia survey, with Corona’s lead defense counsel dismissing the results as “very unreliable.”
Serafin Cuevas, the head of Corona’s legal team, surmised that the respondents of the survey may have little understanding of the issues being discussed in the Senate impeachment trial.
“We have disputed that survey already… That is highly unreliable,” Cuevas told reporters, apparently referring to an earlier Pulse Asia poll which showed that close to 5 of 10 Filipinos believed that Corona was guilty of the charges against him.
He added: “First, we don’t know who were asked in the survey. Second, we don’t know if they understand what we’re discussing here. Third, they don’t know the merits and demerits (of the case).”
Across areas, groups
Disapproval of Corona’s performance was the majority sentiment across geographic areas and socioeconomic groups, Pulse Asia said in a statement released Thursday.
Across areas, 61 percent in Metro Manila, 60 percent in Mindanao, 59 percent in the rest of Luzon and 52 percent in the Visayas expressed disapproval of the Chief Justice’s performance.
By socioeconomic class, disapproval (64 percent) was highest among Class ABC. It was 59 percent among Class E and 57 percent among Class D.
Only 11 percent, down from 29 percent, said they trusted Corona, while 60 percent, up from 27 percent, said they distrusted him.
Distrust in the Chief Justice was also highest in Metro Manila at 64 percent. It was 61 percent in Mindanao, 59 percent in the rest of Luzon and 59 percent in the Visayas.
Distrust, by socioeconomic class, was highest among Class ABC at 64 percent. It was 60 percent in Class D and 59 percent in Class E.
Rico Paolo Quicho, one of the defense panel’s spokespersons, said he was not surprised with the survey results as chief magistrates of the high court were “historically not popular” since they usually shy away from the public and the media.
At a news briefing during a break in the trial, Quicho noted that the survey was done before the defense started presenting its own witnesses and evidence to controvert the allegations of the House prosecution panel against Corona.
“They (Chief Justices) try to avoid the public’s attention because they need to maintain their… independence. Most of the time, we don’t see justices and judges socializing because they should distance themselves from individuals who may be involved in cases in the future,” Quicho said.
Corona did not make himself scarce when the survey was conducted. He visited radio stations and TV programs to counter the allegations against him.
Karen Jimeno, also of the defense, said the disapproval rating for the Chief Justice was understandable since most of those who were asked in the survey also believed he was guilty.
“The 47 percent who said that the Chief Justice was guilty mathematically corresponds to the disapproval rating, but we should look at the size of the sample—it’s 1,200 Filipinos out of over 90 million (of our population),” Jimeno said.
She said surveys done by other entities showed that a number of Filipinos also believed Corona’s claim of innocence.
“At the end of the day, all these surveys will not matter since only the senator-judges will decide on this case and they will be guided by law and evidence as what the Constitution demands,” she added.
Quicho also questioned the timing of the release of the Pulse Asia survey which, he noted, was published as the Senate was set to take a monthlong recess.
He expressed concern over the possibility that some individuals might use the poll results for propaganda intended to “shape and condition the minds of the public.”
While surveys may be used to gauge public perception, Quicho said these “should not be used as the basis of truth.”
“We just hope that nobody will take advantage of these results to cast doubt on the impeachment process and further malign the name of the Chief Justice,” he said.
Quicho said the defense panel was “pleased that the senator-judges themselves publicly announced that they will not be affected and their minds will not be conditioned by these surveys.”
Asked if future surveys would eventually favor Corona after Land Registration Authority Administrator Eulalio Diaz III admitted that Corona did not own 45 properties, Quicho replied: “For me, I trust the capacity of the people to think.”
“As we have said, we’re really surprised that those who previously thought that the Chief Justice was guilty are now starting to be more cautious and are now looking at the evidence we’re presenting,” he added.