THE PEOPLE, NOT SURVEYS, SHOULD JUDGE President Macapagal-Arroyo?s performance.
The poor who are benefiting from government subsidies funded with revenue from the unpopular value-added tax (VAT) can attest to the fact that Ms Arroyo has been doing her best to fulfill her oath as President, said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in an impassioned defense of his boss.
And describing the President as the ?most unpopular leader? since democracy was restored in 1986 was uncalled for, he said.
Running and managing a country is not a ?popularity contest,? Ermita reminded the pollster, the Social Weather Stations.
?We must always do what is right, we must act ... in a way that will address the problems of our countrymen, and not what is necessarily popular because one can be popular but it does not necessarily mean that what one is doing is right,? he said.
He wondered about the accuracy of the SWS survey that showed the President?s public approval rating plunging to a record low of negative 38 percent in June when, he said, she has done so much for Filipinos, including crisscrossing the country to oversee antipoverty projects and typhoon relief and rehabilitation.
?Of course people have to wonder why after the many things that she is doing for the well-being of our citizens that that should still be the perception,? he said.
In his view, it is the beneficiaries of the government?s subsidy programs who can themselves say whether the President?s ?style of governance is enough or whether she has genuine concern for our countrymen.?
?Katas ng e-VAT?
Ermita cited the P8 billion worth of subsidies, dubbed the ?Katas ng eVAT (Fruits of eVAT),? which have been distributed to the poor since January this year.
These dole-outs were given in the form of subsidies to ?lifeline users? of electricity, microfinance programs for wives of public transport drivers, upgrading of government tertiary hospitals into primary hospitals, cash for poor families and the elderly, and relief and rehabilitation efforts in the areas ravaged by Typhoon ?Frank? in Panay and other islands.
The P8 billion does not include billions more spent for subsidizing cheap rice for the poor and unprecedented investments in infrastructure projects in the countryside which are creating jobs there, said Ermita.
The SWS survey, conducted last June, found that only 22 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the President?s performance while 60 percent were dissatisfied.
Ms Arroyo?s record-low ratings reached across all regions and socioeconomic classes, with Filipinos belonging to the upper-to-middle-class ABC ?just as dissatisfied now? as the ?masa? class D.
The SWS also noted that it was the first time that dissatisfaction was at ?majority levels? in all areas, including the Visayas where the President draws the most support.
Not picking a fight
But the Palace was in no mood to pick a fight with the SWS.
In an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Ermita said that he was not questioning the SWS? survey methodology or the manner by which it selected the 1,200 survey respondents.
?If [Malacañang] says that the survey is unfair, this will only give credence to what they?re saying??you see, they are affected because it?s true,?? he said.
But he reminded the SWS that the President was only doing what is ?right.?
?What is important is for the people to feel the effects of what the President is doing, so that they will see that the President has real concern over their plight,? Ermita said.
Sona will prove it
He said that Ms Arroyo will prove in her State of the Nation Address later this month that she ?is a very active performing achiever, performing political leader, performing President.?
The President will report on her accomplishments since the last Sona in July 2007 at a joint session of the House and the Senate to mark the reopening of Congress on July 28.
?This will allow the people to see that she is not a ?promising? leader, but an achiever and a performer. President Arroyo will show the different economic as well as social welfare and development programs that she has implemented to improve the people?s lot in life,? said Ermita.
?That is the bottom line. What is good for our country, what the President will do to improve the overall well-being of Juan de la Cruz. That?s the vision of the President?the overall well-being of the individual in the Philippines, the overall well-being of Juan de la Cruz,? he said.