Senatorial bet seeks temporary stop to SWS, Pulse Asia surveys
MANILA, Philippines — A lawyer running for the Senate asked a Quezon City court, on Wednesday, to stop the Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia Inc. from conducting senatorial surveys, saying the two public opinion outfits must first settle queries with senatorial candidates before undertaking surveys.
In a four-page complaint filed at the QC regional trial court, Samson Alcantara, who is running under the Social Justice Society political party, said SWS and Pulse Asia should be fair and transparent by providing candidates like him with survey questions and other relevant data.
“Plaintiff has a right, in his capacity as a senatorial candidate, to be provided, prior to the survey, by defendants with copies of the questions to be propounded to the respondents. This is to enable him to take such steps as may be necessary to protect his rights; for there is no assurance that the proposed questions would not be misleading, vague, unfair, or unduly favorable to the other candidates, thereby ruining plaintiff’s chances of obtaining a fair rating,” Alcantara said.
The candidate called on the court to issue an order stopping SWS and Pulse Asia from conducting any public opinion surveys in connection with the 2013 senatorial elections without first providing him with the questions to be asked and other data “within a reasonable period” prior to the holding of the surveys.
He clarified, however, that he was not questioning the right of the SWS and Pulse Asia to conduct surveys, whether for profit or not.
“[I]t should be stressed that with such right comes great responsibility. An erroneous survey can create a bandwagon effect in favor of an undeserving candidate. Indeed, such a situation would seriously undermine the constitutional policy to insure free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections,” he explained.
Citing Article 19 of the Civil Code, Alcantara said both SWS and Pulse Asia, in the exercise of their rights, “have the legal duty to act with justice, give everyone his due and observe honest and good faith.”
Pulse Asia conducted a survey of senatorial candidates whose results were released in June and September this year. SWS has yet to conduct, or disclose results of, any survey for senatorial candidates.
Pulse Asia, in its report on its latest senatorial survey, said respondents were asked to choose at least 12 from a prepared list of 36 prospective senatorial candidates. The respondents were also asked if they read about, heard of, watched about any of the candidates they selected at any given time.
Alcantara, in a phone interview, echoed long-standing suspicions that surveys tended to favor those already popular.
“Even if they reveal them later, how sure are we that the questions they claim to have asked the respondents were really the ones asked? How sure are we that my name was really included in their lists? My ratings might be harmed if they would only ask the respondents if they knew me. This could all boil down to popularity,” he said.
The SJS, a Comelec-registered party, was founded in 2001 with the main platform of pushing for the equitable distribution not only of economic wealth but also political power to boost the country’s democracy.
The SJS is better known as the group that pushed for the relocation of the Pandacan oil depot in Manila and the one which filed a suit against showbiz personalities in government who continued to make performances despite the law prohibiting all local officials from exercising their professions. Alcantara is also the president of the leader of the Abakada partylist group, composed of educators and academe supporters.
Republic Act No. 9006 or the Fair Elections Act of 2001 defines elections surveys as “the measurement of opinions and perceptions of the voters as regards a candidate’s popularity, qualifications, platforms or a matter of public discussion in relation to the election, including voters’ preference for candidates or publicly discussed issues during the campaign period.”
The law requires persons and firms conducting surveys to disclose information on who commissioned or paid for the survey, the methodology used, the number of the people polled, the areas where the respondents came from, the specific questions asked, the margin of error, among others.
All survey results and data gathered must also be made available for inspections, copying and verification by the Commission on Elections, registered political parties, the candidates, and the Comelec-accredited citizen’s arm.
Surveys affecting national candidates may not be published 15 days before elections while surveys affecting local candidates shall not be published seven days before the polls.
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