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Mamasapano sinks Aquino rating

President Benigno Aquino III’s handling of the Mamasapano incident resulted in his net satisfaction ratings plunging to their lowest levels in the first quarter of the year, according to analysts.

Edmund Tayao, a political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said how the President handled the incident was not acceptable to the public.

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“The unfortunate incident held hostage everything, not only the peace process. The political capital of the President was significantly eroded by the poor handling of the incident,” Tayao said.

The President’s rating in the first quarter of the year fell to its lowest level since he assumed office in 2010, according to Social Weather Stations (SWS).

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READ: SWS: Aquino satisfaction rating hits all-time low

Despite the decline in his rating, a majority said they were not in favor of the proposal that Mr. Aquino resign as president, results of the SWS survey, conducted from March 20 to 23, showed.

Of the 1,200 adult respondents nationwide, 47 percent were satisfied with the performance of the President while 36 percent were dissatisfied, resulting in a net satisfaction rating (satisfied minus dissatisfied) of “moderate” 11, down 28 points from last December’s “good” 39 (63 percent satisfied minus 24 percent dissatisfied).

Mr. Aquino’s previous record low was a “moderate” 25 in June last year and his highest rating was a “very good” 67 recorded in August 2012.

SWS considers a rating of 70 and above “excellent”; 50 to 69, “very good”; 30 to 49, “good”; 10 to 29, “moderate”; 9 to -9, “neutral”; -10 to -29, “poor”; -30 to -49, “bad”; -50 to -69, “very bad”; -70 and below, “execrable.”

The survey, first published in BusinessWorld, had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

The sharp decline in the President’s rating came several weeks after the clashes between Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province.

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Debacle

On Jan. 25, SAF commandos went to Moro rebel-controlled Mamasapano to arrest Malaysian terrorists Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Amin Baco, alias “Jihad,” and their Filipino associate, Basit Usman.

The commandos killed Marwan but Baco and Usman escaped and the mission ended in a disaster when the commandos were ambushed by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Justice for Islamic Movement as they withdrew from the town. The encounter left 44 policemen, 17 MILF fighters and three civilians dead.

BBL prospects

Prospero E. de Vera, professor at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance, said Mr. Aquino’s decreasing ratings would have an impact on his ability to mobilize his allies in Congress and generate public support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The BBL is a measure that would establish an autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao as provided for in the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF.

“Can the administration produce a BBL that will satisfy constitutional challenge, be acceptable to the MILF and generate enough votes from his allies in Congress? The real battle will be fought in plenary where his critics and those aspiring for national office in 2016 will resurrect the horrors of Mamasapano and link these with the BBL,” De Vera said in an e-mail interview.

“Assuming the bill passes through Congress, will it be able to hurdle a challenge in the Supreme Court and a plebiscite? In all these, presidential leadership will be required, and a President with a declining performance and trust rating will be severely tested,” De Vera added.

Malacañang acknowledged that the Mamasapano debacle had influenced the “political landscape” that led to the President’s lowest public approval rating in five years.

Moving forward

Reacting to the results of the SWS survey, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that “very clearly events in Mamasapano have influenced the political landscape when the survey was taken.”

“We recognize that. And moving forward, we will continue to do what is good for the Filipino people,” Lacierda said. “We still have several hundred days left.”

Until Mamasapano, Mr. Aquino was the only Chief Executive after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship who enjoyed a consistently high public approval rating.

No controversy would stick to the President since he assumed office in June 2010, not even the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program, an economic program parts of which had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

READ: Aquino vs Judiciary?

The Mamasapano debacle had Mr. Aquino explaining to the public four times what he knew about the planning, execution and aftermath of the police counterterrorism operation.

Explanation from President

What critics still demand from the President was an explanation why he allowed his friend, then PNP chief Alan Purisima, join the then SAF commander, Director Getulio Napeñas, in a Jan. 9 briefing on the planned police operation to take down Marwan and his cohorts.

Purisima was at that time serving a six-month suspension order from the Ombudsman for allegations of graft and corruption. He later resigned as PNP chief and Napeñas was sacked as SAF commander in the wake of the debacle.

Against resignation

Amid calls for Mr. Aquino’s resignation following the bungled police counterterrorism operation, 50 percent of the respondents said they disagreed with the proposal, with 30 percent saying they strongly disagreed and 20 percent saying they somewhat disagreed. Thirty-two percent said they agreed and 18 percent were undecided.

“You can see the public is objective in assessing the incident. A majority don’t want the President to resign,” Tayao said.

But this is not something that the administration should crow about, according to De Vera.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Edmund Tayao, Mamasapano, Mamasapano incident, Prospero De Vera, rating, Satisfaction Ratings, Social Weather Station, SWS
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