The latest Pulse Asia Survey, which says that eight in 10 Filipinos favour the Duterte administration’s COVID-19 response and that President Rodrigo Duterte garnered a 91 percent trust/approval rating made headlines not only locally but even internationally these last couple of days.
The results of Pulse Asia’s September 2020 “Ulat ng Bayan Survey” (“Report to the Nation Survey”), state that 84 percent of Filipinos approve of the government’s work to control the spread of the new coronavirus disease and the government efforts in assisting those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
92 percent of survey respondents purported that President Rodrigo Duterte has “done well” in terms of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the country, of which 62 percent said they “truly approve” of his performance, while 30 percent said they “somewhat approve” of his actions.
Also, the Pulse Asia survey shows that Duterte has reached a historic high of 91 percent trust/approval rating in the course of the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which is thus far unprecedented, despite critics stating that the national response of the government to the COVID-19 pandemic has been weak. Duterte’s trust rating is eight notches up from 83 percent in December 2019.
Vice President Leni Robredo acquired a 57 percent approval rating for her performance, one notch down from 58 percent in December 2019, of which 22 percent said they disapproved of her performance, two notches up from 20 percent in December 2019, while 21 percent were undecided about her work/performance.
In terms of trust rating, Robredo also fell to 50 percent from 53 percent in December 2019, while those who expressed distrust in her rose from 20 percent in December 2019 to 22 percent. The remaining 28 percent were undecided, which is two notches up from 26 percent in December 2019.
Moreover, Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s approval rating is at 84 percent, while his trust rating is 79 percent. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano's approval rating is 70 percent while his trust rating is 67 percent. The newly appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta garnered a 44 percent approval rating for his performance in office, while he got a 39 percent trust rating.
Implications And Importance
The historic high trust and approval ratings of Duterte and his administration amid the COVID-19 pandemic is practically the most essential political capital and foundation in reinforcing social cohesion and well-being, legitimacy, and the sustainability of the current administration to rightfully and lawfully govern the country.
The high level of trust and approval bestowed on the Duterte administration especially in handling the COVID-19 pandemic means that Filipinos have high confidence in the actions taken by the government in responding to the pandemic and many other problems faced by the Philippines.
Thus, this may not only increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations since the high trust/approval in the government and the president does influence citizens’ behaviour in ways that support desired policy outcomes. It also serves as an inspiration and a morale booster to the men and women in government, to Duterte himself and his cabinet, to the legislature and the judiciary, to the front-liners both, health workers and non-health workers, and the private sector, to continue the fight against the virus with much vigour and zest.
Also, the exceedingly high trust/approval rating of Duterte and his administration is essential in improving compliance with rules and regulations especially those which pertain to compliance of the minimum health standards prescribed by the government to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which could reduce the cost of enforcement.
The effectiveness of any regulations/protocols/plans for that matter, like those contained in Phase I, II and the newly launched Phase III of the National Action Plan Against the COVID-19 Pandemic of the Philippine government, is very much dependent on the extent to which people see them as fair and legitimate enough to outweigh the benefits of non-compliance.
This is particularly critical for regulations where the gap between the cost of compliance and personal benefits is enormous and where control/restriction is more difficult. The incredibly high trust/approval rating of Duterte and his administration is the regulator of the higher level of voluntary compliance of Filipinos to the prescribed protocols and rules for battling COVID-19.
Hence, trust in government and the political leaders of the country is indeed very crucial in a crisis, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why The Historic High Trust In Duterte?
The results of the latest Pulse Asia survey can be likened to the results of the 2016 National Elections and the 2019 Mid-Term Elections in the Philippines. The results of the survey and the last two elections were phenomenal, unparalleled, and in many ways unseen before in as far as the political history of the Philippines is concerned.
In the 2016 national elections, Duterte won 16.6 million votes, 6.6 million more than his closest rival, and more than any other president in Philippine history. The unprecedented results of the May 2019 mid-term elections, where Duterte’s allies won, had left the opposition completely defeated.
Thus far, Duterte’s trust/approval rating has been consistent over time. During the last three years of his administration – from July 2016 to July 2019 – survey after survey have yielded strikingly similar results, and that is: Duterte has the backing, support, and trust of most Filipinos.
Duterte received an impressive 88 percent approval rating from Filipinos halfway through his term. Hence, the latest results of the Pulse Asia survey just further affirm the solid backing, trust, and support of the Filipino people for their president and his administration.
Moreover, the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey are a cause for celebration and an exuberant moment for Duterte and his administration. However, it is a staggering nightmare for the opposition and Duterte’s many critics for they have not succeeded in converting the Filipino people to their cause.
Duterte, as the nation’s patriarch, has remained popular, even though he has continually and controversially graced the headlines both, locally and internationally, because of the antics and criticisms against him on an almost daily basis on national television, on broadsheets, and even in social media by his political antagonists.
Contrary to the fancies of Duterte’s political detractors, the 91 percent trust ratings and 92 percent approval ratings of Duterte amid the pandemic only signify that Duterte has successfully won the hearts and minds of Filipinos.
While his presidency is not without flaws, lapses and limitations, the majority of Filipinos have faith and understand that Duterte possesses the critical resilient leadership attributes and the strong political will needed to move the country forward despite the hardships brought on by the pandemic.
His critics have failed to recognise that 91 percent of Filipinos see, like, and enjoy the good things that his administration and strong-willed leadership have given them, courtesy in part to his strong political will. Thus, whether the opposition and his critics agree or not, the majority of Filipinos are more than satisfied with how Duterte is handling the country's affairs, providing and extending to them a sense of security that they did not experience during the administration of his predecessor.
This is why Filipinos remain steadfast in their support and trust for him and his government, even though anti-Duterte propaganda can be seen all over the country and beyond its borders.
Furthermore, Duterte's persistently high popularity and trust/approval ratings throughout his administration is very much a reflection of society-wide attitudes in the Philippines.
Filipinos are indeed fed up with decades of gridlock in government, poor public services, and “business-as-usual” negative practices. They have turned to and continue to trust and support Duterte with his “blunt-tough-talking” persona. He is viewed as a strongman and leader with a forceful “political will” and aura of “authenticity”.
He is resilient and acts fiercely on the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, corruption, violent crime, the drug menace, and even the usual bickering among Filipino politicians like the recent impasse on the passage of the country’s 2021 national budget.
No doubt, one thing is certain, despite all the fuss, criticisms and antics thrown at Duterte and his administration, he continues to enjoy wide popularity, approval, and the trust of the majority of Filipinos.
On the other hand, the results of the recent Pulse Asia survey strongly suggest that the implicit “social contract” between President Duterte, his administration, and the Filipino people remains rock-solid, and has never been more magnified than during the coronavirus pandemic, despite the challenges and havoc the crisis has brought to the country.