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Pulse Asia Research, Inc. is pleased to share with you some findings on Urgent National Concerns and National Administration Performance Ratings on Selected Issues from the March 2018 Ulat ng Bayan national survey. We request you to assist us in informing the public by disseminating this information.

The survey fieldwork was conducted from March 23 to 28, 2018 using face-to-face interviews.

The following are among the key developments that preoccupied Filipinos during the month of March 2018:

1. The quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to remove SC Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno by questioning the validity of her appointment on the basis of her alleged failure to fully disclose her personal wealth; for her part, SC Chief Justice Sereno, who went on an “indefinite leave” beginning 01 March 2018, said the only way she can be removed from office is through impeachment as provided for by the 1987 Philippine Constitution; several militant lawmakers and concerned citizens have called on the SC to dismiss the petition which they consider to be unconstitutional;

2. The approval by the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives, through a vote of 33-1, of its report which finds probable cause to impeach SC Chief Justice Sereno for culpable violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and corruption; Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III has assured the SC Chief Justice of a fair trial should the impeachment trial materialize; calls for her resignation have been made by several groups of judges and court employees but these have been rejected by SC Chief Justice Sereno because resigning would only erode the High Court’s independence;

3. The order of Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to cancel the 20 December 2017 resolution by DOJ prosecutors to dismiss the drug charges against Peter Lim, Rolando Espinosa, Jr., and Peter Co; a new panel of prosecutors has been formed to review the original resolution and receive new evidence submitted by all concerned parties;

4. The Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) following what President Rodrigo R. Duterte referred to as the “outrageous” attacks made by some officials of the United Nations (UN) against his anti-illegal drugs campaign; nonetheless, critics say, this move does not mean that the ICC’s investigation into the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” will automatically cease;

5. The provisional acceptance into the witness protection program of Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles, who is being tried for plunder in connection with the P 10-B pork barrel scam; the latter requested for a transfer from the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to the DOJ because of reported intimidation, harassment, and threats against her; the DOJ’s clarification that should Ms. Napoles become a state witness in possible new cases, this would not exonerate her from her involvement in the pork barrel scam;

6. The recommendation made by an inter-agency government task force to close Boracay Island for a 6-month period beginning 26 April 2018 to allow for environmental rehabilitation efforts to be carried out in the area; resorts owners in other provinces pledged to carry out similar initiatives following the closure recommendation;

7. The filing of plunder charges against former Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles and retired Senior Supt. Wenceslao Sombero, Jr. in connection with the alleged attempt to extort P 50 M from a gambling tycoon in 2016;

8. The President’s support for joint exploration or “co-ownership” of the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China which, according to maritime law experts, would be tantamount to giving up the country’s claims over disputed territories in the area if such initiatives are not governed by Philippine laws;

9. The granting of subpoena powers to the PNP Chief and the top officials of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), through the President’s signing of Republic Act No. 10973, with the objective of speeding up criminal investigations; human rights groups criticized the move which they fear will only lead to more abuse on the part of the police particularly in connection with its role in the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs;

10. The continuing hearings on fake news at the Senate which saw Senator Grace Poe and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clashing over the lawmaker’s proposal to prohibit government officials and state employees from spreading fake news; the Palace Spokesperson said that the bill, among others, violates equal protection under the law because it singles out those in government for spreading fake news;

11. Former President Benigno S. Aquino’s appearance before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in connection with the preliminary hearing regarding the charges of electioneering filed against him arising from his administration’s dengue vaccination program;

12. The apology issued by Facebook Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg over the data breach involving more than 50 million Facebook accounts and which allowed a UK-based data mining and analytics company to make use of such data in connection with the electoral campaign of United States (US) President Donald J. Trump in 2016; and

13. In economic and financial news, the increase in oil prices prior to the Lenten break following remarks by Saudia Arabia’s Energy Minister regarding the need for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allied producers to coordinate supply cuts until 2019; the 5.85% decline in the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) for the month of March 2018 due to global trade concerns and increasing interest rates; the increase in the headline inflation rate by 3.9% between January and February 2018 (based on 2012 prices), the fastest increase since August 2014, as a result of the rise in the prices of food and beverage as well as alcoholic beverages and tobacco products; and the increase in the power rates of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) due to greater demand for electricity as the summer season begins.

As in our previous Ulat ng Bayan surveys, this nationwide survey is based on a sample of 1,200 representative adults 18 years old and above. It has a ± 3% error margin at the 95% confidence level. Subnational estimates for each of the geographic areas covered in the survey (i.e., Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) have a ± 6% error margin, also at 95% confidence level. Those interested in further technical details may refer to our website (www.pulseasia.ph)

Pulse Asia Research’s pool of academic fellows takes full responsibility for the design and conduct of the survey, as well as for analyses it makes based on the survey data. In keeping with our academic nature, no religious, political, economic, or partisan group influenced any of these processes. Pulse Asia Research undertakes Ulat ng Bayan surveys on its own without any party singularly commissioning the research effort.

For any clarification or questions, kindly contact Dr. Ana Maria Tabunda, Research Director of Pulse Asia Research at 09189436816 or Ronald D. Holmes, Pulse Asia Research President at 09189335497 (via mobile, Viber, or Telegram) or at ronald.holmes@gmail.com (via email.)

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Filipinos continue to be most concerned about urgent concerns that are economic in nature – workers’ pay, inflation, poverty, and jobs

In March 2018, Filipinos are most concerned about increasing the pay of workers (50%) and controlling inflation (45%). A second set of urgent national concerns includes poverty reduction (35%) and job creation (32%). Fighting criminality (27%), fighting graft and corruption in government (22%), and promoting peace (22%) comprise a third group of concerns deemed urgent by Filipinos. Meanwhile, reducing the amount of taxes paid by Filipinos (15%), protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (13%), enforcing the rule of law (10%), and protecting the environment (10%) make up a fourth cluster of urgent national concerns. At this time, Filipinos are least concerned about population growth (7%), national territorial defense (6%), terrorism (4%), and charter change (3%). (Please refer to Table 1.)

The leading first-ranked urgent national concerns of Filipinos are increasing the pay of workers (21%) and controlling inflation (18%). As for the top second-ranked issues considered urgent by Filipinos, these are inflation (16%), workers’ pay (14%), jobs (11%), poverty (10%), criminality (10%), and peace (10%). The most often mentioned third-ranked concerns are workers’ pay (14%), poverty (13%), jobs (12%), inflation (11%), criminality (9%), and peace (8%). (Please refer to Table 2.)

Across geographic areas and socio-economic classes, there are very few issues identified as urgent by a majority. These are workers’ pay in the rest of Luzon (56%) and Class D (54%) as well as inflation in Mindanao (53%), Class ABC (55%), and Class E (51%). In Metro Manila, the leading urgent national concerns are poverty (49%), inflation (46%), workers’ pay (45%), and jobs (38%). Among Visayans, the most often mentioned issues are workers’ pay (50%) and inflation (40%). In contrast, public concern is least manifest on the issues of population growth (5% to 9% and 7% to 8%, respectively) and charter change (3% to 5% and 1% to 5%, respectively). (Please refer to Table 1.)

Public concern about the need to increase the pay of workers and protect the welfare of OFWs becomes more pronounced between December 2017 and March 2018 while levels of concern about fighting corruption in government and enforcing the rule of law decline during the same period

During the period December 2017 to March 2018, there is an increase in the percentage of Filipinos who cite the need to increase the pay of workers as an urgent national issue (+11 percentage points). Similarly, concern about giving protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) becomes more marked at this time (+7 percentage points). On the other hand, the level of public concern as regards fighting corruption in government and enforcing the rule of law decreases (both at -9 percentage points). All other changes in public opinion on this matter occurring between December 2017 and March 2018 are marginal in nature, including the 5-percentage point rise in the level of concern about poverty reduction and the 5-percentage point decline in the level of concern regarding environmental degradation. (Please refer to Table 3.)

Year-on-year, it may be noted that Filipinos have become more concerned about increasing workers’ pay (+7 percentage points) and reducing poverty (+8 percentage points). Conversely, public concern about job creation and corruption eases between March 2017 and March 2018 (-7 and -9 percentage points, respectively).

The Duterte administration enjoys majority approval ratings on 11 of the 12 selected national issues on which its performance is evaluated in this survey; Filipinos’ assessment of the national administration’s work remains essentially constant between December 2017 and March 2018

Filipinos are most appreciative of the incumbent administration’s efforts to respond to the needs of areas affected by calamities (86%), protecting the welfare of OFWs (84%), and fighting criminality (81%). Majority approval scores are also enjoyed by the Duterte administration for its work in the areas of promoting peace (71%), enforcing the rule of law (71%), protecting the environment (71%), fighting corruption in government (70%), increasing the pay of workers (68%), creating more jobs (67%), defending national territorial integrity (67%), and reducing poverty (53%). The only non-majority approval rating of the administration is recorded on the issue of inflation, for which it receives a 39% approval rating, a 33% disapproval score, and a 28% indecision figure. It may be recalled that inflation is an issue considered urgent by 45% of Filipinos. (Please refer to Table 4.)

While public disapproval is most pronounced towards the Duterte administration’s work in the area of controlling inflation (33%), single-digit disapproval ratings are recorded by the administration on the issues of disaster response (2%), protection of OFWs (4%), peace promotion (6%), criminality (7%), rule of law (7%), workers’ pay (8%), environmental protection (9%), and job creation (9%). Meanwhile, levels of indecision toward the administration’s performance on selected issues range from 12% on disaster response, protection of OFWs, and criminality to 29% on poverty reduction.

There are only a few changes in public opinion concerning the current dispensation’s quarterly performance between December 2017 and March 2018. These are the: (1) increase in the level of appreciation for its initiatives to respond to the needs of calamity-hit areas (+7 percentage points) and protecting the welfare of OFWs (+8 percentage points); (2) drop in approval for its work in the area of controlling inflation (-7 percentage points); (3) decline in indecision levels toward its work in the areas of stopping environmental degradation (-7 percentage points) and protecting OFWs (-9 percentage points); and (4) rise in the level of disapproval for its efforts to control inflation (+12 percentage points).  (Please refer to Table 5.)