September 2021 Nationwide Survey on Urgent Concerns and the Performance Ratings of the National Administration on Selected Issues

Pulse Asia Research, Inc. is pleased to share with you some findings on Urgent Concerns and the Performance Ratings of the National Administration on Selected Issues from the September 2021 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 September 6 – 11, 2021 using face-to-face interviews.

The following are only some of the key developments that took place in the weeks immediately prior to the conduct of the fieldwork for the survey as well as during the actual conduct of the interviews:

1. There was a renewal of calls for the resignation or firing of Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III following the 11 August 2021 release by the Commission on Audit (COA) of its 2020 report on the DOH. The said report states that there were “various deficiencies” totaling P 67.3 billion in the DOH’s funds that adversely affected the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the DOH could officially respond to the audit report, President Rodrigo R. Duterte seemingly cleared the DOH and DOH Secretary Duque of any wrongdoing by saying he will not accept the latter’s resignation should he offer to leave his post.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee embarked on a series of investigations on the COA report on the DOH’s misuse of its pandemic response budget. Among the issues discussed in these hearings were the delayed release of healthcare workers’ benefits, purchase of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 test kits, double payment for face shields, and the unauthorized purchase of machines, among others. During the course of the Senate investigation, it was revealed that most of the government’s contracts for the provision of pandemic-related supplies were awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, a company that was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) only in September 2019 with a paid-up capital of P 625,000. The company ended up with P 8.7 billion worth of government contracts. Furthermore, Pharmally Director Linconn Ong revealed during the 10 September 2020 hearing that the company borrowed money from former Presidential Economic Adviser Michael Yang to fund its first transaction amounting to P 54 million. However, the latter refuted this claim as he pointed out that his only role in the transactions was to introduce Pharmally Director Ong to the Chinese suppliers from whom they procured the items they sold to the Philippine government.

Aside from looking into how Pharmally was able to win these government contracts, Senator Franklin Drilon said the company should also be investigated for potential tax fraud while the committee requested the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to investigate the financial transactions of Pharmally as “dirty money” may have been used to its transactions with the government.

President Duterte defended Pharmally against its detractors and once again stated he will resign if it will be proven that there were irregularities in the DOH’s purchase of medical supplies. In addition, the President criticized the senators for their “malicious” investigation into the audit report and attacked the COA for releasing audit reports that lead the public to believe that government agencies and their officials are engaged in corruption. Meanwhile, Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo said if President Duterte is serious about fighting corruption, he should release his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) and follow the COA’s recommendations on how to stamp out corruption in government. On the other hand, Ombudsman Samuel Martires, during the budget hearing for the Office of the Ombudsman on 09 September 2021, expressed support for tough penalties, perhaps even jail time of up to five (5) years, for any individual who would comment on the SALN of government officials and employees. The last time President Duterte released his SALN to the public was in 2017.

Likewise, the House of Representatives conducted its own investigation into the COA report on the DOH. During one of the hearings, DOH Secretary Duque turned emotional as he spoke about how the COA report has destroyed the morale of DOH personnel. Moreover, the latter said the DOH was not given sufficient time to address the concerns raised in the report prior to its public release. In response, COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo said the DOH was extended due process but the department failed to submit all the needed documents to the COA.

2. Aside from the DOH, the COA also flagged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for its “insufficient internal control measures” in relation to its disbursement of aid to workers affected by the pandemic. The COA’s 2020 report on the DOLE shows that this failure of the agency resulted in excessive payments amounting to P 1.023 million to displaced workers, unclaimed cash aid totaling P 22.432 million still in money remittance centers, and the alleged distribution of P 1.824 million in aid that, upon verification, never reached its intended beneficiaries. Furthermore, the COA’s 2020 audit report for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) called out the department for its failure to utilize P 780.71 million allotted for cash assistance to those affected by the pandemic in Regions 2, 7, 8, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

3. The Philippines recorded its first case of the Lambda variant of COVID-19 on 15 August 2021. The variant, first detected in Peru, is a “variant of interest” due to its mutations that have been found to be resistant to antibodies created by vaccines. Meanwhile, by the end of August 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is now the dominant strain in the Philippines. As of 06 September 2021, all regions in the country have Delta variant cases. And on 11 September 2021, the Philippines recorded its highest daily total COVID-19 cases at 26,303 cases, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 2,206,021, with 34,978 deaths. A day prior, President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 1218 that extends the national state of calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic until 12 September 2022.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, hospitals were once again swamped, with some of them being unable to accept additional COVID-19 cases or even non-life-threatening cases. Adding to the woes of the medical sector are the delayed release of the special risk allowance (SRA) and other benefits for healthcare workers, failure to compensate healthcare workers who contracted COVID-19, and the resignation of nurses particularly from private hospitals. As the country commemorated National Heroes’ Day on 30 August 2021, medical frontliners staged protest actions outside their respective hospitals to, among other things, push for the resignation of DOH Secretary Duque and call for the immediate release of benefits that were promised to them. A similar rally was held outside the main office of the DOH on 01 September 2021. Malacañang responded by assuring healthcare workers that all these benefits will be given to them, albeit with “a slight delay”.

4. In August 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China as well as the single-dose Sputnik Light manufactured by Russia. The FDA also gave its approval for the use of the Moderna vaccine for those aged 12-17 years old. The National Task Force Against COVID-19 disclosed that as of 01 September 2021, around 14.1 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated or 18.22% of the national vaccination program’s target population of 77 million.

For next year, the Duterte administration is allocating P 45.37 billion for the acquisition of COVID-19 booster shots. These funds will be part of next year’s proposed P 5.024 trillion national budget, wherein P 240.75 billion will be devoted to the government’s pandemic response. In a related development, employees and faculty members of the University of the Philippines (UP) protested the cut in the university’s proposed budget of P 36.5 billion, with Congress approving only P 20.1 billion. The UP budget includes funding for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), one of the country’s key COVID-19 referral center, and the Philippine Genome Center, which does genome sequencing of COVID-19 variants. Even the DOH and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) saw their budget proposals cut by P 73.9 billion and P 170 million, respectively. This prompted Vice-President Robredo to remark that there is an apparent “disconnect” between the General Appropriations Act for 2022 and the immediate need to effectively deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed 2022 national budget was submitted to Congress on 23 August 2021 for deliberations.

5. In terms of quarantine classifications, Metro Manila and 15 other areas remained under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until 07 September 2021 based on the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force of the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID). On 06 September 2021, Malacañang announced that Metro Manila will shift to general community quarantine for the period 08-30 September 2021, with granular lockdowns being pilot tested in the area. However, the administration flip-flopped the following day as it declared that Metro Manila will instead remain under MECQ from 08-15 September 2021.

6. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque was under fire from various sectors after a leaked video of a 07 September 2021 pandemic task force Zoom meeting showed him castigating Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, after she pleaded for the administration to reconsider its decision to downgrade Metro Manila from GCQ to MECQ status given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area. The medical experts present during the meeting also recommended that places with high transmission rates be placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). The Presidential Spokesperson scolded the doctors for being critical of the Duterte administration’s pandemic response. Although Presidential Spokesperson Roque said he is sorry for how he spoke to the doctors during the virtual meeting, he said he will never apologize for the message he was trying to convey to the medical experts. Following calls for his resignation after the incident, the latter said it is up to the President to remove him from his post.

7. On 08 September 2021, the faction of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi officially proclaimed Senator Christopher Go and President Duterte as the party’s standard bearers for next year’s elections. While Senator Go declined his nomination, President Duterte accepted the party’s nomination and expressed hope that serving as the next Philippine vice-president will allow him to continue serving the Filipino public. Earlier, the President said he will not run for vice-president in May 2022 should his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, decide to run for president. Senator Go, for his part, has expressed support for a probable presidential bid in May 2022 by Davao City Mayor Duterte.[1]

President Duterte was ousted as party chair by the PDP-Laban faction led by Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao on 29 August 2021, with Senator Aquilino Pimentel III stepping in as his replacement. The Cusi-led PDP-Laban faction has filed a petition with the COMELEC asking the commission to declare the Pacquiao-led faction of the ruling party as illegal.

The tandem of Senator Panfilo Lacson for president and Senate President Vicente Sotto III for vice-president also launched their campaign for the May 2022 elections on the same day. The long-time allies said they are running for the top elective posts in the country in order “to cleanse the government and restore public trust”.

8. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) decided not to move the deadline for voter registration despite calls from different sectors to extend the deadline for a month from the original deadline of 30 September 2021 to 30 October 2021. COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez said such an extension would adversely affect the scheduled preparatory activities for the May 2022 elections. Likewise, the COMELEC rejected calls to allow the filing of certificate of candidacy (COC) through mail, electronic mail, telegram, or facsimile given the COVID-19 situation in the country. In its 18 August 2021 resolution, the COMELEC stated that the COC can only be filed by the candidate in person or through his/her authorized representative. In a bid to avoid another controversy in the party-list elections such as the case of the Duterte Youth in the May 2019 elections, the COMELEC also adopted stricter rules governing the nomination, withdrawal, and substation of party-list nominees in next year’s polls.

9. Two (2) weather disturbances hit the country during the survey period. Tropical Storm Jolina made its first landfall in Hernani, Eastern Samar on 07 September 2021. It made several other landfalls before exiting the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on 09 September 2021. Government data indicate that the tropical storm left 20 individuals dead, 33 injured, and 4 missing as well as caused estimated damages to infrastructure and agriculture amounting to P 63.7 million and P 1.35 billion, respectively. Typhoon Kiko followed soon after as it made landfall in Ivana, Batanes on 11 September 2021. Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco estimated that Typhoon Kiko caused damages amounting to P 358.88 million. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) allotted P 486.6 million to assist those affected by Tropical Storm Jolina and Typhoon Kiko.

10. On 30 August 2021, the United States (US) completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, bringing to an end its 20-year military presence in the country. The following day, the Taliban celebrated the country’s “independence” as it claimed victory over the US and declared Afghanistan as a “free and sovereign nation”. On 15 August 2021, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) called for a mandatory evacuation of all Filipinos in Afghanistan following the collapse of the Afghan government and the takeover of Taliban forces.

This nationwide survey is based on a sample of 2,400 representative adults 18 years old and above. It has a ± 2% 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 ± 4% error margin, also at 95% confidence level. Those interested in further technical details may refer to our website (

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 Ana Maria Tabunda, Research Director of Pulse Asia Research at 09189436816 or Ronald D. Holmes, Pulse Asia Research President via Viber or Telegram at +639189335497 or at (via email).


[1] On 19 September 2021, Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao accepted the nomination of the other faction of PDP-Laban to be its presidential candidate in May 2022. By this time, all survey interviews have already been completed.

Staying healthy remains as the top urgent personal concern of Filipinos (70%) while inflation and workers’ pay are their leading urgent national concerns (41% and 40%, respectively)

Amidst the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of Filipino adults express concern about staying healthy and avoiding illnesses. Having a secure and well-paying job or source of income (47%), having enough to eat every day (46%), and completing one’s education or providing schooling for one’s children (43%) comprise a second set of urgent personal concerns of Filipinos. A third group includes having some savings (32%), avoiding being a victim of any serious crime (32%), and having their own house and lot (30%). These figures are essentially the same as those recorded by Pulse Asia Research in September 2020. (Please refer to Tables 1 and 3.)

Staying healthy is the most often cited first- and second-ranked urgent personal concern of Filipinos in September 2021 (28% and 24%, respectively). Meanwhile, health and food security are the leading third-ranked responses of Filipinos (18% and 20%, respectively). Furthermore, personal health is a majority concern in all geographic areas and socio-economic classes (58% to 76% and 68% to 87%, respectively). Across these subgroupings, the only other urgent majority concerns are having a secure and well-paying job or source of income (55% in the Visayas), completing one’s education or providing schooling for one’s children (52% in Mindanao), and having enough to eat every day (51% in Class E). (Please refer to Tables 1 to 2.)

In contrast, those in the rest of Luzon, the Visayas, and Classes D and E are least concerned about having some savings (33% to 35% and 28% to 32%, respectively), avoiding being a crime victim (31% and 30% to 31%, respectively), and having their own house and lot (25% to 28% and 30% to 34%, respectively). The least often cited concerns in Metro Manila are avoiding being a victim of any serious crime (28%) and having some savings (36%) while Mindanawons are least concerned about having some savings (23%) and having their own house and lot (31%). And in Class ABC, the least often mentioned urgent personal concerns are having their own house and lot (20%) and having enough to eat daily (31%). (Please refer to Table 2.)

With regard to urgent national concerns, the top ones are controlling inflation (41%) and increasing the pay of workers (40%). A second set of issues that Filipinos say must be immediately addressed by the Duterte administration includes the COVID-19 pandemic (29%), poverty (29%), graft and corruption (26%), and employment (25%). Helping those who lost their jobs or sources of livelihood due to the pandemic (19%), enforcing the rules of law on all citizens (15%), promoting peace (15%), and addressing the problem of involuntary hunger (15%) make up a third set of urgent national concerns while a fourth set includes criminality (14%) and environmental destruction (11%). The least often cited urgent national concerns are reducing the amount of taxes paid by citizens (8%), defending the country’s territorial integrity against foreigners (5%), protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (5%), and preparing to face terrorist threats (2%). (Please refer to Table 4.)

Almost half of Metro Manilans (46%) are most concerned about inflation while practically the same percentages of Visayans and those belonging to Classes D and E say the national administration must immediately control inflation (42% and 41% to 45%, respectively) and increase the pay of workers (47% and 40% to 41%, respectively). The leading urgent national concerns of those in the rest of Luzon are inflation (42%), workers’ pay (39%), and the COVID-19 pandemic (36%) while Mindanawons are most concerned about workers’ pay (40%), inflation (37%), and poverty (34%). As for those in Class ABC, they are most concerned about inflation (40%), workers’ pay (39%), the COVID-19 pandemic (33%), and corruption in government (27%). In contrast, the common least mentioned urgent national concerns (i.e., those cited by less than 10% across geographic areas and socio-economic groupings) are national territorial integrity (3% to 9% and 5% to 6%, respectively), the welfare of overseas Filipino adults (3% to 7% and 4% to 9%, respectively), and terrorism (1% to 3% and 2% to 5%, respectively). (Please refer to Table 5.)

Between June 2021 and September 2021, public concern about workers’ pay and the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more notable (both at +5 percentage points) while it eases in relation to two (2) issues – helping those who lost their job or source of livelihood due to the pandemic (-6 percentage points) and defending national territorial integrity against foreign incursion (-7 percentage points). (Please refer to Table 6.)

Year-on-year, there is an increase in the overall level of concern about fighting corruption in government (+5 percentage points), controlling inflation (+8 percentage points), and reducing poverty (+9 percentage points). On the other hand, public concern eases as regards resolving the problem of involuntary hunger (-7 percentage points), controlling the spread of COVID-19 (-9 percentage points), and giving aid to those who lost their job or source of income due to the pandemic (-11 percentage points).

For the most part, public assessment of the work done by the national administration remains positive; significant changes occur in the latter’s performance ratings not only between June 2021 and September 2021 but also year-on-year

The national administration enjoys majority approval ratings for its handling of nine (9) issues – fighting criminality (74%), responding to the needs of calamity-hit areas (71%), protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (66%), promoting peace in the country (64%), providing assistance to those who lost their job or source of livelihood due to the pandemic (64%), enforcing the rule of law on all citizens (60%), controlling the spread of COVID-19 (59%), stopping environmental destruction (56%), and fighting corruption (52%). Big pluralities to near majorities of Filipino adults appreciate the present dispensation’s efforts to defending national territorial integrity (49%), creating more jobs (49%), increasing workers’ pay (48%), and reducing poverty (41%). The Duterte administration registers practically the same approval and disapproval ratings for its initiatives to control inflation (37% versus 36%), a concern deemed urgent by 41% of Filipino adults. (Please refer to Table 7.)

Filipinos are most critical of the Duterte administration’s work in the areas of reducing poverty (32%) and controlling inflation (36%) while they are least inclined to disapprove of its efforts to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (6%), fight criminality (9%), respond to the needs of calamity-hit areas (9%), and promoting peace (9%). Meanwhile, levels of indecision toward the work done by the national administration range from 17% on criminality to 32% on national territorial integrity.

From June 2021 to September 2021, approval for the present administration’s handling of 10 issues eases – criminality (-5 percentage points), employment (-5 percentage points), environmental destruction (-5 percentage points), peace (-6 percentage points), COVID-19 pandemic (-6 percentage points), workers’ pay (-6 percentage points), inflation (-6 percentage points), welfare of overseas Filipino workers (-7 percentage points), equal enforcement of the law (-7 percentage points), and graft and corruption (-12 percentage points). Year-on-year, levels of appreciation for the Duterte administration’s performance on all national issues on which it is performance is assessed in the Ulat ng Bayan survey decline significantly (i.e., from -11 percentage points on responding to the needs of calamity-hit areas to -26 percentage points on controlling inflation). (Please refer to Table 8.)

The disapproval scores of the national administration increase between June 2021 and September 2021 in the areas of increasing the pay of workers (+5 percentage points), controlling inflation (+6 percentage points), controlling the spread of COVID-19 (+8 percentage points), fighting graft and corruption (+10 percentage points), and reducing poverty (+10 percentage points). Moreover, with the exception of two (2) issues (i.e., protecting the welfare of overseas Filipino workers and enforcing the law on all citizens), disapproval for the Duterte administration’s efforts to address all the other issues covered in the present survey becomes more manifest from September 2020 to September 2021. These changes vary from +5 percentage points on the issues of criminality and peace to +19 percentage points on the issues of poverty and inflation.

Indecision toward the Duterte administration’s efforts to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) becomes more manifest from June 2021 to September 2021 (+8 percentage points) but eases in connection with its initiatives to reduce poverty (-8 percentage points). Year-on-year, ambivalence levels go up across issues (i.e., with the exception of poverty reduction) ranging from +6 percentage points on the issue of disaster response to +13 percentage points on the issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, corruption in government, and workers’ pay.

UB September Technical Details