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Out of step

Perhaps it’s time for a serious rethink of Vice President Leni Robredo’s political strategy. If current survey trends continue, she may be in dire danger of frittering away all the goodwill she has generated since her surprise election last May.

The Pulse Asia polling outfit released on Monday the results of its latest quarterly trust and approval ratings survey of top government officials and institutions, conducted from September to December last year. The only significant statistical change was a precipitous seven-percent drop in the trust rating of Robredo, from 65 percent to 58 percent. 

The political events coinciding with the period, for Robredo, were her resignation from the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte, after she was asked to stop attending its regular meetings; and the Supreme Court decision allowing the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos, which Robredo strongly opposed. Both were supposed to improve Robredo’s stature in the eyes of the public —but the survey shows that the reverse was actually true.

Robredo and her backers, most of them closely identified with former President Noynoy Aquino and derisively referred to by Duterte as the Yellows, used both events to rally the people against the new president. The same survey showed that Duterte’s trust and approval ratings, released last week, were statistically unchanged and remained the high eighties for an “excellent” rating. 

This leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Yellows failed to use both the Robredo resignation and the Marcos burial to bring down the president. Instead, the anti-Duterte protests and publicity backfired on Robredo, as shown by the plummeting of her own ratings during the same period.

Robredo, of course, was basically fired from the Cabinet because of reports that Duterte believed she was attending protest actions calling for his resignation. The Yellows milked the resignation for all it was worth in a bid to generate sympathy for the vice president and to paint her as the victim of a power-mad, chauvinistic Duterte; obviously she didn’t get that sympathy. 

Robredo also led the chorus of Yellows protesting the Supreme Court ruling allowing the burial of Marcos and the burial itself, which the vice president compared to something that “a thief in the night” would do. Robredo and the Yellows badly wanted to make a federal case out of the Marcos burial issue, but the Pulse survey found that it even cost her points in the public’s eye.

If the trend continues, Robredo could fall even lower in public opinion surveys. The new poll did not even cover the period of Robredo’s controversial absence when Typhoon “Nina” hit her hometown of Naga City and its environs and the so-called “LeniLeaks” debacle. 

There is no way that Robredo is expected to stage a comeback in the ratings game, given these two new events, unless a complete overhaul of the vice president’s image and strategy is implemented. Most analysts already assume she will shed even more points in this quarter compared to the previous one.

The new poll shows just how seriously out of touch Robredo and her gang are with the citizenry, who clearly dislike them and the causes they espouse. And now that it has become clear to the people that Robredo is acting against their beloved Duterte, they will not look kindly upon her as the occupant of the position one heartbeat away from his post.

Perhaps its time for the Yellows to do a reboot of Robredo’s image and message, if they truly expect her to replace Duterte—soon or in 2022. If they decide to carry on as before, Robredo may not even make it out of the starting gate.

* * *

The Washington Times, the conservative newspaper owned and controlled by the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon (whose members are known collectively as the Moonies) is the latest American media outfit to run a lengthy article critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs. Under the byline of one Guy Taylor, the Times article was mostly a rehash of the unflattering stuff that’s been written about the six-month Duterte administration’s drug war in the Western press.

But with a small twist. Taylor told of how he joined a group of reporters who went one rainy night to the scene of a murder of a young drug suspect, whom he identified as Darwin Canete, in Caloocan City. 

“[A] plainclothes officer had entered [a two-storey building] to purchase crystal meth from Mr. Canete before the 20-year-old suddenly pulled a .38 caliber revolver,” Taylor wrote. “The officer then shot him in self-defense.”

If you’re one of those who keep a list of the thousands who have reportedly died in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign handy, you will not find Canete’s name in it. That’s because Canete is actually a prosecutor in Caloocan often called upon to perform inquests at the scene of drug-related crimes in the city.

Canete, who is a good friend and a celebrity on the social networking site Facebook because of his trenchant political views, had a good laugh over Taylor’s error. But I wonder: if “parachute journalists” like Taylor can’t even get the names right in their stories, what else are they getting wrong in their reports that invariably put Duterte and the Philippines in a bad light?

Topics: Jojo Robles , Out of step , Vice President Leni Robredo , Pulse Asia survey , Washington Times , Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon
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