FRANCISCO S. TATAD
44 Ifugao, La Vista Subdivision, Quezon City
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 9283627, CP 09176201004
28 April 2010
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS EN BANC
Commission on Elections, Manila
As candidate for senator in the May 10 elections, I want to formally request the Commission on Elections to enforce the provisions of Republic Act No. 9006 (Fair Election Act) on Pulse Asia, Social Weather Stations and poll survey firms with respect to their conduct and publication of election surveys during the current election campaign.
Specifically, I call attention to the provisions of the law, which require survey firms and media organizations to fully disclose the identities of survey sponsors and to open their data and methods to the examination of candidates, political parties and the COMELEC.
The pertinent provisions of RA 9006 are as follows:
5.2. During the election period, any person, natural as well as juridical, candidate or organization who publishes a survey must likewise publish the following information:
(a) The name of the person, candidate, party or organization who commissioned or paid for the survey;
(b) The name of the person, polling firm or survey organization who conducted the survey;
(c) The period during which the survey was conducted, the methodology used, including the number of individual respondents and the areas from which they were selected, and the specific questions asked;
5.3. The survey, together with raw data gathered to support its conclusions, shall be available for inspection, copying and verification by the COMELEC or by a registered political party or a bona fide candidate, or by any COMELEC-accredited citizens’ arm. A reasonable fee sufficient to cover the costs of inspection, copying and verification may be charged.
These provisions are specifically cited in Comelec Resolution No. 8758, which sets out the rules and regulations implementing RA 9006 and was promulgated on February 4, 2010. The resolution explicitly states that any violation of these provisions shall constitute an election offense.
Since the start of the campaign in February, the survey firms have each published several surveys on the candidates running for national office without fully disclosing the identities of sponsors and other survey information.
Pulse Asia has declared that their contracts with their candidate-clients are confidential and cannot be disclosed.
SWS and the other survey firms have ignored our repeated requests for copies of their survey reports and for the opportunity to examine their raw data and processes in conducting surveys.
We submit that such claims to confidentiality are violative of the election law and should not be condoned. They allow candidates to hide from the COMELEC an important election expense that should be reported as part of their authorized expenses. They also enable the survey firm, if it so desires, not to report its income from this activity for tax purposes. Finally, such unjustified secrecy lends credence to suspicions that the surveys do not measure public opinion but are in fact being used to manufacture and manipulate public opinion in order to create synthetic support for certain candidates at the expense of other candidates whose real strength is deliberately downgraded, if not downright ignored, by the survey.
The disclosure requirement regarding surveys applies not only to polling firms but also to media organizations which routinely pass on the results to the public as though they were revelations from Heaven, instead of something that should be treated as mere propaganda, entertainment, or pseudo science like the Horoscope.
The power granted to candidates, political parties, certified citizens’ arms, and the COMELEC to inspect, copy and verify the data and methodologies of poll survey firms is explicit in the law and the COMELEC resolution.
The need for decisive COMELEC action on this matter has become more urgent and necessary in view of the increasing brazenness with which the survey firms have been releasing surveys and the ease with which the mainstream media have been using them to support their own advocacies. We cite, in particular, the claim of SWS that it has actually conducted three nationwide surveys in the period from March 19 to April 17. This is an unbelievable feat in Philippine opinion polling, considering the archipelagic and multilingual nature of our country and the fact that in normal times even conducting one survey a month is already a daunting task.
All these questions surrounding election surveys can only be answered through the prompt and decisive enforcement by the COMELEC of the law.
I submit that candidates who have not earned favor from the survey firms are at their mercy and have been treated unfairly and unjustly in the conduct of their polls. Recent reports from the field indicate that some survey interviewers have been asking respondents to choose their presidential candidate from only two candidates, out of the ten candidates campaigning for the office. This is patent manipulation of public opinion, completely unfair and inimical to those who are excluded during the interviews but are shown to have fared badly in the results. It amounts to gross falsification of the data, which should render the survey invalid, except that even such junk surveys are being presented by the survey firms and received and propagated by the media as gospel truth.
It is in this light that I appeal to the Honorable Commission to act immediately to sanction Pulse Asia, SWS and the other survey firms as well as the appropriate media organizations for past offenses and to require them henceforth to comply with the provisions of the Fair Election Act.
Thank you for your attention.
Very sincerely yours,
(SGD) Francisco Tatad