Comelec Urged to Sanction Pulse Asia, SWS, etc.

April 23, 2010

SENATORIAL candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad has challenged  the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to  sanction  the opinion polling firms and  media establishments for publishing and reporting pre-election surveys without disclosing their sponsors and other necessary information as required by Republic Act 9006, or the Fair Election Act of 2001.

At the same time, Tatad urged all presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates who are skeptical about the opinion polling of Social Weather Stations, Pulse Asia and other polling firms to demand that said firms open all their polling records for inspection, copying and verification, as authorized by law.

Section 5.2 of RA 9006 provides that  during the election period, any person, natural as well as juridical, candidate or organization who publishes a survey must likewise publish the necessary material information about  it  to enable the public to determine its reliability.

This information includes full disclosure of the name or names of the person, candidate, party or organization who commissioned or paid for the survey, and the survey methodology used, including the number of individual respondents and the areas from which they were selected, and the specific questions asked.

The law also provides  that the survey, together with the 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 candidate or any Comelec-accredited citizens’ arm.

Tatad said the polling firms have been more interested in manufacturing public opinion in favor or against certain candidates, instead of measuring actual opinion.  He was particularly critical of the polling firms’ practice of  selling to candidates sponsorships of the surveys and the right to introduce their own questions, but without disclosing to the public their individual identity.

Pulse Asia says the matter is covered by a “confidentiality” agreement.  But Tatad says the fair election law requires them to disclose the names of candidate sponsors of the surveys.

Moreover, “it is an election-related expense which every candidate is required to report to the Comelec. It is also part of the polling firm’s income which must be reported when paying taxes,” Tatad said.

The former senator said that it is possible the pollsters “are selling not only the right to participate in the survey but also the right to appear in the ratings.”  This could be the explanation why some sitting senators who are widely ridiculed as completely useless Senate furniture are still rated as ‘popular’, and some nationally  known solid personalities do not figure in the charts at all.

Tatad was the first candidate to openly criticize  SWS and Pulse Asia for using “quota sampling” and “face-to-face interviews” after  these methods had been  abandoned in the United States, where over the years leading pollsters had made serious miscalls in the  presidential elections.

Several presidential candidates, notably Senators Richard Gordon and Jamby Madrigal, have since joined in criticism of local pollsters and their surveys. Some Filipino statisticians and survey science experts have also joined the issue. The tabloid press has run headlines and editorials about it, in stark contrast to the mainstream press which has not given it as much space.

Quoting American polling experts, Tatad also faulted the local pollsters for using the old  hypothetical question—-“If elections were held today, whom would you vote for, among the named candidates?” He said  the question compels even the undecided to give a “top of the head” answer;  that is why it is called  a “forced-choice question” which suppresses and distorts  the real numbers of  “undecided.”

US expert David Moore, a former Gallup vice-president, says that the practice leads to survey firms manufacturing public opinion instead of measuring it.

Tatad has accused  the polling firms of biasing their surveys to suppress  the torrid expressions of popular support that PMP presidential candidate, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada has been getting  in all parts of  the country.

“This is why in every mammoth rally we have I always ask the crowd, whether they had been surveyed by anyone, and whether they knew of anyone who knew anyone who knew anyone who had been surveyed at all.  The  answer to this is always a great no,” Tatad said.

Tatad questioned the ability of the polling firms, notably SWS,  to come up with nationwide surveys almost within one week of each other, when independent experts maintain that one such survey normally takes two to three months to finish.

In its latest survey, SWS put the size of “undecided” at four to five percent, although in 1998, it said that one out of every voters remained undecided until election day,  while in 2004, 12 percent remained undecided and another 12 percent uncommitted until election day.   No explanation was offered for the statistical change, he noted.

Tatad said he may have found a “smoking gun” to support his charge of manipulation when someone called a radio program (Karambola) on DWIZ in Manila last week to report that an SWS interviewer in Cebu was asking his “random respondents” to choose between Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino for president, and that when he protested  there were ten candidates to choose from, he was told that the choice had been narrowed down to two.

“It’s really a crooked business,” Tatad said.  He recalled that in 1992, upon his election to the Senate as a pro-life candidate, Mahar Mangahas of SWS showed a senators’ workshop the alleged results of a survey showing that any senator who did not support the government’s family planning program (now called “reproductive health”) would not get reelected.

“Not only was I reelected with flying colors in 1995, I also became Senate majority leader to five Senate presidents.  But that SWS presentation  had a lasting impression on me, on how polling could be used to promote certain advocacies.  Mangahas has not deviated from that course since.  He is still playing the same ugly game,” Tatad, whose pro-life work has expanded to the international scene,  added.

“In the 2004 presidential elections, Mangahas came up with an execrable exit poll in Metro Manila  that showed Mrs. Arroyo leading her rival Fernando Poe Jr. all the way. The official Comelec count, however,  showed FPJ taking all of Metro Manila, except for Las Pinas,” Tatad said.

“Despite that scandalous incident, SWS continues to do pre-election polling as though its reputation had never been tarnished,” Tatad lamented.  “In the US, the Literary Digest quietly folded up after it had erroneously predicted the defeat of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Alf Landon in 1932, and the House of Representatives as well as the US Social Science Research Council investigated Gallup, Roper and Crossley after they had unanimously but erroneously predicted that President Harry Truman would lose to Thomas Dewey in 1948,” he pointed out.  #


Media Colleagues Rally Behind Tatad

April 8, 2010

Describing Kit Tatad as “the once and future senator”, some 70 members of the media tendered a luncheon yesterday (8 April 2010 ) for the former senator and journalist to express their full support for his candidacy for the Philippine Senate.

“We need Kit in the Senate,” said the group consisting of editors, columnists, reporters and commentators. “He will bring competence and statesmanship to the chamber at a time when it is descending to incivility and vulgarisms.”

The lunch was hosted by Samahang Plaridel, Kapihan sa Sulo and Raya Communications at the Golden Bay Seafoods Restaurant on Macapagal Blvd in Pasay City. The three organizations are led by former media colleagues and friends of Tatad.

In his remarks before the group, Tatad recalled his days in journalism as “some of the best years of my life.” He worked at various times as a reporter, columnist, editor and publisher.

He gave a short briefing on the ongoing election campaign, which he said will end in a major surprise on election day – the return of Erap Estrada to Malacanang Palace.

“There is an untold story of the campaign that is being overlooked because of the distorted lens of the election surveys,” Tatad said. “And this is the groundswell of public support for former President Estrada, whose rallies are pulling emotional crowds in the tens of thousands. We’ve seen it in city after city, town after town that we have visited.”

Tatad addresses his media colleagues

Tatad addresses his media colleagues

Tatad explained that the reason for Erap’s appeal is the state of poverty of some 80 percent of the national population.
“Economic growth has not trickled down to the masses,” he said. “Many of our people are worse off today than they were when Erap was ousted from office in 2001. Erap’s massage of continuing his crusade for the poor resonates with the people.”

Representatives from all media – including print, radio, TV and online media — turned up for the affair. Among those present were Manila Times editor Rene Bas, Samahang president Rolly Estabillo, columnists Boo Chanco, Dick Pascual, Dan Mariano, Fred de la Rosa and Yen Makabenta, and broadcaster-columnist Ronnie Nathanielsz.

Estrada’s support solid and surging — Tatad

April 6, 2010

With just over a month to go before Election Day, the hard  reality emerging on the campaign trail is the surging support for former President Joseph Estrada and the waning support for the other candidates, former senator and senatorial candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad said today (Tuesday, April 6) in a briefing on the ongoing election campaign.

“Our PMP rallies are deluged by crowds with little effort to organize them,” Tatad said. “The main attraction drawing everyone to the motorcades and the campaign rallies is always Erap. We have to wade literally through the crowds to get to the campaign stage.”

In stark contrast, the other presidential candidates are all straining and spending to get enough people to watch their motorcades and attend their rallies. Often, they just scratch the motorcades for lack of people to watch them.

“While the election surveys do not accurately reflect public opinion about the presidential candidates, even these could not fully suppress the massive groundswell in favor of President Estrada,” Tatad said. “They have reported Erap as registering the biggest gain in support, while his opponents have shown losses or negligible gains.”

All this indicates, according to Tatad, that  Erap’s real strength  and electoral prospects are being underestimated. “There’s a gross mismatch between the political reality on the ground and the media reality conjured by the surveys. The media frontrunners tend to believe their own propagandists, and that is where the danger lies. They are in for a big surprise,” he said.

Senate president and senatorial candidate Juan Ponce Enrile also noted the same phenomenon of public support for former President Estrada at the end of the first month of campaigning in early March. He had not seen before the kind of numbers and enthusiasm being displayed by the crowds at PMP rallies.

Internal analysis of the numbers point to a contrast between the solid support for Estrada and the soft support for Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino, which has perceptibly changed since the campaign began.

“There’s everything to show that Estrada’s support is firm and strong, while support for his rivals is soft and shifting,” Tatad explained.  “ Erap is getting his support mostly from the C,D,E classes, who constitute some 90 percent of the voters and who relate personally to him.  This is evident in town after town, city after city that Erap visits, either before or after the uneventful visit of some of his rivals.”

The latest proof of this, according to Tatad,  was the visit that  Aquino, Villar and Estrada respectively made with Brother Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai charismatic community during their  Easter Sunday  celebration.  Noynoy, accompanied by his celebrity-siter Kris and other siblings, got a warm burst of applause as he read his short  speech.  “But the crowd smothered Estrada with applause and cheers as soon as he appeared on stage and interacted with him all throughout his short appearance,” he observed.

Tatad forecasts major swings of support during the last month of the campaign when the undecided and still not fully committed voters make their final choices. “We predict that the bulk of these votes will go to Estrada because of his palpable and superior appeal to voters,” he said.

He suggested that we will see here the same kind of surprise sprung by the late Fernando Poe Jr, in 2004. “During the final month of that campaign, all the pollsters reported that support for President Arroyo had climbed up to 37 to 40%, while that of FPJ had fallen to below 30%,” he said. “When the actual votes were counted, FPJ swamped GMA in all of Luzon by close to 2 million votes. Only the slow tally of votes from the Visayas and Mindanao reversed the writing on the wall.”

Tatad took issue once again with local pollsters for not using modern methods of polling and observing professional and ethical standards.  “Until now the pollsters have failed or refused to disclose all necessary data about their surveys, particularly the identity of those who had paid for the survey, who conducted the survey, the  questions asked and the order in which they were asked,  including the “rider” questions contributed by secret  sponsors, the interview method used, the actual samples used and how they were chosen, the margin of error,  and the exact size of the undecided, etc.,” he said.

He opined that had there been a serious attempt to accurately measure popular  support for the national candidates by using the correct methodology , asking the right questions, and using  truly representative samples, Estrada would be leading the presidential pack in the survey, and some  candidates, from presidential to senatorial, who are “rating” high in the flawed surveys, would not rate as high.

“This is akin to the 2008 American experience when the US pollsters and media were uniformly talking of  Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton as the sure contenders in the US presidential elections until the Republican and Democratic conventions  chose John McCain and Barack Obama instead,” he said. #