This is in response to Mr. Tony Lopez’s article entitled “Aquino loses his mandate” that appeared in his 20 March 2015 “Virtual Reality” column in your paper.
Mr. Lopez claims that two factors caused the drop in President Aquino’s performance and trust ratings: the failure to reduce poverty and unemployment, on the one hand, and the Mamasapano massacre, on the other.
He also added that poverty incidence has remained stagnant at more than 25-28 percent of the population in the past five years, noting that 25.1 million Filipinos are currently poor.
At the same time, he observed that the Aquino administration’s cumulative four-year budget from 2011-2014 amounted to P7.8 trillion. Citing University of the Philippines (UP) estimates, Lopez claims that up to 40 percent of the national budget has been stolen. And that if indeed the government officials had not stolen 40 percent of the budget, the 25 million officially poor families could have easily crossed the poverty threshold seven times over.
To begin with, we would like to ask where Mr. Lopez obtained the President’s performance and trust ratings because this was not mentioned in his column.
We are also wondering how Mr. Lopez was able to attribute the drop in the President’s ratings to the failure to reduce poverty and unemployment. Having reviewed one possible source of his report (i.e., Pulse Asia Research’s March 2015 Nationwide Survey on Presidential Performance and Trust Ratings), we note that was never any mention that worsening poverty and unemployment were part of the news headlines in the weeks immediately prior to and during the conduct of their field interviews.
But even supposing increasing poverty incidence and unemployment were significant factors, we find Mr. Lopez’s mention of the possibility that 40 percent of the national budget was stolen by government officials to be spectacular in the extreme. If this were indeed true, this would be tantamount to state failure and total bureaucratic breakdown – a fact that would be impossible to ignore. We hope he can share with us who exactly from UP made this estimate so their estimates can be verified and subjected to audit.
Lila Ramos Shahani
Assistant Secretary & Head of Communications
Human Development and Poverty Reduction
Communications Group Office