“PNoy’s low rating reflects how this government and how bleak their efforts are towards improving the lives of Mindanaoans,” said Evans I. Yonson, member of the Cagayan de Oro City Tourism Council and administrator of Mata na Cdo, a group of local residents that discuss political issues over a social networking site.
All previous presidents, from Mr. Aquino’s mother Corazon C. Aquino (1986-1992) to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2011) except for Joseph E. Estrada (1998-2000), registered negative satisfaction ratings at some point during their term, based on historical survey data by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
Mr. Estrada’s all-positive record during his short presidency had a high of +42 in November 1998 and a low of +4 in December 1999.
Mr. Aquino, on the other hand, has maintained a positive rating since he assumed post in July 2011. His highest scores were +67 in November 2010 and +64 in December 2013.
But in the latest SWS survey conducted from June 27 to 30 this year, net satisfaction for the national government’s performance stood at +34, down by 22 points from +56 in the first quarter and 13 points less than the previous low of +47 in March 2011.
“Nine of the 15 poorest provinces in the country are found in Mindanao. When will the national government realize that Mindanao matters to the country? After all, most of these provinces contribute a lot of its produce to the national economy,” Mr. Yonson said.
The National Statistical Coordination Board’s December 9, 2013 report on the country’s poverty statistics as of 2012 shows the following Mindanao provinces in the 15 poorest:
• Zamboanga del Norte (Region 9-Zamboanga Peninsula);
• Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte (Region 10-Northern Mindanao);
• North Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat (Region 12-Soccskargen);
• Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sulu (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).
The six others in the bottom 15 are Apayao, Masbate, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Western Samar, and Negros Oriental.
Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia based in Ateneo de Davao University, said while it is not easy to say exactly why the President’s trust rating has gone down, Mindanao generally “does not see, feel, or experience the development interventions that he has initiated”.
Resolving the power supply deficiency in Mindanao, for which alarm bells have been raised as early as 2010, is one particular issue where disappointment in the national government is most pronounced.
“My guess is that the continuing power outages is the main cause (for the decreased rating),” said Simeon P. Marfori II, former Davao business chamber president.
Michael Ignacio of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. in Northern Mindanao lamented during a recent industry forum that while the government quickly reacts to the energy supply issues in Luzon, there have been “very slow actions on the Mindanao power crisis.”
As of yesterday, data from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines shows an 84-megawatt supply deficiency in the Mindanao grid with peak demand at 1,338 MW while system capacity stood at only 1,254 MW. In contrast, Luzon had a supply reserve of 1,107 MW while the Visayas had an 85-MW reserve.
“(The power crisis issue) is aggravated by the recent spike in the prices of rice and other commodities,” added Mr. Marfori.
BANGSAMORO AND NPA
Another pressing concern in Mindanao is the pending Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will pave the way for a new administrative region that will replace the ARMM.
The draft BBL was originally targeted for submission last July 28 when Mr. Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) during the 16th Congress’ re-opening.
The president’s rating in terms of reconciliation with Muslims also went down to +22 in June from +38 in March.
“The Bangsamoro Basic Law is supposed to be certified by the president as an urgent bill but unfortunately, until now the bill has not been passed by Congress,” Mr. Lidasan said.
Mr. Aquino’s rating on handling terrorism also went down to +21 from +27 while his rating on reconciliation with communist rebels went down to +17 from +34.
Atty. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate Bayan Muna party list representative, said this is due to the increasing number of human rights violations, particularly in the countryside “where the government is aggressively pushing destructive development programs like large-scale mining and monocrop large plantations.”
Mr. Zarate said the Aquino administration “has a propensity to backtrack and unilaterally abandon past agreements forged with rebel groups and even the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)”.
The peace agreement signed by the national government prior to the drafting of the BBL was with another group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Meanwhile, former Mindanao Business Council chair Joji Ilagan-Bian said that the main reason for the ratings slide is the controversy over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the manner with which the president responded to it.
“Majority of the Filipinos did not believe and agree with all the president’s justifications… coupled with this is the way his administration got back at the Supreme Court which may have been perceived as plain harassment,” Ms. Bian said.
At the root of DAP, Mr. Lidasan said, is the country’s bureaucratic system that is a “mess”.
“(The) centralized government (is) not able to adequately respond to the needs of the people situated in an archipelagic country with 17 administrative regions… Even our national budgeting and implementation is complicated, and that is why we have the DAP,” Mr. Lidasan said.
“The president must understand these situations and he needs to make precise short term interventions without sacrificing the long term goals,” he added.
Bayan Muna’s Mr. Zarate also noted for his part that the government’s inclusive growth slogan is “deceptive”.
“The people did not feel his illusions of growth in the last SONA,” echoed Wildon C. Barros, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Northern Mindanao.
With less than two years to go in his term, will Mr. Aquino, like most of the other presidents before him, eventually receive a negative rating from Mindanao? — reports from Louise G. Dumas in Cagayan de Oro, Carmelito Q. Francisco, Carmencita A. Carillo and Maya M. Padillo in Davao