PHILIPPINES - The pork barrel scam pushed more Filipinos to consider corruption as one of the most urgent concerns in September, an issue that has dragged down the Aquino administration's performance, results of a Pulse Asia survey showed.
The number of Filipinos who said fighting corruption was an urgent national issue jumped 17 percentage points to 48 per cent.
The nationwide survey, conducted from Sept. 14 to 27, asked 1,200 adult Filipinos in face-to-face interviews to choose the most urgent from a list of 10 national issues provided by Pulse Asia and rate the Aquino administration's performance on these.
Pulse Asia said that between June and September, the level of public concern on corruption was heightened by the scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a lump-sum fund, or pork barrel, that finances pet projects of senators and members of the House of Representatives.
An Inquirer series on the P10-billion pork scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles started on July 12.
The series said senators and House members pocketed tens of millions of pesos in kickbacks of the supposed cost of projects funded by their PDAF.
Based on statements of former employees of Napoles, the National Bureau of Investigation filed last month plunder and malversation charges against Napoles, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile and 34 others.
"The public saw how billions of pesos in pork barrel was wasted when the money could have been used for education. This explains the high level of urgency," said Earl Parreño, a member of the board of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
Results of the Pulse Asia survey showed that 47 per cent of the respondents expressed approval of administration efforts to curb corruption, while 27 per cent said they disapproved, resulting in a net approval rating (approval minus disapproval) of plus 20.
Compared with the survey in March, the approval score on this issue was down 12 percentage points, while the disapproval score was up 16 percentage points.
"The administration succeeded in communicating its anticorruption policy. The problem is in the implementation of this policy. This is where the administration's efforts are wanting," Parreño said.
The heads of the agencies implementing government projects including local government executives are key, he said, adding that these officials should perform based on the anticorruption policy of the administration.
There is also a need to strengthen and straighten out the Commission on Audit, which is tasked with examining the efficiency of government operations, Parreño added.
Findings of the Pulse survey released earlier found that 67 per cent believed that corrupt practices during the Arroyo administration involving the PDAF continued under the Aquino administration.
Forty-five per cent said the pork barrel should be scrapped and the implementation of projects and programs should be left to government agencies.
The survey also showed that the pork barrel controversy appeared to have an adverse effect on the approval ratings of Senate President Franklin Drilon and of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Prices, jobs, poverty
Apart from fighting corruption, Pulse Asia found that Filipinos were most concerned about controlling inflation (48 per cent), increasing the pay of workers (46 per cent) and creating jobs (42 per cent).
Three in every 10 Filipinos said reducing poverty was a national concern that needed the immediate attention of the government.
A smaller percentage of the respondents cited peace (22 per cent), rule of law (18 per cent), criminality (17 per cent) and environmental degradation (15 per cent).
Population least urgent
Rapid population growth (11 per cent) was identified as the least urgent of the issues that the administration must address.
Pulse Asia noted that the level of concern about peace in the country increased by 7 percentage points to 22 per cent in September, in light of the fighting between government forces and members of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front. The crisis was declared over on Sept. 28 after 20 days of fighting.
The low pay of workers was a major concern of respondents in Metro Manila (52 per cent), while corruption was a major concern of those in Luzon outside Metro Manila (52 per cent) and in Class ABC (66 per cent).
Controlling inflation was considered urgent by those in Mindanao (52 per cent). Among respondents in Class E, 55 per cent said low pay of workers and inflation were the most urgent concerns that required government attention.
Among respondents in the Visayas and Class D, the most often cited urgent concerns were corruption, the low pay of workers, inflation and employment.
In the survey, it was only in criminality and rule of law where the administration was able to obtain majority approval scores of 60 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively.
Half of the respondents approved of the work done by the administration on the environment, while it scored approval scores of 47 per cent on fighting corruption, 46 per cent on increasing peace in the country, 45 per cent on creating more jobs, 43 per cent on increasing the pay of workers, 41 per cent on controlling fast population growth, 39 per cent on reducing poverty and 34 per cent on controlling inflation.
Pulse Asia noted significant changes in the administration's performance ratings on some issues.
Disapproval scores up
Besides the 16-percentage-point jump in the disapproval score on corruption, there was a 12-percentage-point increase in the disapproval score on the issue of peace and 7-percentage-point increases on employment, low pay of workers, rapid population growth and inflation.
The survey had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points for national estimates and plus-or-minus 6 percentage points for subnational estimates, both at the 95-per cent confidence level.