Reality punctures fantasy         

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Bongbong Marcos (BBM) and his partner Sara Duterte got a rude awakening this week with a huge drop in their approval and trust ratings in the latest Pulse Asia survey.

Conducted from Sept. 10 to 14, 2023, both suffered a double-digit plunge in their approval and trust ratings. The fall of their ratings was noted across all geographic areas and demographic groups.

The approval rating of BBM overall dropped from 80 percent (June) to 65 percent in the latest survey, showing a 15 points plunge. Looking at geographic areas, BBM’s approval rating fell from 74 percent to 60 percent in Metro Manila and from 81 percent to 66 percent in balance Luzon. In the Visayas, BBM’s approval rating plunged to 73 percent from 87 percent and in Mindanao it tumbled to 60 percent from 74 percent.

Across socio-economic classes, there was also a significant drop in the approval rating of BBM. Among ABC class, the approval rating of BBM fell to 53 percent from 75 percent. BBM’s approval rating dropped to 53 percent from 82 percent among E class. His approval rating plunged to 68 percent from 80 percent in D class.

It is worth noting that the highest drop (29 points) in BBM’s approval rating was among the E class, the poorest section of the population. A 20-point drop was also registered in BBM’s approval rating among ABC class while his approval rating fell by 12 points among D class.

The trust ratings of BBM also plummeted. His over-all trust rating dived to 71 percent in the latest survey from 85 percent in the previous survey (June). In Metro Manila, BBM’s trust rating fell to 70 percent from 78 percent and in balance Luzon it dropped to 68 percent from 88 percent. BBM’s trust rating plunged to 77 percent from 90 percent in the Visayas and in Mindanao it decreased from 78 percent to 73 percent.

The recent Pulse Asia survey also reveals that controlling inflation (74 percent) is the most urgent concern of Filipinos. The connection between the most urgent national concern and the drop both in the approval and trust ratings of BBM is clear.

When BBM campaigned for the presidency, he sold to Filipinos a fantasy. The rule of his dictator father was a “golden age” where Filipinos have a prosperous life, the lie says.  BBM vowed that should he become president he will bring back the non-existing “golden age.” The fiction gained traction and BBM won.

Once in power, Filipinos expect that their economic and social condition will start improving concretely illustrated by the 20 pesos per kilo rice expectation. If a kilo of rice is not yet 20 pesos, the public at least anticipate its price will drastically reduce.

More than a year after BBM assumed the presidency, the price of rice not only failed to go down, but even more than doubled. This forced BBM to attempt to repeal the law of supply and demand by setting a ceiling on the price of rice (41 pesos/kilo for regular rice and 45 pesos/kilo for well-milled rice). The ceiling is still more than double the 20 pesos/kilo campaign promise. (BBM has already removed the rice cap.)

It’s not only the price of rice that dramatically increased but also prices of basic goods and services. Filipinos presume a decline in prices of goods and services once BBM becomes president but what happened is the opposite. Prices of all goods and services have gone up while wages and salaries remain stagnant. At the start of the year inflation reached 8.3 percent which declined to 5.3 percent in August but rose again to 6.1 percent last month.  With an impending one-peso fare increase in public transportation, inflation is not going to go down anytime soon.

Reality has punctured fantasy. This explains the drastic decline in the trust and approval ratings of BBM. The fantasy he sold to the public is being pierced by reality. Even troll farms and factories are helpless in hiding reality. TikTok videos and glossy digital materials trumpeting the greatness of the current administration are no match to actual, real experience of Filipinos once they go to supermarkets and wet markets. Prices of basic goods are increasing, the value of their money keeps on shrinking and they are constantly struggling to stretch their meager budget.

Life is hard today compared to pre-BBM era. The poorest section is hardest hit by the current economic difficulties. Their life is already hard before BBM won the presidency and they hoped relief from their hardship once BBM wins. To their consternation, their life worsened under BBM. It is not surprising that BBM’s approval rating received the biggest drop in the E class (29 points).

Fantasy can never overturn reality. In the next five years, the public will continue to demand that BBM delivers on his promise. It is exciting to see if BBM can overpower reality with fantasy in the coming years.

In the case of Sara Duterte, her approval rating dropped from 84 percent to 73 percent.  Her trust rating plummeted to 75 percent from 87 percent. Duterte’s approval and trust rating fell by 11 points and 12 points respectively. It is worth mentioning that this double-digit drop in Duterte’s approval and trust ratings occurred prior to the exposé on her controversial confidential funds. It is interesting to see the result of surveys on her approval and trust ratings done on the weeks the confidential funds issue was raging.

BBM and Sara Duterte are only 14 months in office. The double-digit fall of their approval and trust ratings is unusual and significant. In previous administrations such huge plunged normally occurs in the middle or the latter part of their term. The survey results present a big challenge and problem to BBM and Sara Duterte. They will rise and fall on the basis of delivering the fantasy they spun during the campaign.