Manila, April 12, 2003 -- Dissatisfaction with President Arroyo - reflected 
by the drop in her net satisfaction rating by 20 points to a negative 14 - 
cuts across classes and geography, the latest survey of the Social Weather 
Stations shows.

The biggest plunge of 28 points (from plus 14 in November 2002 to minus 14 
in March) was in Mindanao. This was followed by the Visayas where her 
rating dropped from plus 18 to negative 8. The drop in Luzon was 17 points 
from plus 2 to negative 15 percent.
Arroyo's rating suffered a less steep drop of 13 points in Metro Manila, 
but this was mainly because she started at minus 2 and ended up at minus 15.

Among the poor (class E), Arroyo suffered a drop of 29 points from plus 6 
percent to minus 23 percent. Among the well-off (classes ABC), her rating 
dropped from plus 8 to plus 1 percent, and among the lower middle-class, 
from plus 6 percent to minus 13.

The SWS survey (conducted March 10-25) showed that 34 percent of the 1,200 
respondents were satisfied with Arroyo's performance compared with 48 
percent who were dissatisfied. In the last Nov. 15-Dec. 2 survey, 44 
percent were satisfied and 38 percent dissatisfied.

Mahar Mangahas of the SWS traced the drop in Arroyo's rating to her support 
for the US invasion of Iraq despite widespread public fears of adverse 
economic and security consequences.

Arroyo, speaking before the graduates of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng 
Maynila, said she does not regret her decision to ally the Philippines with 
the US-led "coalition of the willing" against Saddam Hussein.

"I, for one, am proud of my decision to support the coalition of the 
willing that brought this about even if it was a very unpopular decision. 
Because we have to take the blows for standing on principle. I have taken 
the blows often enough on many vital issues and I have no regret about my 
decisions," she said.

"I stand by all my actions for the interest of our country and the welfare 
of our people. Sometimes my actions will be misunderstood, but a leader... 
must never hesitate to make a decision simply for fear of being 
misunderstood. I, for one, shall never allow populist pressure to deter me 
from a rightful and moral course. Because new politics means political 
will, not populist sloganeering. New politics means higher standards of 
morality, not the fear of the mob," she said.

Arroyo likened the liberation of Iraq with the Edsa 1 and 2 revolts. "The 
Filipino must be proud for extending political and moral support for their 
struggle which two times, especially in 1986, was also our own," she said.

Mangahas said the reason for judging the US military moves against Iraq as 
the crucial factor behind the dissatisfaction with Arroyo is because this 
got the most citations (59 percent) when respondents were asked which three 
subjects they followed most, out of a list of nine news subjects.

The other news subjects listed, and their respective citations, were: 
fighting against Muslim rebels and bandit groups in the Philippines (52 
percent), terrorist acts in the Philippines (42 percent), the Estrada 
plunder trial (34 percent), candidates for the 2004 election (23 percent), 
the Anti-Money Laundering Act (19 percent), the Overseas Absentee Voters 
Act (14 percent), proposals to amend the Constitution (11 percent), and 
North Korean moves to develop its nuclear power (9 percent).

The SWS survey found a majority of 63 percent preferring the Philippines to 
be neutral in a US-Iraq conflict, and a mere 7 percent in favor of being 
part of the US coalition against Iraq without United Nations support. It 
found 15 percent in favor of joining the US only with UN support, and 16 
percent opposed to the US fight against Iraq, Mangahas said.

Mangahas said the public's strong preference for neutrality was known as 
early as last December when SWS reported its November 2002 survey finding 
of 70 percent in favor of being neutral, 17 percent in favor of joining the 
US together with the UN, 8 percent opposed to a war, and only 5 percent in 
favor of siding with the US even without UN backing.

"Since Filipinos do give much moral support to the United States and to the 
global war on terrorism, their disagreement with the President's decision 
to join the 'coalition of the willing' is explained by their widespread 
fear that a war would have harsh economic and security impacts on the 
country," Mangahas said.

The March survey found a near-unanimous 85 percent of Filipinos expecting a 
US war in Iraq to worsen the economy, and 76 percent expecting it to 
increase the danger of terrorist attacks on the Philippines.

Apprehensions in March were even greater than in November, when 71 percent 
expressed economic fear and 72 percent expressed security fear.

The March 2003 survey shows 9 percent expecting a war to have no economic 
effect, and only 6 percent expecting it to be economically beneficial. In 
November, there were 20 percent expecting no economic change, and 9 percent 
expecting a benefit.

The new survey also shows 14 percent expecting the war not to change the 
danger of terrorist attacks on the country, and 10 percent expecting it to 
lessen the danger. Last November, 15 percent expected no effect on 
terrorism, and 12 percent expecting it to decrease terrorism.

Over the past quarter, public satisfaction with the national administration 
declined with respect to fighting terrorism, but improved with respect to 
caring for Filipinos in the Middle East danger zones, Mangahas said.

In the fight against terrorism, those satisfied with the administration 
declined to 44 percent in March from 50 percent in November. Net 
satisfaction fell to plus 7, from plus 23 formerly, Mangahas said. (Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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