Malacanang, June 28, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (Star)  President Arroyo thanked the Filipino people for their trust and support, as evidenced by her 14 percent net approval rating in the latest survey results of the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The President, in an official statement, also brushed aside the results of another SWS survey that showed her trailing behind three popular presidential candidates for the May 2004 elections.

Mrs. Arroyo expressed satisfaction over her 14 percent net performance rating for the second quarter of 2003, from a record low of —14 in the first quarter.

"I thank the people for their trust and support, by which I will continue to be inspired to do my best for the common good," she said.

The President believes that surveys "are a mirror of the people’s most important yearnings and needs" — sincerity, action and results.

"I am committed to leadership based on these three points," she said.

The President could not care less if she did not top the SWS’ survey of voter preferences, with three popular presidential candidates ahead of her, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.

"I believe that is to be expected because the President, anyway, is not running. This is actually a non-issue as far as we’re concerned," he told Palace reporters.

What stands out, Bunye said, "is the people appreciate the sincerity, the action and the results of the program of the President and this is reflected very favorably on her acceptance."

The presidential spokesman — this time speaking for himself — said he could only surmise why a significant number of Filipinos still choose Mrs. Arroyo as their preferred presidential candidate even after she declared her intention not to run in May 2004.

"My take on the matter is that there are those who are die-hard and regardless of the announcement of the President, they will always include the President as a candidate," Bunye said.

He refused to say if these "die-hard" supporters could convince Mrs. Arroyo to change her mind about her declaration last Dec. 30 not to seek a full six-year term in 2004.

"The President is not really considering this possibility (to change her mind) at this time," Bunye said. ‘People aware of GMA’s intentions’

A Lakas-CMD congressman, Surigao del Sur’s Prospero Pichay, said the improved ratings prove that the people have been made aware of the President’s good intentions and benefits of her socio-economic programs.

He said it is natural for Mrs. Arroyo to have low ratings at the start of her term, since she is a transition president with many political enemies.

"She should run, not because of popularity, but because the country needs her expertise in governance," Pichay said. "No other presidentiable has her expertise and experience in running the country."

Bunye, in an interview aired over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan yesterday, said the President’s improved net approval rating validated the government’s success, with Filipinos approving of the way the government handled the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis.

"This survey showed the (people’s) acceptance of the way the President handles the situation, especially in times of crisis," he said.

"But the stand of our President about these popularity ratings is these ratings come and go. Sometimes they’re up, sometimes they’re down."

Bunye said that after Mrs. Arroyo issued her Dec. 30 declaration that she would no longer run for the presidency, she has not given much attention to her popularity ratings and has since become comfortable with her status as a "non-candidate."

"She would prefer to concentrate on performing her duties as President. With this attitude, she can even make unpopular decisions as long as these decisions are right, and these are decisions needed by the people," he said.

The SWS survey was conducted from May 28 — more than a week after the Philippines was stricken off the World Health Organization’s list of SARS-affected countries — to June 14.

During this period, SARS was the most-followed news by the public (72 percent), overshadowing even the US-Iraq war (64 percent), the fight against Muslim rebels (55 percent) and the terrorist acts in the Philippines and the Estrada plunder trial (both 52 percent).

For this, 46 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with the President’s performance while 32 percent said they were dissatisfied.

This is a stark contrast to the results of a similar SWS survey conducted only three months ago from March 10 to 25, which showed only 34 percent satisfied and 48 percent dissatisfied with Mrs. Arroyo’s performance.

SWS said Mrs. Arroyo’s new rating of 14 percent is about average for the period since she took office in January 2001.

On the other hand, House Deputy Speaker Raul Gonzalez said the President’s improved rating has bolstered growing moves for her to seek a full six-year term in 2004. – With reports from Paolo Romero

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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