MANILA, JANUARY 27, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Manila Standard Today - QUOTING Disraeli, Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

This observation sprang instantly to mind when we learned of the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey showing that President Benigno Aquino III received a “very good” satisfaction rating from areas in the Visayas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8.

The survey, purportedly conducted from Dec. 11 to 16, 2013, said the President’s approval ratings in Yolanda-affected areas reached 73 percent (with a net satisfaction rating of +54), which was higher than his score outside the calamity areas at 69 percent (+48).

The results flew in the face of observable reality, particularly for survivors and volunteer aid workers in the affected areas, who complained of the slowness and inadequacy of the government response. Notwithstanding the government propaganda, it was clear that international agencies and private volunteer organizations were faster at distributing relief than the government.

By the end of December, well after the survey period, more than 1,000 bodies of victims remained unburied in a muddy field in Barangay San Isidro, in Leyte, where residents complained of the stench and presence of “millions of flies” because of the exposed, decomposing bodies.

The SWS said its survey involved face-to-face interviews with 1,500 adults across the country—300 in Metro Manila, 300 in the rest of Luzon, 650 in the Visayas and 300 in Mindanao.

Given the incongruity between the findings and what was happening on the ground, SWS owes the public some answers to a few pointed questions.

First, who were the 650 respondents that they interviewed who, amid the stench of decomposing bodies and widespread hunger and deprivation, generously gave the President a high 73 percent satisfaction rating?

Were they truly selected at random, or were they cherry-picked?

If the SWS claims they were picked randomly, are we to believe that out of the millions of suffering people in the Visayas, the SWS just happened to pick 650 who were happy with the government’s response?

Given the incredible results, the SWS should release no less than a list of names and contact information that can be independently verified.

Second, what questions were asked?

Was it clear to the respondents where relief was coming from?

Or did they credit the government with international and private relief that was reaching them?

Were the respondents offered any incentive—say food —to answer these questions?

And were they somehow led to believe that they would be rewarded for answering the questions in a certain way?

Third, who commissioned the survey? If it was a third party associated with the administration, did they draft the questions that were asked? How much was SWS paid?

Even now, residents of the devastated city of Tacloban—tens of thousands of whom remain homeless—say there is no sign of Mr. Aquino’s rehabilitation program for the region, and even the well-to-do are struggling. Where, then, did SWS find 650 satisfied respondents in the storm-battered provinces?

The strongest typhoon to hit the planet has demolished the credibility of the SWS, such as it was.

That was not the storm’s doing, however, but the result of the lies upon damn lies that SWS help spread to convince us that this do-nothing President is still popular.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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