MANILA,  April 27, 2004
Poor Filipinos do not trust surveys and find them irrelevant in their choice of candidates, according to an initial report on a study by the Ateneo de Manila University’s Institute of Philippine Culture.

The study, titled "The Vote of the Poor: The Values and Pragmatics of Elections," said while some poor voters consider surveys to be among the sources of influence on their choice of candidates, a majority of them are certain that surveys are irrelevant to their choices.

Among the other influential factors in the poor Filipino’s choice of candidate are political parties, the mass media, family, and church or religion, according to the study.

Participants in the study said election surveys are unimportant because they have their own criteria for choosing their candidates and do not allow themselves to be swayed by statistics.

"The relative unimportance of surveys among the poor raises the question: Are surveys significant primarily to the middle and upper classes? The answers will probably vary, depending on the exact configuration of each election. Still, in the game of life, one can say that perhaps the rich are used to winning, while the poor are accustomed to losing. It would be ironic if, as losers‚ the poor turn out to be the more principled voters when compared with the highly educated middle and upper class," the report pointed out.

Most of the voters who participated in the study even distrusted education, citing past and present "highly educated leaders (presidents) who have used their education as a tool for corruption."

The study noted the absence of a consensus among the participants on the appropriate educational qualification of leaders and that a majority of them instead put emphasis on the leader’s faithfulness, lack of involvement in illegal activities, and responsiveness to the needs of the poor.

"For them, a high school diploma is adequate. The emphasis is not on the leader’s educational credential, but on certain valued characteristics consistent with those of a good leader," the study said. "Innate intelligence and knowledge or wisdom, more than formal education, (is) deemed vital. Experience and good intentions are also key traits that more than compensate for a lack of college education."

The study also ranked in descending order what the respondents believe to be the qualities of a good leader: maka-Diyos (God-fearing), matulungin (helpful), matapat (faithful), responsable (responsible), matalino (intelligent), masipag (industrious), tumutupad (fulfills promises), maprinsipyo (principled), and mapagkakatiwalaan (trustworthy).

The participants also enumerated what they believe to be the qualities possessed by a bad leader: kurakot (corrupt), sinungaling (liar), sakim (greedy), iresponsable (irresponsible), makasarili (selfish), and abusado (abusive).

Dr. Filomeno Aguilar Jr., institute director, said it was surprising to discover that the participants found it difficult to cite examples of good leaders‚ compared to bad ones.

He also said the participants managed to name examples of bad leaders‚ even from other countries, or from the international scene.

The study also noted that while poor voters approach the elections with ambivalence, they see the election as a duty, believing that despite the flaws of the electoral process the "election is the only legitimate means to effect change."

The institute’s conduct of the study was aimed at exploring ordinary people’s concepts of leadership; understanding their general perceptions of the elections; and identifying the factors that determine their selection of candidates.

The study used group discussions lasting up to three and a half hours involving 16 groups from the National Capital Region, Baguio City, Cebu City, Zamboanga, Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Davao del Sur.

The participants, who were from the urban poor, were categorized into male, female and youth, with an average of 10 persons per group. – Katherine Adraneda

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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