MANILA, JULY 25, 2008 (STAR) By Helen Flores - More Filipinos – up to 40 percent – expect President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address on Monday to be “untruthful,” up from 29 percent who expressed the same distrust last year, results of the latest Pulse Asia survey revealed yesterday.

“Past public skepticism regarding President Arroyo’s SONAs appears to have become stronger and now makes it difficult for her to maximize her forthcoming SONA’s political value,” Pulse Asia said of the results of its non-commissioned nationwide survey from July 1 to 14.

In its “Ulat ng Bayan” survey, Pulse Asia used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 individuals 18 years old and above.

“As in previous Arroyo SONAs, only a rather small number of respondents (14 percent) believes truthfulness will attend the next Arroyo SONA,” Pulse Asia said.

More than half – or 53 percent – of the respondents who expressed skepticism regarding the SONA were from Mindanao.

The view that the past Arroyo SONAs had been untruthful is most apparent among respondents from the close to poor Class D (46 percent) and the poorest Class E (49 percent).

The same opinion was expressed by respondents 65 years old and above (53 percent) and those living in urban areas (50 percent).

But the same mindset was least evident among young respondents 18 to 24 years old (33 percent) and those who completed college (38 percent).

Rural Luzon (34 percent) and urban Visayas (33 percent) also have remarkably fewer skeptics.

Urban regions in the Visayas have the biggest number of respondents who believe in the truthfulness of the next SONA at 23 percent, while the least trusting were from urban Luzon at seven percent.

The survey found higher proportions of undecided respondents in other parts of Luzon and in much lower levels in Mindanao.

Indecision is markedly higher among the youngest, 18 to 24 years old age group (60 percent), those with some years of college education (55 percent) and the self-employed (53 percent).

But public indecision on the issue of SONA truthfulness represents a nine-percentage point decline from 55 percent in July 2007 to 46 percent this year.

“This suggests that much public vacillation regarding the truthfulness of President Arroyo’s next SONA has been effectively resolved by the public and, unfortunately for the President, this public resolution is adverse to her interest,” Pulse Asia said.

“There is not much comfort that can be situated in the currently low proportion of people (14 percent) who still believe that her SONA this year will be a truthful one,” Pulse Asia said.

“The low proportion of believers in her SONA’s truthfulness has not grown in the past three years and cannot possibly represent much political capital for her and her administration,” it added.

“The perception of truthfulness for her past SONAs has suffered attrition which is critical precisely because only a relatively small number of people (at best 18 percent in July 2005, now down to 13 percent in July 2008) hold this positive view,” Pulse Asia said.

Meanwhile, Pulse Asia said that from July 2005 to July 2008, public awareness of Mrs. Arroyo’s SONAs has remained fairly constant at around 60 percent nationwide.

“This level of public awareness has remained basically the same since 2005, the year Pulse Asia started monitoring the public’s sense of SONAs,” it said.

Public awareness is highest in Metro Manila at 83 percent, especially among the best-off socioeconomic class at 87 percent, Pulse Asia said.

SONA awareness in other geographic areas surveyed was at 54 percent to 64 percent, Pulse Asia said.

Majority awareness is significantly higher (70 percent to 83 percent) among respondents from urban areas, and among those with higher education or employed in government.

Listen first

Malacañang urged critics and other skeptics to listen to the SONA before making any judgments.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza noted that the President would be presenting her policy directions, her programs for the year and what she has done in the past year.

“I would recommend to those who are skeptical, listen first to the SONA, look at the data that she will give and please go ahead and verify,” he said.

Dureza added that the President will not be distracted by the surveys and would just do what she needs to do “irrespective of what the skeptics say.”

SONA disruption

Philippine National Police chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said the PNP is coordinating with the military in verifying reports of the deployment of hit squads by the New People’s Army (NPA) to disrupt Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA.

“We are checking that information and we are coordinating with the AFP. We have tasked our Directorate for Intelligence to make verification on the reports,” Razon told reporters.

“At the same time, we have given warnings to our units to be on the alert and safeguard themselves from any attacks or operations to be launched by the CPP-NPA,” he added.

Razon echoed the assessment of the AFP that the NPA remains the biggest threat to the country’s security.

He said PNP is prepared for the worst and that at least 6,000 policemen and soldiers are set to secure the House of Representatives building in Quezon City where Mrs. Arroyo will deliver her SONA.

National Capital Region Police Command chief Director Geary Barias said some 500 policemen will be fielded around the EDSA Shrine and 3,000 more will secure critical points in Quezon City, including Litex, St. Peter’s church, and the Batasan complex. Barias, however, expects Monday’s SONA to be peaceful.

Razon said PNP alert status might be upgraded during the weekend depending on the situation.

‘Old hat’

Militant groups lashed out at the military yesterday for circulating an “old hat” that the NPA is planning to disrupt Monday’s SONA with the deployment of hit squads.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) likened the military’s warning to a “broken record” noting that it’s the same scare tactic intended to justify another crackdown on militant organizations.

“Worse than the boy who cried wolf, it (warning) is meant to confuse (and) divert attention or sow fear,” said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bayan.

“The military should instead address the AFP death squads who have proven to be bigger threats to human rights,” he said.

On Wednesday, the AFP said it would deploy two Army battalions from northern and southern Luzon to Metro Manila to stop the supposed plan of the NPA.

But Maj. Gen. Arsenio Arugay, chief of the AFP’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCOM), admitted that they have no specific information regarding the alleged terror plot.

‘Spectacle of development’

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) said Mrs. Arroyo’s SONA on Monday is expected to be only a “spectacle of development” and will not reflect the true state of the country’s economy.

“A spectacle is often referred to as an event or an episode which is memorable because of the appearance that it creates in an attempt to convince or awe a particular audience,” FDC said in a statement. “This is precisely the show Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been trying to sell us for the last couple of years,” FDC said.

FDC said the administration’s glowing fiscal figures were only a “display of statistical bravado.”

“It is in this same league that Mrs. Arroyo launched an aggressive media campaign concerning its ‘achievements’. Barely a week before her annual national report, Mrs. Arroyo is promoting the idea that it fulfilled its SONA promises comprised of completed infrastructure projects, increased social spending and job creation,” the FDC noted.

“Yet, after all of these numbing statements and claims, the question still begging to be answered is: why aren’t these ‘accomplishments’ convincing the people that they are in fact on the road to development and economic bliss? – With Katherine Adraneda and Cecille Suerte Felipe

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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