PRESIDENT EMERGES SECOND-BEST / NOY DROPS LEE AS CHINA ENVOY
 

MANILA, APRIL 21, 2012 (INQUIRER) ANALYSIS By: Amando Doronila - Vice President Jejomar Binay has outpolled President Aquino as the preferred endorser of senatorial candidates in the 2013 midterm elections, the results of which are deemed crucial to determining whether his presidency would be crippled into a lameduck administration.

In an opinion survey conducted by Pulse Asia from Feb. 16 to March 9, 73 percent or seven out of 10 respondents said they would vote for the senatorial candidates endorsed by Binay.

The President was second best.

Only 66 percent said they would vote for candidates endorsed by him, while 51 percent said they would vote for candidates endorsed by convicted former President Joseph Estrada, who emerged second place to Mr. Aquino in the 2010 presidential election.

Only 7 percent said they would vote for the candidates endorsed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, who faces charges of plunder and electoral sabotage in connection with the 2004 polls.

The results of the Pulse Asia survey galled the administration, as these came in the wake of the tensions between Binay’s party and the President’s Liberal Party over questions on the loyalty of Binay to the administration. The results also followed increasing evidence of the erosion of the President’s popularity.

In a survey by Social Weather Stations on March 10-13, Binay polled higher than the President in public satisfaction ratings.

According to that survey, Binay remained the highest-favored official, topping the President whose net satisfaction rating slipped to a “good” +49 in the first quarter from December’s “very good” +58—a drop of 9 points.

The survey found that 79 percent of the respondents were satisfied with Binay’s performance, versus the 9 percent who were dissatisfied, which allowed him to retain his “excellent” rating of +70, just four points shy of his personal record of +74 in March 2011.

Asked how the rating would affect Binay’s relationship with the President, Binay’s spokesperson said politics would never affect his relations with the President and the Aquino family. Binay was closely associated with the late former President Cory Aquino, whom he had supported since the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Binay recently reformed his alliance with Estrada and the latter’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. Binay has been lukewarm to the President’s campaign to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona from the Supreme Court. Corona is being tried by the Senate impeachment court.

At the Liberal Party, tensions came to a head when party leaders denounced Binay for alleged sympathy for Corona. Last Tuesday, Binay said the friction was “unavoidable because they have their own party and I have mine. But this does not mean we will be at odds and we will no longer be with each other as one family.”

The issue on endorsements came up because the parties are now in the throes of forming their lineups for the 2013 elections for members of the Senate, a chamber over which the administration is not in control. Binay has been fortifying the senatorial lineup of his PDP-Laban, which has coalesced with Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino to form the United Nationalist Alliance. The administration is working to fill up its Senate ticket with senators seeking reelection in 2013. The senators are judges in the impeachment trial. How the senator-judges will vote on Corona’s acquittal or conviction partly depends on how their decision would affect their political fortunes in 2013.

In particular, they face this question: Will a vote to acquit enhance their chances in the elections, or will siding with the administration prove to be a political liability? If the impeachment court votes to acquit, it would be seen as a blow to the ability of the administration to get support in the Senate for its anticorruption drive. It would also be seen as a leadership failure to gain control of the Senate and signal the beginning of a lameduck administration midway in its term.

The Pulse Asia survey also revealed issues on the vulnerabilities of the administration. The respondents were asked to pick the most urgent from a list of 13 national issues and to rate the administration’s performance on 11 issues.

The administration got the lowest approval rating on “controlling inflation,” with 28 percent approving its performance and 40 percent disapproving, resulting in a net approval rating of minus 12.

Controlling inflation was a concern of the majority of the respondents across all geographic areas and socioeconomic classes. The other most urgent national concerns that the administration should address include wage increases (62 percent), fighting corruption (53 percent), job creation (53 percent) and poverty reduction (52 percent).

Of the five issues deemed most urgent, the administration’s efforts at fighting corruption got a net approval rating of 44. This was followed by the administration’s net approval ratings on job creation (20), wage increase (15) and poverty reduction (2).

Pulse Asia found there was “less concern” on issues such as population control (22 percent), strengthening public trust in government and officials (21 percent), ensuring the fair trial of Corona (13 percent), and going after incumbent and former officials accused of corruption (12 percent).

FROM PHILSTAR

Noy drops Lee as China envoy By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated April 20, 2012 12:00 AMComments (16)

[PHOTO - Lee]

MANILA, Philippines - The search is on for a new Philippine ambassador to Beijing after President Aquino did not reappoint businessman Domingo Lee, who repeatedly failed to get the nod of the Commission on Appointments (CA). Lee, in a letter to Aquino on April 12, also requested that his nomination be withdrawn.

“I am constrained to admit the pressure from the rigors of the confirmation process in the (CA) has deeply affected my family and myself, and my familial responsibility compels me to put their interests above anything else,” Lee said.

Based on the process, there was actually no need for Lee to seek the withdrawal of his nomination since he was no longer reappointed after he was again bypassed by the CA.

The President reappointed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, the CA reported Wednesday.

The nomination of Lee had been strongly opposed by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, who thought Lee lacked knowledge on various aspects of Philippines-China relations.

Lee said it was with “utmost sadness” that he was writing the letter but “it is also not lost on me that the ongoing confrontation with China has gravely put much of the diplomatic work on the shoulders of Your Excellency (Aquino), which should not be the case if there is, at present, an Ambassador in China.”

“I believe that it is my patriotic duty to advance the interests of the country that I profoundly love and allow Your Excellency a free hand in selecting a new nominee to the ambassadorial post to the People’s Republic of China,” Lee said in his letter made public by Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang yesterday. Lee expressed “fervent appreciation” for the confidence the President gave him. Carandang said Aquino “agreed to Ambassador Lee’s wish,” even if they believed the businessman was “culturally and politically” attuned to the developments in China and “has an extensive list” of contact persons there. Carandang said Lee was eager to become the ambassador to China but unfortunately, the protracted confirmation process he felt was not something that the country could afford at a time when the Philippines was addressing serious issues with China.

“And so with the national interest in mind, Mr. Lee has requested and the President has granted the withdrawal of his nomination as ambassador to China. The search for replacement for Mr. Lee has begun and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has not yet submitted a list to the Palace. But we expect that a new nominee will be announced in the coming days,” Carandang said.

He said it would be up to the President and the DFA to determine whether the next ambassador to China would be an outsider or someone who rose from the ranks at the DFA.

“Obviously, there are advantages of having a career diplomat in China. There are also advantages of having someone who is politically appointed who has easy access to the President. But in the end, the judgment will be made by the President and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs,” Carandang said.

Carandang said Malacañang was not thinking of any new appointment for Lee but his inputs would be sought in future matters.

“There’s been no discussion at this point of appointing him to another official position,” he said. Asked if Malacañang was relieved that Lee himself had chosen not to press his nomination, Carandang said “Lee felt that the situation would be better served if he had stepped down as he said in his letter.”

“We think that his putting the interest of the country first in this way is commendable and we thank him for this patriotic act,” Carandang said.

Aquino said Monday that he was considering replacing Lee as ambassador to China because the standoff between the Philippines and China at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal made him think if the qualities of Lee would suit what the country needed at this time.

Malacañang received Lee’s letter dated April 12 on April 17.

“I don’t know as to the timing or if whether the timing had anything to do with the President’s comments,” Carandang said.

Carandang said he was not aware if anyone in Malacañang had asked Lee to give up the post.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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