Ro-Ro and that funny survey

“Takot sila sa akin,” Mar Roxas, Liberal Party standard-bearer said in March after the second debate among #Halalan2016 presidential bets. He also said surveys didn’t matter and that rivals were ganging up on him because of fear.

But a certain survey does matter a lot to the Liberal Party and its followers.

A minor Twitter stir occurred on April 20. Accounts linked to Roxas loyalists erupted in jubilation, sharing  headlines on a miraculous survey surge that had President Benigno Aquino III’s candidate tied with Sen. Grace Poe at first place.

daang matuwid


The day before, Pulse Asia released the results of the ABS-CBN commissioned survey, showing Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte extending his new front-runner position, from 30% to 32%.

Pulse Asia said Duterte managed to capture “a sizeable plurality of Filipino registered voters.”


READ: Duterte extends lead in latest ABS-CBN survey

Had one of the two other big survey firms like the Social Weather Stations (SWS) or Laylo released the April 20 report, it would have been major news.

Both firms have displayed similar rankings, though with different percentages and margins of error.

The catcalls that followed were louder than the hosannas. Many Roxas supporters were too embarrassed to join the chorus, for good reason.

Only a few tabloids carried the momentous announcement. One report, credited to the Philippine Star, actually comes from its Filipino-language tabloid, and has since been taken down.

published Curious website

A simple Google search brings you to the website of  D’ Strafford Research & Strategies, Inc.

The firm claims it uses the language of the business elite.

Its site looks sleek but turns out to be a skeleton – no profile, projects, no clients. Not even an address.

When I visited mid-afternoon of April 20, it didn’t even have anything about an election survey. 

D’ Strafford’s first appearance on email accounts of newsdesks was after it got a deluge of phone calls from curious Netizens.

I called up two numbers. Several tries on the first only got a recorded voice saying Extension 6138 was not available.

A man named Mark Lim answered the other number. He gave their office address as Unit 1, Penthouse, on the 35th floor of EcoTowers on 32nd St., BGC. He said a JM Balancar presented the survey results during “a press conference for tri-media at the Shangri-la Fort.”

Who is Mr. Balancar? What are his credentials?

Lim described Balancar first as “project manager” then as “project director”.

When asked for the name of the CEO – the website does not list company officials –Lim pointed to Balancar. Prompted for the names of other company officials, he mentioned a Mark Tan and Anthony Seno.

I asked if any of them were statisticians. No.

He also said the survey was done in-house and not commissioned.They interviewed 2,800 respondents face to face from April 13-18, he added. The outcome has a +/-1.9% national margin of error.

Then, unprompted, Lim attributed the lead to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial joke about the rape-slay of an Australian missionary in 1989.

Professional style

I asked for the education and professional credentials of Balancar and their survey leader.  Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, but he was mum on credentials.

Mum on clients. Mum on most everything, except that the firm’s owners were businessmen with ages ranging from the 30s to the 40s. Lim said he’s 38 years old. He would not give me his education background.

D’ Strafford incorporators don’t come up on Facebook or even Google. They must be very, very private men.

Balancar’s email to news desks was a gem . Will share it as is:

balancar email


Nothing in their press release backs up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte scared off some fans. Analysts say he may have lost some number of “soft voters;” but we’ll have to wait for the next surveys.

But Pulse Asia places Roxas fourth among voters’ second choice, with 14%, compared to Sen. Grace Poe’s 29%, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s 17% and Duterte’s 16% — though that category is premised on the condition of a favored bet not able to continue contesting the presidency.

pulse 2nd choice better

D’ Strafford’s press release shares the press release’s quirky writing style, especially the unique use of punctuation.

Even more curious was the passage on the undecided:

“Of the 4.2% undecided, 1.5% goes to Poe, 1.3% for Roxas, 1% to Duterte and .4% for Binay.” 

You make try to decipher that.


Roxas’ official Facebook account did not share the story. His vice presidential bet, Leni Robredo – D’ Stafford claimed she had a rating 32%, leading r Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (25%) and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (23%).

leni on d'strafford

After chatting with Lim, I called up Balancar. He was busy and just asked for a text query. I asked about the firm’s SEC registration.

He replied: “We will have another round of press conference this coming Friday. We will be sending invites. Thank you.”

A follow up text from him said: “All are invited even Duterte supporters, of GP and ke Binay. Thank you.”

Netizens Mariah Sanchez and Jae Manuel Sta Romana did separate searches and discovered that D’ Strafford’s website was registered only on April 14, a day after the claimed start of their survey.

Screengrab photo posted by Mariah Sanchez

It only registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11.

Sta Romana also found out that the firm borrowed i’s entire website template from a Chicago-based company. Unlike D’ Stafford, Omotosho and Associates details a range of services.


So a very young firm of mysterious men decided to spend a caboodle of money for a nationwide survey because of the goodness of their hearts.

Don’t let those inconvenient truths divert us from this sure-fire reality, says an undersecretary.

Roxas will win, according to Malacanang, because the government has the most organized force.

This administration has a genius for twisting the meaning of words. Let’s parse out organized in the next installment, starting with the Palace downloading voters’ personal data stolen from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website.


Even when he said enough, few people believed that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would be sailing off into the night.

Duterte has always been a lightning-and-thunder, one-man spectacle. With his latest pronouncement — now running for the 2016 Presidency –expect the Duterteserye to dominate the news and social media.

Whether you like him or not, Digong has shaken the odds for 2016.

His strengths may not be enough to give him victory. Not yet. But he has that rarest of political wealth — true believers. He has more than enough to bloody the noses of the two main power blocs.

He will hurt Roxas more than Poe. READ WHY on scaRRedcat’s latest blog on

UPDATE: I asked Norodin Alonto Lucman , who has filed his candidacy for the senatorial elections and is expected to be in a Duterte slate: How does he feel about Sen. Alan Cayetano, the mayor’s running-mate, if and when? Cayetano is at par with Bongbong Marcos and Roxas where the MILF and many Muslims are concerned.

Noor’s answer: Honestly, do we have a choice? Bongbong Marcos is a liability in Mindanao although it was assumed that he will deliver the North and Western Visayas votes. That is wishful thinking. Bisayans and Mindanaoans will vote for Duterte, hands down. Cayetano is a good prop but he might learn a thing or two about humility with Mayor Duterte.


Metro Manila is the ultimate battleground. There are 22 million votes in Mindanao and as of this writing 70% are in favor of Duterte candidacy. This is likely to surge after today’s announcement. He is also ahead in the Visayas region, ahead of Santiago and even beating Mar Roxas in his region, including Capiz. Luzon will be contested by three candidates from Luzon but Duterte will dominate the masa vote. Metro Manila has a sizable Bisayan and Mindanaoan population. They will campaign not because of some election circus in Manila but of survival and self-dignity. Having said that, Mindanao/Bangsamoro unity – especially the 5-million strong Muslim votes nationwide – is the key to Duterte’s presidency. His senate slate have to tag along because he needs his senators to push his sweeping agenda in Congress. This is a non violent revolution. But if Luzon resist, Mindanaoans knows how to fight too.

Another reader, Godofredo Bernabe · notes:

Duterte’s entry into the presidential race will alter significantly the political landscape and voters equation. PDP-Laban may attract NP (of Manny Villar that has 3 VPs but no presidential candidate). Pacquiao also may leave VP Binay and move to Duterte’s camp. LP nagmamatigas NOT TO LOWER TAX RATE FOR THE WORKING CLASS (one-third of the workers income) prolonged also by the boring LP bets. You have 2 Mannys (Villar and Pacquiao) and the ‘money” they bring to the table of Duterte. Mass exodus is expected.

*Must admit, haven’t thought of the two money bags.

Meanwhile, LenDante Clarino believes Roxas will be the biggest loser and Poe the biggest gainer from a Duterte run … but for a different reason. He says Mr. Aquino will back Poe secretly to ensure his peace in the post-presidency days:

With ‪#‎Duterte‬ entering the prez race and the consequent exodus of NP leaders and others or their shedding off of their political skin to show off to the Davao Mayor, ‪#‎MarRoxas‬ and that idiotic bandwagon, ‪#‎TuwidNaDaan‬ is a goner. The main beneficiary of this latest move by the ‪#‎Digong‬would be ‪#‎GracePoe‬. Foundling or not, natural-born, she’s not, nothing will stop ‪#‎PNoy‬ from throwing his all-out support to Poe—albeit secretly—by using the resources of his office—which last time we look, cornered almost 50% of the PhP2.66 trillion of the 2015 national budget in the form of lump sum funds and other ‘insertions’ including his office’s share in the current deliberations for the proposed PhP3.1 trillion 2016 budget, which is an election year. 

This president will do anything just to avoid jail-time after his stint ends next year. He has this track record when he went all out with his previously unknown ‪#‎DAP‬ pork funds and accordingly bribed—per Sen. Jinggoy Eatrada—the senator- judges in impeaching ex-Chief Justice Corona. If Poe doesn’t bite this ‘carrot on a stick,’ a repeat of “Noy-Bi” would be a likely possibility. In the meantime, it may do well for his supporters to ensure the impending win of ‘El Presidente Duterte’ by pressuring ‪#‎Comelec‬ and its partner-in-crime ‪#‎Smartmatic‬ and expose this syndicate and the fraud that is, ‪#‎PCOS‬ (PNoy’s Criminal Option in Sabotaging) elections.




Bashing Grace Poe

It’s slash-and-burn time. Filing for candidacy doesn’t happen until October, but politicians and their supporters are now busy prettifying their images or attacking perceived rivals.

Vice President Jejomar Binay
Vice President Jejomar Binay

Vice President Jejomar Binay was the original target-in-chief. The presumed front-runner’ ratings took a tumble in the latest surveys, though one can’t dismiss him yet as a contender. Senator Grace Poe’s leap in ratings has now made her the target of both Binay’s UNA and the ruling Liberal Party of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. President Benigno Aquino III is, of course, considered the head of the LP, the king whose blessing is needed by the heir designate.

Senator Grace Poe
Senator Grace Poe

UNA obviously thought attacking Poe on the issue of citizenship would scare off would be supporters and voters. They didn’t realize that highlighting her foundling status would just kindle sympathy in this soap-opera crazy nation. They gifted Poe with a script any director would kill for — and it actually had real hacenderas-fallen-from-grace, poor-boy-rich-girl passion, pious-nurturers, not to mention a childless superstar couple. Small wonder the Binay family practically begged Toby Tiangco to shut his trap.

The LP and their backers could have made better play of the residency issue. Poe IS vulnerable there. But that is an issue that only the courts can rule on with finality. Mar-Roxas-LPThere is also the inconvenient fact that, while Mar’s friends used the issue to question Poe’s legitimacy as presidential candidate, the President was busy wooing the senator on behalf of… … and there’s the rub. What exactly is PNOY doing? And why aren’t the Mar lovers taking him to task for his cavalier treatment of the presumed heir? (Not that it’s the first time for the President to treat Roxas like some peon; think, Mamasapano.)

The current theme:

  • You are not worthy, Grace, if you do not drop Chiz Escudero as running mate.
  • Drop Chiz because he won’t get anywhere without you.
  • Chiz will betray you, the way he betrayed Mar, with the NoyBi gambit.
  • Chiz is trapo and so choosing him means you’re trapo, too.

Escudero can be too slick for his own good. He can sound cocky and arrogant. (Miriam Santiago famously took him down a couple of notches not-too-long-ago.) He is a pragmatist, sometimes to a fault, leaving you wondering if he will ever make categorical statements of principles. He can be slippery that way.

Sen. Chiz Escudero
Sen. Chiz Escudero

There’s also something a bit cold about Chiz. It’s hard not to look at him without imagining an inner abacus going click, click, click weighing his interests.

Some people, like me, feel discomfort over that. Some people think it’s an important leadership skill.

Sure, maybe Chiz knows he won’t win the Presidency, which is why he’s willing to take the runner-up post. But what is wrong with having a good sense of reality?

We are left with the NoyBi plaint, a laughable, pathetic argument. NoyBi was real. Early in the 2010 race, journalists were already writing of a parallel organization. (I did.)

If Mar and his pals didn’t get wind of that, that’s a question on their ability to lead. That they got wind of that and didn’t do anything — or didn’t do enough — to counter the dangerous internal challenge, places an even bigger question mark on their capability.

Why confront Grace or Chiz with the issue? Six years after, why is Mr. Aquino still doing the shuffle?

And why isn’t anyone challenging his actions? Poor, Mar, imagine the President asking Grace is she’d be willing to have his LP pal as a spare tire in national rounds. Asking Grace. Think about that.

This is your sainted leader, dudes. Why is he showing Mar so much disrespect? Those who scream over — and at — Chiz are skirting the elephant in the room. NoyBi would never have prospered without the blessings of Noy.

Noy, the candidate, was conscious of the double-dealing. It benefited him after all. Certainly, his beloved sisters were part of that clique — and made their preference clear even years into the Aquino presidency.

I won’t argue that there’s a streak of a cynic in Chiz. But why are all these bashers blind to the cynicism in PNOY, now and in 2010? Check how all the NoyBi people have stood the test of six years. Who did he choose as Executive Secretary? The biggest NoyBi of them all — Jojo Ochoa.

The President can anoint Mar — and he probably will. It doesn’t really matter. Mr. Aquino showed in 2010 he’s very capable of looking out for No. 1. With his protection gone after 2016, that’s exactly what he’ll try to do.

All the President's friends.
All the President’s friends.

The real equation is this: Mar or Grace or Binay, the real winner is Noynoy. Chiz may not be Mar’s friend. But he sure is a dear friend of PNOY.

There are a thousand things why it’s perfect reasonable for people not to like Chiz. NoyBi isn’t one of them — unless you want to throw paint at your president, too.

Oh, and one more thing. While it is legitimate to wonder about Grace’s lack of experience — you campaigned in 2010 for a legislator who had done NOTHING in his long congressional stint.


Former Isabela governor and newly-appointed Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca. (Photo courtesy of

Former Isabela governor Grace Padaca has spoken. The newly appointed Commissioner of the government elections body, has also posted bail for two charges — graft and malversation of public funds. Following Malacanang’s announcement of her appointment, the Sandiganbayan confirmed there was a warrant of arrest for Padaca. Cops had tried – but failed – to serve the warrant.

People raised questions over the propriety of her appointment.

  • She was facing graft charges; didn’t these count?
  • Why hadn’t she turned herself in?
  • Can she be trusted to pass impartial judgment on former rivals?

Padaca’s graft case does NOT disqualify her from becoming Comelec Commissioner. Last I checked, people in this country remain innocent until a court of law hands down a guilty verdict. Padaca must come under that same standard, even if the administration she serves has a penchant for treating people as guilty until proven otherwise. (Except for a list of kaibigan, kamaganak, kaklase)

Is there a difference between evading the law and simply not entrusting yourself to its tender mercies? In previous interviews, Padaca has said refusal to file for bail was a statement, a form of protest against an unjust legal system stacked against her. Nothing unique there. Many have gone before her.

People wanted to understand:

  • Why the change of heart?
  • What had changed in the system that made her now amenable to filing bail?
  • Had the legal system changed that much under the “tuwid na daan” regime?
  • What changes singularly applied to her case?

Padaca’s press briefing after posting bail hardy eased those concerns. Thus, my Facebook post: 

Grace Padaca press con on ANC. “Kung meron kang Secretary Mar and President Noynoy sa tabi mo”. My heart plunged… not begrudging Grace her powerful friends… just thinking of the millions who have to suffer injustice by their lonesome.

And unsolicited advice to Grace: PLEASE DO NOT EVEN TALK OF THE LIBERAL PARTY — WITH MAR ROXAS BESIDE YOU. For god’s sake, you’re joining the COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS!

Mutual friends prodded Grace to answer the questions. Mid-afternoon, Grace posted this reply on my wall – and other walls that had carried my post.

It’s straightforward, brisk, but with a personal touch. Let’s break it down into segments:

“Hi everyone. Sorry hindi agad ako nakasagot. I was busy talking with my lawyers before the posting of the bail. Last week, my lawyers updated me that the prosecution has yet again asked for another extension to comment on our petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court. Ang ibig sabihin, after 4 long months, wala pa palang iniusad ang petisyon ko to dismiss the case, not for any fault of the supreme court, but by “inaction” from the other side. “

I hear her. Four months IS a long time if you’ve got a warrant over your head. (Tens of thousands languish in jail for lack of bail funds. Thousands remain in prison even with orders for their release. How’s that for context?)

JUSTICE DELAYED. CDO-based journalist Herbie Gomez behind bars for libel. Ten years — no hearing.

Grace chafed for four months. Cagayan de Oro journalist Herbie Gomez has been waiting to be cleared of libel for a decade now.  Not a single court hearing after an arrest warrant served in May 2003. No hearing — no acquittal or conviction. Limbo. So, yeah, Grace, di ka nag-iisa.

Four months is also a long time when you’re the one seeking justice. (How long before the darn Ampatuan massacre suspects got arraigned? How far has the quest for justice moved? What d0 we have to show after more than a thousand days?)


Grace comes from a personal place… and so do all of us. She is a public official and must realize that all her worlds and actions will be funneled through a million other personal lenses.

While sharing her legal travails, did Grace spare a thought for what could happen if “ordinary” citizens – those without organized groups or powerful folk backing them – fall to the Anti-Cybercrime Law?

I want to believe she did. But she probably can’t talk about this for fear of displeasing her padrone.

 “I was advised by my lawyers to just post bail because 4 months is too long to be always under the threat of a warrant of arrest and there seems to be no movement yet. Also, this Comelec appointment happened. Magiging complicated naman yata kung papasok ako sa Comelec na any moment, maaresto ako. That may distract many from the things that the Comelec should concern itself with.”

Reading this for the fourth time. I’m still stumped. It is the Comelec appointment that makes a difference? Without this appointment, would Grace have gone her merry way – interviews and speeches and just keeping a spare bag in the car for when cops finally swoop down?

“As to my statement “with noy and mar by my side…” lets please check the context and see why i said that. But if that was not proper because I am with the Liberal Party joining a body that must be impartial, I will be more cautious next time. “

Thats also one of the reasons why i refused all interviews about the comelec appointment for almost 3 days. Alam niyo naman kung gaano karami at kakulit ang media. I only hastened to answer questions on the court case kasi maraming maling akala. Ang tagal ko na kayang nag-status update sa 3 facebook accounts ko about the court cases, pero syempre dahil hindi naman ako person in the news, hindi masyadong pinansin. If u want, u can check my posts especially last june 2012.

Maraming salamat, ramdam ko na pume-preno kayo sa pagbatikos sa akin because u are giving me the benefit of the doubt. I deeply appreciate it. Sana, sa mga darating na panahon at pagkakataon, makikita niyo sa mga desisyon ko ang aking hindi pagkiling sa kung sinoman kung hindi sa tama lang at katotohanan. As a broadcast journalist for 14 years, i had a lot of practice practising fairness, neutrality and yes, integrity. As governor, kahit mga political opponents ko na mayors at kapitan na dating ayaw sa akin, nakipagtulungan din dahil nakita nilang objective ako sa pagtrato sa kanila.

The comelec mission will be very hard , i know, but extremely important, too. Please pray for me and support me, both by uplifting me when im down and whipping me (ouch!) when i become careless and un-Grace…

The Comelec Chairman Brillantes hems and haws over the appointment of Grace Padaca as commissioner. (Photo grab, abs-cbn)


It’s a really nice reply. I do not doubt you mean well, Grace. But I also hope you understand the discomfort we feel, knowing you accepted P70,000 for bail from a man who appointed you to the Comelec; a man who has been telling the people that, to cement the gains of tuwid na daan, they must vote for his choices.

I understand you’re not rich. You were like the millions of other people charged for lesser crimes languishing in jail for lack of bail funds. But, yes, you must forget your Liberal Party friends once you start Comelec duties. Sabi nga sa radio ad, di na kailangan pang imemorize yan.

Here’s more on the PNOY money.

Sabi po niya as early as 4 months ago, pera niya, bilang si Noynoy Aquino, ang magpipiyansa sa akin,” she told reporters.

“Ako po’y nagpapasalamat sa Pangulo. Hindi lang po yung halaga ng pera ang importante dun kundi yung ibig sabihin yung isang katulad ni Noynoy, isang katulad ni Mar,ay nandito at mas naniniwala ako’y hindi kurakot at walang ninakaw sa mamamayan,” she added.

Oh, we got the context, Grace. The context is what raises worries. Maybe you didn’t see the pattern.

Having someone believe in you is a powerful source of motivation when energies and courage flag in the fight for justice. But when your actions begin to hinge on the opinions and decisions of powerful backers, you face a slippery slope.

In case you’ve forgotten, there is this inconvenient thing called the law. There is little that is ambiguous about Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards For Public Officials. It’s surprising that the three of you — Aquino and Roxas included – and your lawyers, thought context held you above this provision:

(d) Solicitation or acceptance of gifts. – Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office. (boldface mine)

Kung pinahiram ka ng pera four months ago, noong “ordinaryong” mamamayan ka lang tulad namin, mas madaling maintindihan yan. Pero ang paghintay ng pag-bigay ng pera – at pag-pyansa – at pag-timing nito pagkatapos kang ma-appoint na Comelec Commissioner, malaki ang problema dyan, Grace.

No President of this country has ever been neutral in electoral politics. President Aquino has told Filipinos they should vote for his candidates if they believe in “tuwid na daan”. He and his motley crew of allies are determined to fill government elective posts with their people that they’re forcing local rivals to fall in line. That’s not illegal. It just makes more mind-boggling your belief that taking the President’s personal funds does not constitute conflict of interest.

Pet, photo from


Interior Secretary Mar Roxas should also give a full list of other donors – for money, he says, going to a legal defense fund. These people may be innocent, ‘ordinary’ citizens – or they may be officials of a political party or candidates.

Grace, ako may problema talaga sa nakikita ko. I see patrician gentlemen treating you as their personal ward. And you’re about to take your seat in an agency mandated to be independent and above the political fray.

Many of us believe in your record of integrity. However, the rules of public service are clear: it is not enough to invoke pure motives for one’s actions. Heck, all dictators believe they’re pure.

Your reputation as broadcaster was the springboard to public office. But we cannot view you through that prism anymore. You chose to be a public servant and must be weighed on that scale.

Some friends say, “see, they didn’t even hide the fact that PNOY gave her the money! That’s transparency!”

Yeah, or it can just be one more sign of arrogance. Astig kami. Heto! Ano gagawin nyo ngayon? Walang urungan! Walang uubra sa tuwid na daan! Kami lang ang nakakaalam kung ano ang tuwid na daan! And there is silence from friends who ought to know better. That is why we ended up with this cybercrime controversy, Grace. Because everyone fears being struck down by the PNOY lightning bolt. Panahon ni George W Bush, patriotism and war on terror were the incantations. Ngayon sa atin, tuwid na daan.

The morning after… wrong remains wrong. I’ll pray for your success. I’ll praise every right move. But I will not denigrate those who challenge your appointment. I cannot, knowing the facts you laid down.