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.

Sino daw ang ‘bobotante’? (Binay, Poe, Mar and the latest surveys)


Illustration from
Illustration from

MANILA – The strategy of patronage has a point of diminishing returns when it comes to national elections.

When the media banner voters’ top issues of concern, and race leaders trip under the spotlight, other candidates can play catch up without breaking the bank, according to political scientists assessing the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey.

In the Philippines, voters’ preference for “pro-poor” bets has long been interpreted as a boon for contenders who bribe voters with cash or services sourced from their pork barrels.

Political scientist Temario Rivera, however, points out that results of past national elections show that poor voter choose on the basis of their core issues. In the last half decade, these have been  graft and corruption – and equal enforcement of the law.

Perception that Binay cannot walk the talk has cost him substantial support from the critical D and E voting blocs, says Bobby Tuazon, director of policy studies at the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPeg).

Rethinking ‘bobotante’

Good governance and election watchdogs like to trace  the Philippines’ endemic corruption to the huge base of poor voters with low-educational levels.

The message can be grating: “bobotante” (stupid, unthinking voters) elect corrupt politicians in exchange for a few hundred pesos worth of bribes and other displays of patronage.

The latest series of presidential preference surveys by Pulse Asia, however, show a different story.

Binay, long known as king of largesse – decades of twin-city programs and a vast array of social services and quaint perks for Makati City residents — has slumped among the crucial Class D and E voter demographics.

(The D class accounts for 60% of the population, according to a report released in 2011 by then National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB) head Tomas Africa. The lowest end of the middle class, or the higher end of the poor — monthly income from P8,000 to P15,000 — comprises the D voters. Rivera places the D voter base at 60% to 65%, and the E class — the real poor with a monthly family income of less that P5,000 — at 25% to 29%.)

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who for now has the administration’s formidable resources behind him, continues to inch up the surveys, not enough to ease concerns about his “winnability.”

Independent contender, Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, zoomed past Binay, doubling and tripling her ratings in crucial economic demographics and the most vote-rich areas.

Crucial base

Graphics courtesy of
Graphics courtesy of

In the latest Pulse Asia report, Binay saw a drop in Class D and E backers, from March to May this year.

The period featured legislative and legal probes into alleged corruption which led to a freeze of his assets and that of kin and trusted aides.

His portion of D voters slipped from 30% to 20%. From 33%, his class E share went down to 25%.

Graphics courtesy of
Graphics courtesy of

Why the slump?

Holmes, in an interview with ANC, said there were days when Binay’s alleged links to corruption was “only thing hogging the news.”

Political science professor Antonio Contreras agrees with Holmes.

“I guess the CDE voters for Binay are now getting the message,” he told

Some broadcasters are “very effective in painting Binay as a crook in dramatic ways,” he pointed out.

“Alam mo naman ang CDE, yan ang nakikinig pa sa radio,” Contreras said. (The CDE classes listen to radio.)

Tuazon believes Binay’s defense against mounting corruption issues was flawed.

While his lawyers, political allies and children tried to fend of charges raised in and out the Senate, “the effort was not consolidated”.

“The perception is, that he has been avoiding tackling the issues head on,” Tuazon said.

Poe, on the other hand, gained from the almost daily coverage of the emotional hearings on the Jan 21 Mamasapano carnage that claimed the lives of 44 elite cops.

She also oversaw hearings on issues important to the D class – the breakdown of the MRT system used daily by half a million Metro Manila residents.

Rivera said attempts to attack Poe using her status as a foundling backfired in a culture where abused underdogs are a favorite conversation topic.

ABC support

Graphic by Denggai Silorio
Graphic by Denggai Silorio

Strangely, as senators crowed about new evidence of alleged plunder, and details of bank accounts in the billions of pesos were leaked to media, Binay’s ABC supporters increased.

In fact, Binay has seen a steady increase in ABC believers since Pulse Asia’s November 2014 survey, when news reports were already full of details from the Senate probe spearheaded by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Grahic by
Grahic by

From 17% last November, Binay’s ABC preference rating rose to 22% in March and to 29% in the latest survey conducted from May 30 to June 5.

Traditional wisdom, oft quoted by political pundits, assigns to the middle and upper classes the conscience vote, the high ground focused on issues like corruption and good governance.

In 2010 presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III used the slogans, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” and “tuwid na daan” (straight path). It caught fire in the end days of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s scandal-plagued administration.

What could account for the rise in Binay’s ABC rating?

Contreras said, “the rise of Binay among the ABC is perhaps sign that the elites are getting irritated at the no-holds barred lynching of Binay. ”

Political opinion-writer Beth Angsioco was also puzzled by the rise in Binay’s ABC ratings, “unless people in this cluster think that he is being unfairly crucified.”

But while allies of Roxas and the LP went all out against Binay, the biggest beneficiaries was not the Interior secretary, but Poe and Duterte, she pointed out.

Did Binay become the “protest choice” by anti-corruption advocates angered by the Aquino administration’s display of “double standards” on issues of governance?

Activist artist Mae Paner disagrees.

“I don’t see those disappointed in Aquino, on issues of transparency and fiscal abuse, and corruption by his aides, going for Binay,” Paner said. “They will be looking for an alternative to these two examples of trapo politics.”

Rivera, however, downplayed the increase in Binay’s ABC support, calling it “statistically insignificant.”

While the figures may seem substantial, he said the small representation greatly increases the margin of error, especially with the AB class, which is traditionally reluctant to participate in surveys. The demographic’s margin of error, he pointed out, can be as high as 20%.

Tuazon said the ABC figures could be a reflection of the old Binay-Roxas polarity.

Both have long signaled their plans to contest the presidency, he pointed out. In contrast, the other perceived contenders – Poe, Duterte and Estrada – have not issued clear statements on their political ambitions.

“That (ABC) figure will dramatically change once the candidates come clean about their plans for 2016,” said Tuazon. READ MORE AT