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.

SHUT UP? Rep. Kimi Cojuangco bares dirt on #RHBill

Weak leadership or cynical games?
There is a reason why Philippine Presidents want clear majorities in the two legislative houses: To make sure pet bills are passed. Chief Executives detail their pet initiatives in their State of the Nation (SONA) speeches at the start of every Congress and then reiterate their wishes as the legislative mill grinds on.
When governance experts grade leadership performance, the ability to shepherd pet measures through Congress is a key segment. Congress leaders, of course, are also measured by the same stick.
In President Benigno Aquino’s last SONA, allusions to the Reproductive Rights bill got the loudest, longest ovation. This is what he said:
Sana nga po, ngayong paubos na ang backlog sa edukasyon, sikapin nating huwag uling magka-backlog dahil sa dami ng estudyante. Sa tingin ko po, responsible parenthood ang sagot dito.”
He did not specifically mention the RH bill but proponents — and national surveys show most Filipinos back reproductive rights initiatives — thought it was a clear endorsement of the measure. Later on, anti-RH legislators, including Sen. Tito Sotto, would claim Mr. Aquino fell short of an endorsement.  Still, as notes, Malacanang had earlier released the President’s 5-point statement of principle on reproductive rights.

These are:

– Aquino is against abortion.

– He is in favor of giving couples the right to choose how best to manage their families so that in the end, their welfare and that of their children are best served.

– Aquino believes that the state must respect each individual’s right to follow his or her conscience and religious convictions on matters and issues pertaining to the unity of the family and the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death.

– In a situation where couples, especially the poor and disadvantaged ones, are in no position to make an informed judgment, the state has the responsibility to provide.

– In the range of options and information provided to couples, natural family planning and modern methods shall be presented as equally available, Aquino said.


Yet, this year, clear signs of trouble loomed for the RH Bill. This was RG Cruz’s report in September, with a subheadline quoting Majority Floorleader Neptali Gonzales as saying “sana magalit na si Presidente” (I hope the President gets mad) so allies finally push the bill.

MANILA – President Aquino finds it difficult to push the Reproductive Health (RH) bill among his congressional allies the same way he pushed for the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Aquino’s political leaders in the House of Representatives concede that the President has to contend with the religious beliefs of his own allies for this purpose.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said, “mahirap kay Presidente to issue a  marching order. The so-called opposition sa RH aren’t political in nature, it’s part of their religious belief, it’s very difficult to impose. This is one time na mahirap talaga kami. As I’ve said in my stint as floor leader, this is first time I’ve seen a bill na divided ang members of the House and no demarcation between majority and minority.”

Liberal Party secretary-general, incoming Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary and current House Appropriations chair, Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, said Aquino “respects the independence of the 2 bodies of government, thus he merely requests. How effective is that convincing that will be is within his prerogative. If ever such strong requests are made, I think there’s time.”

Abaya added, “ang tingin ko, dinadahan din ni presidente, alam niya di lang parang impeachment ito, there are certain non-political issues he has been very careful. Sa Liberal Party, it’s always consensual, we haven’t gone to that part, what’s clear is the request that we end the debate and I think clearly, he said we will put it to a vote.”

Speaker Sonny Belmonte huddles with Majority Floorleader Neptali Gonzales. Photo from

Cruz  quoted Gonzales as claiming he and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte back the RH Bill while three deputy speakers oppose it.

Despite an August cacus with Mr. Aquino where legislators pledged to terminate floor debates on the RH bill, the measure continues to languish. This, even if last October, Belmonte announced the House was pushing a new bill indicating compromise between pro and anti-RH forces.

Amendments have not been discussed. In the last few session days, many legislators stayed away, leading to a lack of quorum.

The current impasse seems to be an anti-bloc effort to evade a showdown. Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is against the RH bill, challenged the pro-bloc to come up with a quorum.

“If they can do that, then we can tackle and debate the amendments line by line, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, section by section. That will take us till kingdom come.”

Gonzales was still saying he wished the President would get mad and call another meeting. By that time, Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, an RH bill advocate, was running out of patience.

Cojuangco, who is very visible on the social network site, Twitter, posted:

So for those that keep asking me when are we going to take up amendments #RHBILL, I dont know! Only MFL knows

She reminded Gonzales of his responsibility as a House leader:

kimi cojuangco ‏@kimicojuangco

MFL Boyet Gonzales, the lack of quorum only reflects your weak leadership so I challenge you get the members of HOR to appear & take up #RHB

Gonzalez, replying via reporters,

“blamed the pro-RH bill proponents for not mustering enough support for the bill. He said it is not his job to make sure that there is a quorum in the House.”

“He said it is for the proponents to make sure that they have the numbers every time the issue is tackled.”

Those are strange comments for a man who claims he is an advocate of the RH bill. Cojuangco then bared pressure for her to fall in line.

I am told just keep quiet play ball…i am told you might sabotage bill…ok so am I supposed 2 b silent while YOU dribble till eternity?

Gonzalez would later taunt Cojuangco to “shut up.”

Today Cojuangco decided to publish her timeline of events. In a nutshell, it shows the House leadership washing its hands of the RH bill, bluntly proclaiming it dead — even as they publicly exhibit concern.

Since I was told to keep my mouth shut,now you will all hear the truth. 1.last week I sat w/ MFL & asked him to tell me the truth.

2. I started by saying; I am tired of fighting to death. I go to every single interview and do what I can to get this bill passed. So I

3.pleaded w/ him to please tell me the truth. Well, this is what he told me “wala na yan;forget the RHBILL. If ever baka 16th congress

4. nalang,We can just repackage it.”I was flabbergasted and said so why are you leading Manong Edcel along?Why are you saying something diff

5. in front of Speaker Belmonte?I can’t accept this!!!! So this is what enraged me and I kept this to myself for a few days but decided

6. yesterday that I couldnt handle this kind of blatant politicking anymore.No way will I keep quiet.We were all being brought

7. for a “ride” by such trapo style politics. So there, the truth is out.

Fear factor
The pro-RH forces are nott forcing legislators to agree with them. What they want is a vote, win or lose. Or, if doubters are sincere about improving the law, to start consolidating changes and then vote on a final version.
That’s not an unreasonable call. After all, that is what taxpayers pay legislators to do. If the anti’s are sure of their numbers then they can bury the bill once and for all. So why aren’t they doing it?
The anti’s may want to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to kill the bill. But they do not want a public record of the deed. Not with the coming May 2013 elections.
Sws survey chart showing respondents that want government to fund all forms of legal family planning

Either they may believe in RH but do not want to incur the wrath of the country’s powerful Catholic bishops. Or they fear a backlash among voters who may resent votes against the RH bill.

82% say family planning method is a personal choice;
73% want information on legal methods available from government

Considering that majority of the survey respondents may be Catholics — SWS usually hews to existing demographics — the bishop fear factor isn’t the main cause of absenteeism. It looks like evasion is the choice strategy of the anti-RH bloc. The question is, why can’t the House leadership force a vote and why can’t the Executive help force that vote — as it has with the President’s met causes, like the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona?

High growth, glowing praise from investors, commendations from allied nations and global partners. The government has all of these. But in the elections, what voters will remember is this: Did you respond to my needs? Did you vote/act against my needs?

Miracles can happen. But if this bill dies, here’s a prescription from a Facebook friend who doesn’t want to be named because she works for an anti-RH bill senator:

“Time for the pro-RH bill advocates to wield the big stick. If this bill dies, hit the killers where it will really hurt.”

Bongbong and a meditation on context

I don’t make a habit of following the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. His dimples are cute and he looks a decade younger than his age (54, we share a birthday). But Imelda, with her black holes and cosmic rays, remains more interesting than the self-proclaimed “new leader for a new decade”.
So it was with curiosity that I clicked on a Facebook link sent by Katrina Stuart Santiago. It was a screen capture of Bongbong Marcos’ November 7 tweet. And it was met with plenty of grouching and griping. Most the comments focused on the senator’s alleged sexism, with a number of FB folk asking why people should even expect otherwise.
My first response: Is this genuine?
I searched Twitter.
There, indeed, is a Bongbong Marcos (@bongbongmarcos).
The offending tweet does appear on that account profile.
But there are all kinds of poseurs on Twitter (and Facebook).  There was a time people were getting heartburn from the posts of someone masquerading as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Armando Doronilla.
Still wary, I asked if the Twitter account was genuine. A chorus of yesses.
A check with the senator’s staff brought me to his website, which also features his tweets.  There it was, the “makeup” post.
I then asked if the senator was serious or joking. Also, whether he’d forgotten having a mother and sister in politics.
As a discussion ensued on Twitter, RockEd’s Gang Badoy piped up: “I thought the diss was on politicians in general being 2-faced the makeup part was a mere demo of the point?”
Former ABS-CBN anchor Gel Santos Relos, respondent of Gang’s tweet, replied:
“Maybe @bongbongmarcos should clarify such tweet, reads woman-specific to me, Mr. Senator.”
It sure did. But because Gang had brought it up and because a quote doesn’t float in a vacuum, I tried Google. The problem with many quotation sites is, precisely the lack of  context.
The quote is attributed to Maureen Murphy. Together with a half dozen other quotes, the body of quips seemed to indicate Gang was right.
But there’s also precious little on Google about Murphy who, I deduced, had to be the Australian comic who’d appeared on late night shows. The other possibles were an Irish academic (I didn’t think so) or an American Republican politician (even more unlikely).
It drove me batty not to have more of a handle on Murphy and her quotes. Another google search finally brought up this gem of a feature from the LA Times’ Steve Lopez, a favorite of mine for his series (that eventually became a book) on  Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless musician with schizophrenia who sleeps each night on the city’s Skid Row.
Lopez’s “Life as performance art for a family not bound by typical assumptions” almost made me forget about Bongbong Marcos and deciphering his tweet. It’s  a classic Lopez feature, simultaneously chatty and lyrical, a story of two seeming ordinary women who turn out to be pretty special. It also explains why Murphy became, as she puts it, a specialist in “male put-downs”.
So, yes, sisters, maybe the senator wasn’t heaping scorn on women politicians . Maybe he wasn’t being sexist. Maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite like certain men who think they can squirt their sperm into every nook and cranny but expect their daughters to behave like nuns, or men who think the absence of an offspring doesn’t quite make a woman HIS, or men who think it’s a sin to use contraceptives but OK to philander to their hearts’ content. Maybe he was being self-deprecating. Maybe.

But there’s little to tie the senator and Murphy together. Certainly, their life experiences are just so disparate it’s hard to visualize they’re coming from one place. That’s what makes his tweet pretty much a classic case of (maybe, unintended) irony.

From the tumblr blog of "Mr Madlangbayan"
Photo from the blog of “Mr Madlangbayan”

Murphy’s comedy stemmed from “the battle of the sexes”, a time when women were desperately struggling to narrow the economic-political and cultural gaps between the genders.

Murphy’s mom had to flee from cops when she took her children away from an abusive spouse.

Mr. Marcos grew up in Malacanang Palace, with a mother who was one half of what critics called a conjugal dictatorship.

Mr. Marcos has a mother who loves regaling the world about how she single-handedly ended the World Cold War and how her Ferdinand admired her ability to fathom the true, the good and the beautiful.  (Here are my FB notes on the Philippines Graphic 2009 interview series — Imelda’s Truth 1 and Imelda’s Truth 2.)

We have since had two women Presidents. The country is ranked 8th in the 2011 Global Gender Index — the top-ranked in Asia, with “perfect” scores in terms of closing the gender gaps in health and education.

Table from the Philippines country profile, Global Gender Index

Women in this country outlive men. Whether that translates to better quality of life isn’t quite clear; the Philippines still has to meet its Millenium Development Goals in women’s and children’s health.

More young women are graduating from high school and college than males. The gender gap in unemployment has also narrowed, though critics say that has more to do with so many women leaving hearth, village and country for hard, dangerous labor abroad.

There, too, seems to be a disconnect between that top rank in education and being 15th placer in overall economic participation. But an Inquirer editorial notes, this is changing for the better:

“In a research done by Grant Thornton International earlier this year, it was shown that Filipino women held 47 percent of senior management positions in the country, easily the best in the world and higher than the average by as much as 23 percentage points. The Department of Labor and Employment’s statistics show that women in executive positions outnumber their male counterparts. What this shows is that women have succeeded in boardrooms but not as much in workrooms.”
More women have also succeeded in politics, though many who do owe much to the power of political dynasties. Still, the numbers have changed enough to make Murphy’s fighting words now sound like something a hectoring, combative male might say. Which really is more of Raul Gonzales’ style rather than Mr. Marcos.
Even giving Mr. Marcos the benefit of the doubt, one feels a bit sad. Because if he, indeed, used the quote in the context Murphy first raised it, it does bring up some hard questions: Have women politicians changed our lives for the better? Have they reformed the political system? Or have they proven so good at multi-tasking that they are now beyond doble cara?
And really, we’d like to hear more about Imelda and political ideals from her beloved son.
(Thanks Anjo Bagaoisan for the sharp eye LOL)