This is Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles’s speech during the 2019 Social Weather Stations (SWS) Survey Review on Monday, February 18 at the SWS Knowledge Center in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City.

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit; SWS President Dr. Mahar Mangahas and the Board of Directors and staff of SWS; special guests and members of the media; good afternoon.

Thank you for inviting me today to share my thoughts on the surveys conducted by the SWS in 2018. Having been involved in government programs both as lawmaker and now as a member of the Executive Branch, I can attest to the fact that numbers matter. Information is power, and surveys––like all other forms of data––help those of us in government make informed decisions on the issues that matter to those we serve. Simply put, the more information we have, the more likely we will be able to come up with policies and programs that are truly responsive to the needs of our citizens.

In that regard, surveys such as those conducted by the SWS are very helpful to policymakers and program implementors alike. Surveys help us know what issues matter to our people and how they feel about these issues—and these in turn guide us as we work to address these concerns.

However, I think it bears stressing that numbers and data––particularly those provided by surveys––do not exist in a vacuum. These can give us a snapshot of what the public thinks at a certain point in time, but they may not provide a complete picture of why the public thinks a certain way. It is also important to remember that these numbers are not just plain statistics—these are real, living, breathing people. People who hope government will listen to them and attend to their needs.

That being said, allow me to give my take on the surveys of the SWS, and some of the conclusions that were derived from these.

On the satisfaction ratings of the President Rodrigo Duterte, government officials, and the report cards of governance, it is clear that our people value performance over everything. That it is this administration’s actions, not words, that count. This is evident in the satisfaction numbers of the President, which have been consistently high––as well as the generally impressive numbers of the top officials of government.

This is also reflective in the overall performance rating of the national administration, as well as the grades the government received for addressing the needs of of 104 million Filipinos. Based on your surveys, our countrymen believe their government is there for them when disaster strikes; they believe it is there for women, the poor, and our OFWS; they believe the government is doing a good job fighting terrorism and fighting crimes while protecting human rights; they believe the government is decisive, transparent, and truthful; and they believe that government is doing what it can to attain peace and to uphold our sovereignty.

While these numbers are encouraging, we are not satisfied, and it behooves those of us in government not to be satisfied. We know we have to do more to ensure that families do not go hungry and to fight inflation. I believe there is no more clearer indicator of the President’s concern for these issues than his recent signing of the Rice Tariffication Law, which is expected to lower rice prices, one of the contributors to rising inflation.

With regard to the public’s sentiments regarding the closure of Boracay, the new National ID law, and the Bangsamoro Organic Law, we welcome their appreciation and approval of these three government initiatives. It is apparent that the public believes these will benefit them, and we in government will work to ensure that, moving forward, that the intended benefits of these measures are achieved.

As to the war on illegal drugs, the results of the SWS’ new survey show 66% of the country believes that the numbers of illegal drug users in their areas have decreased. This new information provides additional context as to why more than three-fourths of Filipinos support the government’s war on drugs. When you factor in these numbers, together with the data pertaining to the operations conducted against illegal drugs during the first two years of the Duterte Administration––119,361 persons arrested; 13.2 billion pesos of shabu seized; 19.3 billion pesos of seized drugs, paraphernalia, and laboratory equipment; and 95,242 out of 96,943 drug complaints resolved by the DOJ––and it is not surprising that the majority of our countrymen believe that the war on drugs is both necessary and beneficial to them.

Now, as to the numbers pertaining to the truthfulness of the police regarding those slain in drug operations, as well as the alleged victims of extrajudicial killings, it is incumbent upon all of us to look at these numbers carefully. We have come to a point where the term “EJK”is used liberally to describe many killings, but we need to find out if our people really know what extrajudicial killings are. Perhaps the SWS can come up with a survey to determine the public’s understanding of EJKs.

What is clear in the data you present is that our people do value human rights––they believe criminals should be caught and that we should respect the rights of loiterers––and that is welcome news. Which is why we in government will strive to maintain and improve the marks we received in protecting human rights, a net positive rating of 62%.

Speaking of loiterers and the survey numbers relative to crime and public safety, the downward trend in crime victimization is consistent with PNP data that show that in the first two years of the Duterte Administration,the country’s two-year total crime volume dipped 20.4% from the previous two-year total. Index crime, the PNP notes, plunged 46.95% to only 212,773 incidents from from a high of 401,112 incidents recorded in the previous two-year period.

We understand that our people will always worry about being victims of crime, which is why government is doing something about it. The PNP has several crime prevention and public safety programs that address their concerns, and these, we believe, have contributed to the reduction in crime volume. These include the (1) intensification of PNP and AFP CHECKPOINTS, (2) Operations Plan (OPLAN) SITA and KAPKAP BAKAL, (3) Conduct of Field Visit and Inspection, (4) Operation“Yaw-Yaw”or community awareness, (5) deployment of beat patrols, (6) intensification of mobile patrols and police presence, and (7) deployment of K9 Units, among others.

With regard to foreign relations and the West Philippine Sea, allow me to stress that issues that involve territory and sovereignty––which are fundamental aspects of statehood––stir emotions anywhere in the world and among all peoples. Given this, our people’s sentiments regarding the West Philippine Sea dispute are therefore understandable.

It is important to emphasize, therefore, that the government continues to work to enhance its relations with China, but always with the consciousness of the need to protect our interests in the West Philippine Sea. We have consistently taken the necessary diplomatic actions and asserted our stance in protecting our territory and maritime investments, while working to improve bilateral relations with China. Please note that today, China is the country’s number one trading partner and is one of our largest export and tourist markets, and the government’s efforts to enhance ties with China offer an opportunity to cooperate towards mutually beneficial endeavors for the benefit of both peoples based on the principles of equality and mutual respect.

While matters regarding our territory are issues of the heart, matters pertaining to our economy and job generation are gut issues that are a top priority of government.

We are encouraged by the fact that many of our countrymen share our optimism about the economic prospects of the Philippines, as reflected in numbers that show that more people believe their lives better now compared to before, and that most people believe that their lives will be better a year from now. More people believe our economy will improve, and the country’s economic performance should be credited for this positive outlook.

To quote NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia,“the economy has been on a roll. It has been growing at least 6 percent for 14 consecutive quarters now. This is the strongest economic growth we have seen since the mid-1970s. The Philippines’economic growth is sustained and uninterrupted. While the year-to-date real GDP growth is at 6.3 percent and it is slower than the 6.8 percent growth recorded in the same period last year, the Philippines continues to be among the best performing economies in the region.”

Government continues to take action to improve our poverty, hunger, and employment numbers. TheRice Tariffication Law, Ease of Doing Business Act or RA 11032, and the signing of Executive Order No. 65 promulgating the Eleventh Regular Foreign Investment Negative List should ease rice prices, attract more investments, and boost the country’s business competitiveness, respectively. According to NEDA, 826,000 jobs were generated in 2018; unemployment last year dropped to 5.3%, while discouraged jobseekers also declined to 11.5%, which was better than the government’s target. Youth Not in Employment nor Education likewise declined to 19.9 percent, well within the government’s target.

As for the last topic on the agenda, federalism, SWS’survey validates what we already recognize: that our people need to know more about federalism so that they can be in a better position to see its benefits.

On that note, thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to the wealth of information generated by the surveys conducted by SWS. Appreciated and utilized properly, the data you provide are valuable tools in governance––tools we hope to use to improve our programs and to do more for the Filipino people. Maraming salamat po.

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