Palace downplays eroding trust in Duterte among poor

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is not worried about the latest survey figures showing a decrease in trust in President Rodrigo Duterte among the poor.

"Not alarm. I would say there was a dip, not an erosion," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said at a Palace news briefing on Wednesday, April 20, when asked whether Malacañang was alarmed by the results of a Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated survey held in March.

The March poll showed that compared to December 2016 figures, trust in Duterte among the poorest Class E dropped by 11 percentage points, and 7 percentage points among Class D.

The lower ratings among these socioeconomic classes, and the decrease in his ratings among regions in the country topped by Luzon, dragged down Duterte's national trust rating. Some observers say the drop in trust ratings among the poor could indicate that Duterte's drug war, which has led to killings and shootouts in poor communities, is taking its toll on the sector.

While he shared Abella's view, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) Chairman Terry Ridon admitted that the administration's drug war and anti-poverty programs are "a work in progress."

"At this point, very important would be the question on whether or not we have been able to deliver already the promises to the poor and I think this is something that is still a work in progress," Ridon said.

Drug war affecting poor

Ridon also admitted that the bloody campaign against drugs has affected many of the poor. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' war on drugs)

"We have to be perfectly honest that much of the [Oplan] TokHang is being undertaken in urban poor communities," he said.

Oplan TokHang is the Philippine National Police anti-drug campaign involving operations focused on drug busts in communities. Duterte, in particular, had directed policemen to shoot drug suspects who fight back. (READ: Duterte on war on drugs: 'More killings to come')

But since drug addiction and trafficking are also pervasive in these communities, Ridon said that the poor stand to benefit from the continued drug war.

"I think with respect to the drug war, it is in the interest of the poor and urban poor to really see that criminality and the drug problem is resolved within their communities," he said.

To address the drop in trust among the poor, Ridon said the delivery of anti-poverty programs have to be "expedited."

As for the drug war, Ridon said he supports a "softer approach" – one that emphasizes community-based efforts to wean addicts from drugs.

He said other agencies, like the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, are focused on this.

"You will have the community leaders in those areas that should be able to really shepherd many of the communities against drugs and that is what we really want to do, empowering the people's organizations, NGOS within these urban poor communities to really stand against drugs," Ridon said.

Duterte won on a populist platform, portraying himself as a champion of the masses with an iron fist against crime.

Based on surveys, his drug war remains popular among many citizens though a majority also say they are concerned they would become victims of extrajudicial killings. (READ: 'Satisfaction' with war on drugs drops – SWS survey) – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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