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March 31, 2024 People's Journal 120 views

YOUNG Guns members of the House of Representatives yesterday voiced objections to the recent Pulse Asia survey on Charter amendments, citing concerns about the use of biased and leading questions that may have influenced the results.

House Assistant Majority Leaders Jil Bongalon of Ako Bicol Party-list, Paolo Ortega V of La Union, and Zia Alonto Adiong of Lanao del Sur pointed out that the survey questions appeared to conflate various aspects of constitutional reform, potentially leading to confusion among respondents.

“The wording of the questions used by Pulse Asia seemed designed to lead respondents towards a particular viewpoint on Charter amendments,” Bongalon, a lawyer, said.

Bongalon specifically criticized Pulse Asia for including in the survey what it termed as proposed amendments, which do not actually align with those currently under discussion in Congress.

These include political issues such as changing the unitary system to a federal system of government, term extension for national and local elective officials, change of the presidential system to a parliamentary system of government, and shift from bicameral to a unicameral legislature.

Ortega said the survey also contained a biased question regarding “allowing foreign individuals and companies to exploit Philippine natural resources.”

“The survey questions, particularly those addressing contentious issues such as term extension, foreign exploitation of natural resources, and a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government, may have inadvertently skewed responses and fostered opposition to Cha-cha,” Ortega said.

Ortega stressed that ongoing Cha-cha efforts primarily target economic provisions rather than political provisions, which have proven to be highly divisive.

For his part, Adiong underscored the importance of accurately reflecting the content of proposed amendments in survey questions.

“The wording of survey questions should accurately reflect the actual provisions being proposed for amendment,” Adiong stated.

Echoing Bongalon’s sentiments, Ortega and Adiong highlighted the need for precision and neutrality in survey questions.

“Surveys play a crucial role in gauging public opinion, but they must be conducted in a fair and unbiased manner,” Ortega remarked.

In addition, Ortega expressed concerns about the potential impact of biased survey questions on the public discourse surrounding constitutional amendments.

“Biased survey questions can distort public perception and hinder meaningful dialogue on constitutional reform,” Ortega cautioned.

Adiong emphasized the importance of specificity and transparency in surveys, particularly on matters of national importance such as constitutional reform.

“Surveys on complex issues like Cha-cha require clarity to accurately gauge public opinion,” Adiong pointed out.

Adiong urged survey institutions, including Pulse Asia, to adopt a more precise and transparent approach in designing questionnaires.

“It is essential for survey firms to ensure that questions are clear, specific, and free from bias to obtain accurate results,” Adiong said.

Bongalon, meanwhile, encouraged all stakeholders, including survey firms, media, and the public, to engage in a manner that promotes clarity and understanding of the issues at stake.

“It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the public discourse on constitutional reform is transparent, inclusive, and well-informed,” Bongalon stated.

According to the latest Pulse Asia survey, 74 percent of respondents believe that the 1987 Constitution “should not be amended now nor any other time.”

Some House leaders also criticized the survey showing that majority of respondents oppose Charter amendments, suspecting it may be part of black propaganda aimed at undermining efforts to amend the restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution.

At the same time, House Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” M. Dalipe of Zamboanga City, Deputy Speaker David “Jay-jay” Suarez and Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin of Iloilo called for a focus on empowering Filipinos to decide on constitutional amendments through a plebiscite rather than relying solely on surveys.

Dalipe, Suarez, and Garin were reacting to the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey indicating that 74 percent of respondents believe that the 1987 Constitution “should not be amended now nor any other time.”

However, the three House leaders raised about the survey’s integrity and purpose, as it contained questions that are not currently under consideration in Congress.

Dalipe condemned the inclusion of “irrelevant” questions in the survey, including term extension for national and local elective officials, change of the presidential system to a parliamentary system of government, and shift from bicameral to a unicameral legislature.

“Why include questions that people don’t want and are not related to the ongoing process in Congress? Is this black propaganda?” Dalipe asked.

The survey results were released just a week after the House of Representatives approved on final reading Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 (RBH 7), which aims to amend specific economic constitutional provisions related to public utilities, education, and advertising.

RBH 7 has been sent to the Senate for deliberation. However, at the subcommittee level, the Senate is also examining a similar resolution known as RBH 6.

Suarez expressed frustration with the survey’s apparent attempt to derail the constitutional reform process.

“Including unrelated questions in the survey only serves to confuse and mislead the public,” Suarez asserted, calling for a more objective approach in future surveys.

Garin expressed disappointment with the survey’s perceived attempt to sway public opinion.

“Surveys should reflect the real concerns of the people, not push a particular agenda,” Garin said, adding that surveys should accurately reflect ongoing legislative discussions.

Meanwhile, Dalipe said “the best way to gauge public opinion on Cha-cha is through a plebiscite, not surveys.”

“The best course of action is to pass it in the Senate and let the people decide through a plebiscite,” Suarez said.

“The people’s voice should be heard directly through a plebiscite, not through biased surveys,” Garin added.