THE Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) recent poll, one of whose results an anti-Duterte media outfit headlined as “93 percent of Filipinos want PH to regain China-occupied islands” is a patently fake survey.
This SWS poll is the worst kind of push poll, or one disguised as a survey but which actually is intended to mold people’s minds. In this case, SWS polls tried first, to falsely portray China as having illegally occupied islands that the Philippines owns, and second, that more than 90 percent of Filipinos want these “islands back.”
The poll is utterly spurious because it asked its respondents a bogus question: “In your opinion, is it important that the control of the islands that China currently occupies in the West Philippine Sea be given back to the Philippines?”
SWS asked its respondents to give their opinion on something that is fiction. China does not occupy a single island that the Philippines owns or claims to own.
It occupies, starting only in the 1970s, seven reefs, or rocks barely above water, in the Spratly Islands (Kalayaan Island Group to us). China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia claim the area as theirs. Bajo de Masinloc is not an island but a shoal, and China occupies it now only because former president Aquino and his foreign secretary bungled in handing it over to the Chinese in the July 2012 stand-off.
Vietnam occupies six islands, one of which, Southwest Cay (Pugad to us), it grabbed from us in 1975. I wonder why Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio never mentions that Vietnam occupies the most islands in this area which we claim as ours, thanks to Marcos who declared it as part of Philippine territory in the 1970s.
Taiwan occupies the biggest island in the Spratlys — Taiping (Ligaw to us). Malaysian special forces grabbed Layang-Layang (Celerio) in 1983 and transformed it into an expensive dive resort. The Philippines had never occupied — not even Mischief Reef — the reefs that China now occupies.
The arbitral panel’s award that the Yellows claim was a victory in fact ruled that none of the features in the contested Spratly areas are islands under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos). The panel concluded that they were rocks, and unfortunately, only we are bound by that ruling as it was an arbitration between two parties — although China refused to cooperate.
Bogus: China doesn’t occupy any island in WPS; there was no such PCA decision.
This SWS question is as much a fake one: “In your opinion, is it important that the control of Amanpulo island that US billionaires bought be given back to the Philippines?” The fakery of SWS’ polls would be stark in that respondents asked this bogus question would most likely overwhelmingly say it is important and would believe it to be true.
Indeed, real pollsters know that one controversial aspect of polls is that there is a tendency for respondents to reply even to fake statements. This requires for really professional pollsters to measure the extent to which respondents reply to bogus questions, and to factor this in their calculations.
The SWS question is also the kind of fake polling in which the survey questions are loaded. The term “be given back” implies that what should be given back was stolen, which is not the case in the Spratly Islands dispute.
Another of SWS’ fake polling is when it asked respondents if they agreed or not to the following question: “The Philippine government should assert its right to the islands in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”
As I explained in my column last Wednesday, there is no such “2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).” The PCA was just the keeper of records, provider of the secretarial staff, and lessor of the venue for the hearings. It was an “award” decided by an arbitral panel, which China refused to participate in.
C’mon, did the SWS respondents even know what the “Permanent Court of Arbitration” is, which the SWS didn’t even translate to Filipino? The respondents simply responded to the seeming rightness of the Philippines “asserting its right to the islands” as decided by a “Court.”
Either the SWS is so incompetent to undertake polls, or its intention was purely to conduct a propaganda operation. One big flaw of polls is that respondents don’t want to appear ignorant or stupid that they respond to questions even if they do not understand them. They instead take cues on what seems to be the right answer.
To avoid this pitfall, legitimate pollsters ask preliminary questions to determine if the respondents understand what they are being asked to give their opinions on.
The territorial dispute in the South China Sea and how we, China, and three other sovereign entities became involved in it, is so complicated that any legitimate pollster would decline undertaking a survey on what Filipinos feel about it.
It would be like undertaking a poll asking respondents if they support or not the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Act, which is so complex that the pollster would have to explain for an hour to the respondent what it is, to really get his real views on it.
Yet the SWS undertook the poll to portray the Yellows’ stand on the issue as supported by the majority of our people. Who are they fooling?
Another SWS survey question asked respondents to pick four options for the government “to resolve the West Philippine Sea conflict.” One was to “refer the issue to international organizations like the UN or Asean for a diplomatic and peaceful negotiation with China about the claimed territories.”
This is just about the height of SWS’ stupidity. C’mon, did the SWS really believe that the masses understand what the UN or the Asean is, what territorial disputes are? The SWS even shows its ignorance of the territorial disputes by asking this question since the UN and Asean cannot and do not tackle territorial disputes.
Another example of SWS’ push polling on this issue, or its utter imbecility is the option it presented for the government “to form alliances with other countries to help in defending our security in the West Philippine Sea.”
Which countries would these be? Vietnam and Taiwan which also wants to kick us out of the Spratlys, claiming it is theirs? Malaysia, which is happy with its Layang-Layang Island that it doesn’t’ want to ruffle China’s feathers? The US whose motive is simply to maintain its hegemony in Asia?
The SWS survey is as fake as it was crudely done in haste, with the fieldwork for it reportedly done June 22-26, so it could present its findings at Albert del Rosarios’s forum on the third anniversary of the arbitration tribunal’s handing down of its award, which the Yellows claim was a victory for the country. SWS head Mahar Mangahas should be transparent: Was it del Rosario who funded the fake survey?
That no academic in that forum, such as Jay Batongbakal, considered to be an expert on the South China Sea maritime disputes, questioned Mangahas survey questions is a sad commentary on the state of our academe.
Its immoral intent — so profoundly unethical for a survey firm — is to pressure President Duterte to be as hostile to China as former president Aquino was — which led to our losing Bajo de Masinloc, and which nearly led to economic disaster under his watch.
The SWS survey is also clearly intended to rouse the embers of anti-Chinese xenophobia here, so that we are fooled into backing the US project to demonize China so it can maintain its hegemony in Asia.