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By: Conrado R. Banal III, April 25th, 2013 05:20 AM

Uh-oh, the Commission on Elections sets its eyes on survey companies, even threatening to impose sanctions on them—such as jail terms—if they do not reveal the “subscribers” to their political surveys, particularly the pre-election polls covering the senatorial race. Those are the companies—or the political groups—paying the survey companies for first crack at the survey results, which as the survey companies have always pointed out, are not the same as the “sponsors” of the survey, or those who paid outright for the surveys.

Polling nevertheless is still a business. That is why the survey companies such as the dominant company SWS, or the Social Weather Stations, are hesitant to follow the Comelec directive. The “subscribers” may not want their names revealed to the public.

Now, the opposition coalition UNA actually egged the Comelec to require the survey companies to submit a list of their subscribers to the Comelec, which apparently agreed with UNA that, being much-publicized and all, pre-election surveys may have a substantial bearing in the elections next month.

Down here in my barangay, the guys are less concerned with the list of subscribers to the pre-election polls than, for instance, the methodology used by the survey companies. You know, things like, do they take great pains to make the polls accurate, or do they conduct them while they are busy swimming or something like that?

Only last year, a major polling company called Gallup, which promotes itself as the most trusted survey brand in the world, got a big black-eye in the presidential election in the United States last year. Gallup polls conducted just a month prior to the election showed that the challenger Mitt Romney was leading the incumbent Barrack Obama by wide margins, and according to the last Gallup poll before the elections, Romney was still ahead of Obama by at least one percentage point. The actual election results showed that Obama beat Romney by about four percentage points—meaning, it was a rather noticeable discrepancy from the poll results done by Gallup.

Gallup had to investigate the cause of its major blunder, even resorting to a complete review of its survey methodology. For instance, Gallup actually only used the answers from respondents who it deemed likely to vote. It seems that only a percentage of those who respond to surveys actually go to the precincts to vote on the actual day of the elections.

The question is this: How does the pollster determine who in its thousands of respondents are most likely to vote? Well, the pollster actually must ask the respondents all sorts of questions such as whether or not they are indeed registered voters, whether or not they have consistently voted in the past, whether or not they know the procedures at their precinct.

Really, the pollster must actually ask whether or not the respondent knows his precinct number! For in the end, the survey companies must also make judgment calls, such as which respondents should be included in the pre-election survey. Surely their judgment calls have effects on the survey results, something that Gallup realized too late, necessitating a thorough review of its methodology.

And so to the guys down here in my barangay, the question remains: Does the Comelec have the power to question the survey companies regarding their methodology?

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In the recent pre-election surveys, it seems that the son of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, none other than Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, still made it to the “Magic 12” in the senatorial race, despite rumors about his past scrapes with the law as a motorcycle-racing teenager.

Well, in these elections, as another opposition senatorial bet Nancy Binay found out, who happens to be the daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay, black propaganda is the norm. The question is this: What groups could be dishing out those rumors? Hint—the targets both belong to the opposition group UNA.

Jack Enrile nevertheless has been anchoring his campaign on his record as a congressman, despite his multiple absences in the sessions of the House of Representatives, such as his record in building infrastructure in Cagayan, meaning, farm-to-market roads, irrigation and dredging systems, water impounding projects, and rehabilitation of roads and drainage.

Based on reports, the young Enrile has only three issues in these elections: food security, consumer protection and availability of jobs.

Those are really the only worthwhile issues to the guys down here.

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We received another letter from Jose Bernas, the legal counsel of the Malaysian lotto company Philippine Gaming Management Corp. that put out ads against its biggest client the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office:

“Your column of April 18, 2013, contains a few crucial statements that I would like to clarify.

“PCSO’s demand that PGMC reduce its income, initially by half and later by a little less than half,—“or else”—is arguably a criminal act in itself. The government, as we all know, cannot ignore contracts and unilaterally reduce contractually established payments.

“In contrast, PCSO was inexplicably happy with a mere P9-million savings from Pacific Online’s fee reduction over seven months by 0.15 percent. It is unfair to require PGMC to reduce its income down to 5 percent from 10 percent of sales but require Pacific Online to reduce its rates down to only 9.85 percent from 10 percent.

“PCSO said in its release it expected PGMC to give up P35 million per month or P245 million for the same seven months (June to December 2012) that Pacific Online saved P9 million.

“After we pointed this out, PCSO then raised the savings to P1.3 billion, which cannot be true because Pacific Online’s total annual revenue is just a bit over this amount. So PCSO cannot possibly save that much unless Pacific Online is willing to have virtually nothing left to pay its employees, suppliers and its shareholders, who by the way are the public since it is a listed company.

“When Pacific Online’s contract expired last month, it could not possibly have voluntarily reduced its rates down to 7.7 percent. As its contract expired, Pacific had zero revenue because it had no contract. Thus, the extension or new contract actually granted Pacific Online revenues of 7.7 percent of lotto bets in Visayas-Mindanao, a huge jump from zero. By the way, 7.7 percent is still more than the 50 percent effective rate that PCSO wanted to force down on PGMC.

“It would serve the public better if PCSO would make public the two contracts it awarded to Pacific Online without any bidding. But based on what I have been reading from PCSO statements of late, that probably will not happen. Their claim is that the contracts cannot be made public.”

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