In 1987, the surveys predicted a clean 24-0 sweep for Cory Aquino’s senatorial ticket. When the initial results came, only one opposition candidate ----Joseph Ejercito Estrada----made it. I was tear-gassed at EDSA for protesting the results. Seeking a safer course, I went to a forum in Washington, DC with a few other Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD) candidates to present a paper showing that nine to ten of us should have won in an honest count. Then Sen. Jesse Helms, who was in the audience, was moved to react with a choice epithet against the Cory government. Within days, our second GAD candidate, Juan Ponce Enrile, joined the winning slate.
In 1992, the surveys counted me out of the senatorial race. Yet at the first hour of the national count at La Salle Greenhills, I was in the top four. After a while, the lights went out. When the power returned, I was already No. 26. Undaunted, I looked for someone who could help me staunch the ongoing hemmorhage. A friendly soul appeared. Within three days, I was back on the winning slate. My archangel prevented me from being written off, but he said I had lost three years of my rightful term. In that election, the first 12 senators served for six years, the next 12 for three.
Just before the Senate convened, I attended a Tagaytay seminar organized by Sen. Edgardo Angara for newly elected senators. There appeared Mahar Mangahas to tell us, citing his own SWS survey, that if a senator did not support the government’s family planning program, he would not get reelected. Then he said: “You see, Senator Tatad, there’s no such thing as a Catholic vote.” Then added, he was not interested in what I had to say.
I pointed out that in a Catholic country, where most candidates are Catholic, there is no such thing as a Catholic vote. But try running a candidate whose program is to destroy the Catholic Church, and you’ll have a Catholic vote against that candidate.
For the next three years I became one of the most visible Filipino senators at home and abroad. As Senate Majority Leader I pushed all the legislative priorities of the Ramos government. I spoke to every national issue, and my speeches in the Senate and in international conferences were read and listened to at home and abroad. But as the 1995 elections neared, a Malacanang general was reported to have started working in Mindanao to frustrate my reelection bid. I did not realize it then, as I do now, that this had to do with my strong opposition to the population control program dictated by powerful external forces.
President Fidel Ramos had to convene a special meeting to address this particular development. There he assured me he would fix it. But as the campaign neared, I saw that I was being prepared to be sacrificed. At the candidates’ weekly dinner at the President’s Arlegui residence, we were presented a running “survey” that showed some virtually unknown newcomers rating so high, while I was not rating at all.
When finally I asked some questions, the presentor could not answer me with any degree of intelligence. I could no longer restrain myself. At the next dinner, the President and his Executive Secretary came up to me to congratulate me for having “finally made it.” I do not recall giving a very polite reply. I ended No. 8 in the race, although one column item said I should have ended No. 2 at the very least, if I were only “pro-choice.”
In 2004, men, women and children danced to my jingle on the road, volunteers said they were already working for me even before I could ask them to help. It was my best national campaign. But the surveys had marked me for defeat. In one Mindanao province, I was ranking No. 4 in the municipal count, but dropped to No. 19 in the national count. One governor-friend could only say after the event, “Pasensiya na, ikaw lang talaga ang pinakiusap na huwag na huwag payagang makalusot.”
On May 10, 2004, SWS conducted an exit poll of the presidential race for ABS-CBN. At the same time, the network was doing a Quick Count. In Metro Manila, the exit poll showed Mrs. Arroyo leading, while the Quick Count showed Fernando Poe Jr. ahead. Since ABS-CBN could not come out with two conflicting results, they had to inject votes from the Visayas (where GMA was leading) into the Manila count, where she was behind, to harmonize the results. (My original 2004 article on this is now posted on my blog: httip//:franciscotatad.blogspot.com.)
Last year, SWS ran a survey on the reproductive health (RH) bill. The questions were all skewed, meant to bring in 100 percent support for the bill, which neither the respondents nor even all the congressmen had read. It did not get the 100 percent. The pro-RH pollsters continue to cite their own surveys to claim that the Filipino Catholic majority does not care about the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of the family and human life. Yet the biggest vote-getter among the partylist parties in Congress is Buhay, the Filipino word for “Life.”
We need not take any political survey at face value. The polling business needs more upright men, and as much urgent reform as our retrograde politics.