Gordon sues SWS, Pulse Asia

Gordon sues SWS, Pulse Asia
By Reinir Padua
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Bagumbayan presidential candidate Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday filed with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court a P650,000 civil suit against survey firms Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia Inc. for negatively affecting his campaign.

Gordon asked the court to temporarily restrain the polling firms from conducting surveys and publishing survey results.

Gordon asked for P100,000 in nominal and tem perate damages, P500,000 in exemplary damages, and P50,000 in attorney’s fees.

“Without regard to their fundamental duty to act with justice to observe honesty and good faith, defendants SWS and Pulse Asia, for pecuniary gain and solely for reasons intended to favor their moneyed clients, have published false, fraudulent, biased and defective surveys which have undermined the campaign of Senator Gordon and (former MMDA) Chairman Bayani (Fernando) and made them as unwinnable contenders for president and vice president, respectively,” the 26-page complaint said.

Lawyer Chito Diaz, who represents Gordon, said SWS and Pulse Asia use “obsolete methodologies” in their surveys. Most survey firms claim to use face-to-face interviews, a method that Diaz said can create bias among respondents.

Diaz said the survey results condition the minds of voters to favor candidates who perform better in the surveys.

Gordon has consistently ranked fifth in pre-election surveys. In the recent Pulse Asia survey, Gordon has a voter preference rating of 29 percent, seven percentage points behind Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro in fourth place with 36 percent.

Fernando, on the other hand, has consistently ranked fourth in the surveys on vice presidential candidates.

“Knowing that his (Gordon) continuously low ratings in the surveys of defendants SWS and Pulse Asia were belied by the enthusiasm and approval of the huge crowds which have continuously attended his campaign sorties, Senator Gordon investigated the methods and practices used by defendants… in conducting their surveys,” the complaint said.

Gordon claimed that the publication of survey results has “damaged” and “prejudiced” his campaign.

Gordon said survey firms should be cautious in doing their surveys, citing the large discrepancy between the SWS count and the official count after the close of balloting in the 2004 elections.

The SWS survey said President Arroyo received 31 percent of the votes in Metro Manila while her main opponent actor Fernando Poe Jr. received only 23 percent. The official count declared Poe the winner in Metro Manila with 36.67 percent of the votes.

Diaz said they are planning to file a complaint before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against SWS and Pulse Asia for violating the Fair Elections Act.

Diaz argued that even if the Supreme Court declared pre-elections surveys protected by freedom of speech, this right is not absolute.

“We are looking at the possibility of filing a complaint with the Comelec as there is now a question on the methodologies used by the survey firms. Perhaps the Supreme Court could also review and reconsider its decision,” he said.

Gordon, who was on a campaign sortie in Zamboanga City, said Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III maintained his lead in the surveys because of public sympathy rather than his performance in government.

“Noynoy is running because his mother died… Noynoy’s loss was headlined by newspapers everyday. Kris (Noynoy’s sister) kept crying in public. So, of course, his ratings would surge,” Gordon said. “You don’t want people to think anymore. Surveys do not educate people on issues.”

Officials of Pulse Asia and SWS said Gordon’s reaction is common among candidates who lag behind in surveys.

Pulse Asia research fellow Dr. Ana Maria Tabunda said the firm’s survey methods are scientific.

“Pulse Asia employs scientific methods and upholds academic standard in the conduct of all its surveys and analyses,” Tabunda said. “Our data collection methods are not outdated but are suited to our population, a large segment of which has no access to telephones, including cell phones.”

SWS president Mahar Mangahas said their surveys are at par with international standards.

“SWS surveys are world class. Election survey freedom is protected by Philippine jurisprudence,” Mangahas said.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, Pulse Asia president Ronald Holmes said they are willing to explain their methodologies to Gordon.

Valid but not helpful

The Comelec said pre-election surveys are constitutionally valid but are not helpful to voters because these set trending, which can influence the voters.

“Instead of studying the platform, the qualifications, the issues concerning the candidates, you will rely on the trend,” Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said.

Surveys, however, can rouse the interest of voters to study the background of candidates leading the surveys.

“If one is a leading candidate, the public can study the qualification, why he is the favorite,” Sarmiento said. – With Mike Frialde, Roel Pareño, Helen Flores, Sheila Crisostomo

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.