The Polls and the Poor Filipinos:
Gutom , Natalo2
I do not wish to question what is now fact. That Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has
been sworn in as President. I intend instead to analyze what the last elections
had brought out aside from this fact. Those who voted for the President have
dismissed the complaints of the opposition, mainly the Poe supporters, as mere
rantings. They called for a healing period that could lead to national unity and
reconciliation. The President herself promised to show the example. Forgive
But were the Poe supporters plain sore losers? Or were these the chronic poor
who saw the recent elections as one of their remaining hopes and lost, deprived
even of expressing their true sentiments openly in a democratic society? During
the 40 days of fasting from the official results, only the results of an exit poll and
the continuing tally of the election watchdog gave an idea of what is to be
expected. In fact one week after elections, a presidential candidate already
conceded to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the basis of this information.
It later turned out that the margin of victory was less than initially projected.
The Poe voters continue to cry out that the release of information and the
method of canvassing were designed to accommodate irregularities in the count
to favor the incumbent. It might be more than sour-graping for them.
I intend to show that this status quo which seems to perpetuate poverty and
inequity cannot go on because the economic and social situation, as depicted by
some trends from forty years back when I think the slide began, is anything but
assuring. And this vitriol from the seemingly vanquished may be the early
tremors of the seething socioeconomic volcano.
About 3 months after this paper was first completed, two press releases on hunger came out in the news.
On 4 October, Social Weather Station reported that 15.1% of household heads said their families had
experienced hunger, without having anything to eat, at least once in the last 3 months. On 12 October,
Today newspaper posted an article on abs-cbnNEWS.com by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute
claiming that 80 percent of Filipinos were wracked by food insecurity or lack of food to eat in 2001 due to
financial inability to purchase food.
By Tomas P. Africa. Prepared in July 2004. Updated in October 2004
Forty days of fast
On 20 June 2004, the tabulation of votes cast during the May 10 elections was
finally completed. On the basis of 180 certificates of canvass, Gloria Macapagal-
Arroyo was elected President3.
(as of 2004-06-26, 08:21 pm)
Table 1. Results of Congress Canvass (as of 2004-06-20)
1. Macapagal-Arroyo, Gloria (GMA) 12,905,808 40.0%
Macapagal-Arroyo, Gloria (GMA)
2. Poe, Fernando, Jr. (FPJ) 11,782,232 36.5%
Poe, Fernando, Jr. (FPJ)
3. Lacson, Panfilo 3,510,080 10.9%
4. Roco, Raul 2,082,762 6.5%
5. Villanueva, Eduardo 1,988,218 6.2%
TOTAL 32,269,100 100.0%
But before this final canvass of Congress was out, for forty days, two sets of
election result forecasts circulated and based on these both the GMA and FPJ
camps jumped to conclusions and drafted plans of action. These were the
results of the so-called exit polls conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS)
and the tallies being done by an accredited organization, the National Citizen’s
Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL)4.
The SWS, a reputable tried-and-tested polling outfit, announced a few days after
election the following results:
Table 2. Results of Exit Polls (as of 2004-05-19)
Survey responses Initial Adjusted
Macapagal-Arroyo, Gloria 41% 45%
Poe, Fernando, Jr. 32% 34%
Lacson, Panfilo 9% 10%
Roco, Raul 5% 6%
Villanueva, Eduardo 5% 5%
No answer 8%
TOTAL 100% 100%
Report of the Joint Committee on the Canvass of Votes for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential
Candidates in the May 10, 2004 Elections, http://www.inq7.net/verbatim/Congress-canvassing-committee-
The National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) conducts a parallel, independent quick
count for national elections – a service it has been doing, at no cost to the government, in every election
since the 1984 Batasan polls.
The SWS Exit Poll interviews were conducted on May 10 in people's homes, after
they had come home from voting. By May 13, 2004, the poll obtained data from
a final national sample of 5,963 registered voters, of whom 4,824 voted and
1,139 did not. There were also 1,462 refusals, implying a 20% refusal rate of the
7,425 (= 5,963 + 1,462) personally encountered by the field staff.5
The NAMFREL closed out its tally on 5 June 2004, having completed 79.2 percent
of its projected tallies from 171,395 out of 216,382 precincts nationwide. It was
unfinished but the results showed that although the rankings were the same the
shares of votes were much closer between GMA and FPJ.6 The opposition also
suspected that areas known to be GMA strongholds were counted first and that
the tally was terminated when Poe was closing in. This could not be
substantiated as NAMFREL did not release to the press the areas covered in the
tallies that it released.
Table 3. Results of NAMFREL Tally (as of 2004-06-05)
Macapagal-Arroyo, Gloria 9,674,597 39.0%
Poe, Fernando, Jr. 9,158,999 37.0%
Lacson, Panfilo 2,687,574 10.8%
Roco, Raul 1,727,995 7.0%
Villanueva, Eduardo 1,526,925 6.2%
TOTAL 24,776,090 100.0%
GMA won. But could the results have been otherwise? The Poe supporters had
claimed that the SWS and the NAMFREL manipulated the results of their
surveys/tallies to condition the minds of the electorate that GMA had indeed won
and to justify any ‘cheating’ to be carried out by the administration in the
preparation of the canvasses.
The results of the NAMFREL tally were close to that of the canvass by Congress.
The SWS results were slightly off, underestimating the Poe votes by 4.5 percent.
In spite of having a fine track record, among others, with its exit polls on
national elections since 1992, concerns were raised in the SWS estimates for the
presidential race, particularly the votes for Poe, while the congressional canvass
was going on.
Table 4. Comparative Results of Counted Votes for President
Choices Congress SWS NAMFREL
Macapagal-Arroyo, Gloria 40.0% 41% 39.0%
Poe, Fernando, Jr. 36.5% 32% 37.0%
Lacson, Panfilo 10.9% 9% 10.8%
Roco, Raul 6.5% 5% 7.0%
Villanueva, Eduardo 6.2% 5% 6.2%
No answer 8%
If the SWS results were compared with the congressional canvass, the 8 percent
‘no-answers’ in the results of its exit polls imply that SWS underestimated the
votes for Poe (4.5 percent), Lacson (1.9 percent), Roco (1.5 percent) and
Villanueva (1.2 percent) and overestimated that for Arroyo (1 percent).
What may also be disconcerting is the amount of outright refusals in its exit poll.
From the distribution of survey respondents below and from the quoted SWS
release, the refusals amounted to 20 percent. What amount of this were FPJ
Total personally encountered by field staff: 7425
Less: Refusals: 1462
Equals: Consented to be Interviewed: 5963
Less: Did not vote: 1139
Equals: Voted: 4824
Less: Invalid votes: 379
Equals: Valid votes: 4445
I understand that the percentages of refusals and non-voters were not any
different from those obtained at the exit poll done during the Estrada time and it
was not too different from one economic class to the other. But SWS and TNS-
Trends should study this (non-) respondent behavior more closely as this
reaction may not be assumed as similar to that observed in the past.8 This
Mercy Abad of TNS Trends, the outfit that conducts the data gathering for SWS says however that ‘some
sociologists [do] assert that the FPJ vote may be suppressed in an exit poll because people might be too shy
to admit that they are for FPJ. This is contrary to what we observed in field. Those for FPJ were more
assertive and vocal. They want a change.’
A review committee organized at the initiative of SWS and composed of four members from the academe
and three from the Marketing and Opinion Research of the Philippines released last October 2004 its
campaign had been one of the most bitterly fought since the 1986 snap
elections. A closer scrutiny of the SWS regional forecasts compared to the final
results in fact bears out that GMA indeed got a favorable forecast of votes from
the exit polls while the canvassing was going on in Congress. (See Appendix F.)
If the assumption of similarity in such behavior as in the past were not valid in
this particular survey, the conjecture that Poe may have won in the voting but
lost in the elections cannot be entirely dismissed9. And the behavior of the
opposition, like filibustering, sporadic rallies, and inflammatory declarations,
during the Congressional canvass might perhaps be explained in rational terms10.
But a question that lingers is why was FPJ able to put up a very good fight
against the incumbent President in spite of his limited educational and zero
public service background, lack of campaign resources, ineffective campaign
machinery, near absence of platform of governance, and unfavorable media
exposure for periods of time. He won in 37 provinces compared to Arroyo’s 39,
6 regions vs. Arroyo’s 9, and in 14 chartered cities vs. Arroyo’s 6. He had a
plurality of 1.8 million in Luzon while Arroyo had a winning margin of 2.3 million
in the Visayas and 500 thousand in Mindanao.
Where did they win?, by Area
Area Lacson Arroyo Poe Roco Villanueva
Regions - 9 6 1 -
Provinces 1 39 37 2 -
Chartered Cities* - 6 13 - -
Winning margins (millions)
Luzon xxxxxx 1.756 xxxxxx xxxxxx
Visayas xxxxxx 2.324 xxxxxx xxxxxx
Mindanao xxxxxx 0.496 xxxxxx xxxxxx
*Malabon excluded; available information combines it with Navotas municipality.
Canvass also did not provide separate tallies for cities of Angeles, Lucena,
Olongapo, Mandaue, Butuan, General Santos and Iligan.
findings from the review on the exit polls. Apparent discrepancies of the exit poll from the official results
arose from, among others, the huge percentage of non-respondents, especially in Metro Manila.
That is, if one considers voting as one of the two components of an election; the other is counting the
SWS also estimated that 2.1 percent (over 900 thousand) of registered voters did not vote because they
could not find their names in the voters list, although the portion of Poe voters among these could not be
The Class D and E Voters
It has been accepted that most of the voters for Poe come from the D and E
socioeconomic classes11, where the bulk of the electorate belongs. SWS had
estimated that 7 percent of voters belong to the ABC classes; 64 percent, to the
D class; and 28 percent, to the E class. Poll surveys confirmed this although
GMA consistently got the bigger share of votes than Poe from the D class from
end of January up to early April12. (Appendix A) It was also reported in the
same release that the combined shares of those with no preference, refused to
be interviewed, and were undecided crept up from 3 percent during 23 January
to 8 February, to 8 percent during February 16 to 20, and to 10 percent during
27 March to 4 April. This same pattern was evident in the vote-rich D and E
Table 5. First Choice Presidential Preference, January to April 2004
Preference/Socioeconomic Class Total ABC D E
March 27- April 4 10% 6% 12% 8%
February 16 – 20 8% 11% 8% 7%
January 23 – February 8 3% 5% 3% 3%
Normally the trend of the ‘undecideds’ should decrease as elections near and as
platforms become clear. But this did not; it even went up. Were these the
voters who did not have preference for a candidate yet because the relevant
issues that had to be discussed had not been discussed? Or again, were these
votes for FPJ? Some of those who were for the least qualified candidate for
President might have registered their preference as ‘undecided’ rather than bear
Class AB households have the following characteristics – dwelling unit made of heavy, high quality
materials, usually very well maintained, not in need of repair, well-painted, sprawling lawn or garden,
expensive furnishings, located in exclusive subdivision, house stands out if in mixed neighborhood.
Class C – dwelling unit made of mixed heavy and light materials, well maintained, may or may not have a
lawn or yard, adequate furnishings, usually found in mixed neighborhood or middle class subdivision.
Class D – dwelling unit made of light, cheap materials, generally shabby appearance, no lawn or yard,
scanty furnishings, crowded or shabby neighborhood.
Class E – dwelling unit is small, dilapidated, temporary makeshift structure, usually a barong-barong,
cramped space, bare furnishings, located in slum districts.
Pulse Asia’s March 2004 National Survey on Presidential and Vice-Presidential Preferences. Media
Release 12 April 2004
harassment or losing political favor. The bitter campaign conducted over a
significantly fragmented electorate apparently might have brought this feeling
on, especially for D and E voters.
But were these elections bereft of issues? Did voters make their choices on the
basis of some issues or platforms they wanted the government to focus on?
The Issues As Viewed by the Voters
There was a nationwide survey of 1620 respondents from 324 barangays (110
urban and 214 rural) located in 17 cities and 90 municipalities that was
conducted from 27-30 March 2004. The results were unpublished since this was
funded by a political organization, which chose not to release the findings. One
distinctive feature of this inquiry was that it asked the respondents who among
the Presidential candidates they believed could solve the problems of graft and
corruption, peace and order, unemployment and the lack of livelihood
The respondents ranked these problems as follows: first, lack of jobs and
livelihood, followed by graft and corruption, and last, peace and order.
In particular the D and E voters ranked unemployment first, lack of peace and
order second, and graft and corruption third. It was interesting to note that the
E voters were the least concerned about graft and corruption.
As to who could solve these, the differences between candidates were barely
significant. This was no surprise as there was no serious debate on issues of
governance during the campaign. A little over a third (35.6 percent) of them
perceived Arroyo as the candidate who could solve the lack of jobs and
livelihood. Nearly a third (31.5 percent) felt that Lacson could solve the peace
and order problem. No one was clearly identified by the voters as the one wo
could eradicate graft and corruption.
Most of those who voted for Arroyo liked her capability to solve the lack of jobs
and livelihood among others. In the case of Lacson, his would-be voters felt that
his strength was in solving the peace and order problem. For Roco, it was
solving the lack of jobs and livelihood and for Villanueva, it was graft and
corruption. For Poe, his would-be voters felt that their candidate could come out
strong on all three issues.
It appears that somehow the voters by themselves had identified issues and
linked these to their preferred candidates in the absence of debate and
interactive discussion of issues during the campaign. No one will ever know if
the choices of the electorate would have been different had there been the
debates, as was the case in the past.
The Income Divide
So GMA obtained a million votes more than Poe. It is time to move on and leave
the rancor and imperfections behind.
However the strength of Poe could be mainly attributed to the D and E voters for
whom the government has consistently failed to sufficiently provide. Ending up
in the losing end again may further intensify the discontentment by most of
them, especially coming out of this bitter election exercise. I am not sure if the
election did provide the chance for them to vent out their feelings of
hopelessness and despair over the status quo. Has this prevailing sense of
desperation translated into further fragmentation of society? Will a release of
this tension in some (hopefully non-violent) form come in the near future?
How wide in the nation is the breach in terms of lack of income and assets,
opportunities and access, and participation and power in society? The United
Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)
actually views these inadequacies as constituting a broad view of poverty,
distinguishing three related dimensions: poverty of income and assets -
sustained or sustainable livelihood; poverty of access to essential services, and
poverty of participation and power. Poverty reduction in one dimension (e.g.
income poverty) often requires poverty reduction in the others as well. For
poverty reduction to be sustainable, the poor have to be empowered to reduce
their own poverty, that is, they have to be given the means to do it themselves.
Even as we limit the focus solely to poverty of income13, the gaping inequality in
its distribution illustrates how much wider and comprehensive the poverty really
Maldistribution of Income
Available information provides sufficient basis to conclude the existence of a very
wide gap in the distribution of income and assets. There is also enough reason
to conjecture that the distributions of opportunities and access, and those of
participation and power are likewise lopsided and reflect a deep division within
Median family income increased by 80 times since 1961. But its distribution
barely moved. The lowest half (50 percent) of families had only 17.6 percent of
total income in 1961. Forty years later, they still had essentially the same (17.8
The Annual Poverty Indicators Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office can provide indicators
on the other dimensions of poverty at the provincial level.
percent). The upper half had more than 80 percent of total income during the
same forty-year period. Per se, this income distribution picture has been
consistently lopsided for over four decades.
Table 6. Median Income, in pesos, and Income Distribution
Family Income 1961 2000
Median (P) 1,105 88,782
% Share of Upper 50% of families 82.4 82.2
% Share of Lower 50% of families 17.6 17.8
Source: National Statistics Office. Website: http://www.census.gov.ph;
Family Income and Expenditures publications.
Table 7. Measures of Income Distribution in 16 Countries in Asia
Country Number Gini coefficient Standard Period covered Ratio of
of cases deviation income
Mean Min Max Last yr
Nepal 1 30.06 30.06 30.06 1984 1984 4.43
Lao PDR 1 30.40 30.40 30.40 1992 1992 4.21
Pakistan 9 31.5 29.91 32.44 0.86 1969 1991 4.68
India 31 32.55 29.17 37.05 2.06 1951 1992 4.98
China 12 32.68 25.7 37.8 3.78 1980 1992 5.17
Indonesia 11 33.49 30.70 38.59 2.17 1964 1993 5.22
Viet Nam 1 35.71 35.71 35.71 1992 1992 5.51
Bangladesh 10 34.51 28.27 39.00 3.52 1963 1992 5.72
Republic of Korea 14 34.19 29.82 39.1 1953 1988 6.29
Singapore 6 40.12 37.00 42.00 1.81 1973 1989 6.71
Japan 23 34.82 32.50 37.60 1.35 1962 1990 7.06
Sri Lanka 9 41.71 30.10 47.80 6.10 1953 1990 7.98
Hong Kong 7 41.48 37.30 45.18 2.81 1971 1991 9.46
Thailand 8 45.48 41.28 51.50 3.78 1962 1992 11.65
Philippines 7 47.62 45.00 51.32 2.46 1957 1991 12.00
Malaysia 6 50.36 48.00 53.00 1.96 1970 1989 14.18
Moreover, the Philippines was near the bottom of the list in income equality
based on series data of income distribution of 16 countries in Asia available until
the early nineties (Table 7)14. There are no data yet for more recent years,
neither is there evidence that our ranking in this list would have improved a
decade later. And we know that the economies of Thailand, and Malaysia grew
faster than the Philippines during this period.
In 1985, a family that earned at least P178,000 was included in the top one
percent. The highest one percent of families (less than 100 thousand) had an
income share equivalent to the combined income shares of the bottom 32
percent of families, about 3.15 million.
Fifteen years later in 2000, a family that earned P830,000 was included in the
top one percent. The income earned by the highest one percent of families
(about 150 thousand) was as large as the combined incomes of the bottom 38
percent of families, about 5.8 million. (See Appendix B.)
Another way of analyzing distributions is by examining the dispersion or
variability of component groups. In this particular instance, all the families are
lined up from lowest to highest in terms of their incomes earned into one
hundred groups of equal numbers. For each of the one hundred groups, the
coefficient of variation (CV), which is an articulation of variability measured in
terms of the standard deviation, was calculated to see if the earned incomes of
families are spread far apart or clustered. A high CV indicates wider variability
within the group; thus incomes among families vary widely. A lower CV implies
that the family incomes are more alike, the spread is narrower.
In Appendix C, only the top quintile (top 5 percent of families) in the 2000 family
income distribution had a CV of more than 1 percent (6.56 percent). On the
other hand there was a large cluster comprising the 4th quintile up to the 16th
quintile (that is, from the bottom 16 to upper 80 percent of families) with CVs
ranging in the narrow band from 0.08 percent to 0.11 percent. The incomes of
some 65 percent (in the middle part of the distribution) of families do not vary
Klaus Deininger and Lyn Squire. A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality’. The World Bank
Economic Review Vol. 10, No.3, pp.565-91
CVs of Income Quintiles 2000
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
This heavy clustering may be one reason why cut-offs to determine the low-, the
middle- and the high-income classes are difficult to establish.15 There might just
be a very, very small high-income class, a small middle-income class and a very,
very large low-income class in the Philippine situation.
Note that official poverty incidence is based on a poverty line derived from
normative nutritional requirements and priced accordingly, independent of the
income distribution. Thus the number of the poor can go up or down on the
basis of changes in the poverty threshold without a substantive re-distribution of
income. Such movement can merely be caused by relative price changes rather
than policy-driven income shifts. In 2000 poverty incidence in the country or the
proportion of families with per capita incomes below the poverty threshold was
In 2000 the legislated (minimum) daily wage rate of non-agricultural workers in
Metro Manila was P249.3117. This translates to annual earnings of P65,820 for
the family he supports, placing it in the 37th percentile of the income distribution.
On the other hand, the Filipino overseas worker remitted on average P66, 146
during the six-month period covering April to September 2000. This translates to
an approximate remittance of P11 thousand (about $25018) monthly or P132
This is probably why the ABCDE scheme used by market research firms has been recognized even at the
levels of policy discussions. As a side note, families in the ABC classes of roughly 7 percent of families
had 31.7 percent income share; in the D class of 64 percent of families, 61.09 percent income share; and in
the E class of 28 percent of families, 7.2 percent income share.
P249.31 times 22 working days per month = P5,485 times 12 months = P65,820.
P66,146 (remittance over 6 months)divided by 6 months = P11,024 times 12 months = P132,292
(remittance over 12 months). Assuming the rate of P44:$1, P11,024 is equivalent to $250 and P132,292 is
equivalent to $3,000.
thousand (about $3,000) annually.19 Based on the average remittances alone,
the income of the family of the overseas worker in 2000 belonged to the 67th
percentile, or the upper third of the distribution.
A review of some indicators that have been available during the past four
decades may provide us an idea of how this low point has been reached.
Whether it is already the lowest point is not a concern of this study.
Forty Years of Growth and Decline
It has been 40 years from 1960 to 2000. During all this time, we tried to
progress. Let me run by you some indicators.
Our gross domestic product (GDP) multiplied by 11 times, although many in the
region exceeded this performance. Indonesia, by 18 times. Malaysia, by 39
times. Thailand, by 48 times. Korea, by 120 times. Singapore, by 132 times
Hongkong, by 172 times.
Table 8. Gross Domestic Product, in US $ million
Country 1960 2000 2000/1960
Philippines 6,980 75,186 10.8
Hong Kong 950 163,261 171.9
Indonesia 8,670 153,255 17.7
Korea 3,810 457,219 120.0
Malaysia 2,290 89,321 39.0
Singapore 700 92,252 131.8
Thailand 2,560 121,927 47.6
Source: World Bank. World Development Report
1981 and 2002.
These figures were obtained from the 2000 Survey on Overseas Filipinos conducted by the National
Questions the poor may never ask:
How can the Philippine economy catch up or narrow down the big lead that
these countries have over our country? How will we get the confidence of
investors to bring in their financial and technological investments into the
country like they have done in these countries? How will we assure them of
a level playing field, and a consistent policy regime? How will we address
the complaints of the industrialists about the high cost of power and the
poor state of infrastructure? How will we control the rogue elements from
the military and law enforcement agencies? How will we win back the
hearts of our Muslim brethren and bring back peace and order in Mindanao?
The income earned by government increased by about 194 times since 1967, the
time of the first Marcos presidency. Government expenditures however rose by
234 times. The budget had almost always ended up in deficit.
Table 9. Government Finance, in million pesos
Outlay 1967 1990 2000 2000/1967
Income 2,653 177,216 514,762 194
Expenditures 2,913 211,756 682,460 234
Source: National Statistics Office. Philippine Yearbook 2002
Moreover, in the past decade the revenue effort has gone down from 19.4 in
1994 to 13.4 in 2003 and the fiscal position has gone down from a surplus of 0.3
percent in 1996 to 5.3 percent in 2003.
Table 10. Revenue Effort and Fiscal Position, 1994-2003
% of GNP 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Revenue 19.4 18.4 18.2 18.7 16.4 15.3 14.7 14.4 13.2 13.4
Fiscal -0.5 -0.2 0.3 -1.0 -3.0 -3.2 -4.3 -4.4 -5.2 -5.3
Sources: * Philippine Institute of Development Studies website:
http://dirp.pids.gov.ph/cgi-bin/sg?key.tbl; **Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas website:
Questions the poor may never ask:
Do we aim for a balanced budget by 2010 or a deficit of 1 trillion by then?
Are we ready to collect the right taxes from the evaders among the
powerful? If we do not generate enough revenues, will we be willing to cut
down expenditures on health and education, which the poor can only obtain
from the government? Will we allow additional borrowings? Will we
continue incorporating debt payments automatically into the budget? What
will we do to improve public services, accountability for their quality and
consequently reduce graft and corruption?
Our foreign merchandise trade has grown 60 times over the past four decades.
Exports, by 71 times. Imports, by 50 times. But these have not been enough.
The exchange rate was P2 to US$1 in 1960. In 2000, it was down to P50 to
Table 11. Foreign Trade, FOB value in US $
Merchandise 1960 2000 2000/1960
Total 1,159.96 69,465.65 59.9
Exports 535.44 38,078.25 71.1
Imports 624.52 31,387.40 50.3
Peso-US 2 50 25.0
Source: National Statistics Office. Philippine
Questions the poor may never ask:
Will we open up trade with other countries? Shall we become an even
stronger ally of the United States at any expense? What is our view on the
One-China policy? Will trading with Taiwan affect our benefiting from the
phenomenal growth of China as what Japan has been doing to get off its
decade-old recession? Shall we remain being a member of the World Trade
Organization? Do we forecast an exchange rate of P25 to the dollar or P100
to the dollar by 2010? Will we continue to support the same industries in
our export initiatives and maintain the same trading partners? Will we
increase our reliance on the overseas workers to send their remittances to
help stabilize the exchange rate?
Overseas workers’ remittances
Were it not for the Filipinos working abroad who sent hard-earned cash to their
families back home, the exchange rate could have deteriorated even more
significantly. In 2000, overseas workers sent home through remittances
P281.672 billion (National Accounts, in current prices, National Statistical
Coordination Board). Using the reference rate of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
period average for 2000 of P44.17 to the US dollar, this was equivalent to
roughly $6.4 billion.
Table 12. Selected Merchandise Exports, FOB value,
in US $ billion, 2000
Electronic equipment & parts 22.179
Overseas workers remittances 6.376
Machinery & transport 5.909
Total mineral products 0.650
Coconut oil 0.460
Fish & prawns 0.321
Source: National Statistics Office. Philippine Yearbook
Ranged against merchandise exports, this remittance figure comes in as the
second major dollar earner after electronics exports. Note further that there is
no import content in overseas workers remittances unlike some of the exports
Questions the poor may never ask:
Considering the ageing societies in the developed countries, are we ready to
export even larger numbers of migrant workers, especially women, who will
provide the work force and at the same time prop up their public, including
pension, funds? Will we increase our reliance on the overseas workers to
send their remittances to help stabilize the exchange rate? Are we satisfied
that they remit only cash? Can we train them to gather socio-economic
intelligence in the countries or even households where they work in? Do we
want them to promote a desired ‘Filipinization’ of the globe? Will we
establish adequate support mechanisms and safety nets for them while
abroad and their families who are left behind? Will we promote the study of
languages and cultures to facilitate their assimilation into the societies they
will work in?
There is a serious concern though that ought to be addressed. Their numbers
range from 3-7 million. Taking the high estimate of 7 million and considering
that the number of families is about 15 million, nearly half of the families in the
Philippine population are directly affected by overseas employment.
But these improvements in the real sector have not been enough. There are
more mouths to feed…
By 2029 the 2000 population will double. 1.8 million individuals (more than the
size of the population in Rizal province in 2000) are added every year.
It has already tripled (in 2003) since 1960.
From 4.4 million in the 60’s, the total number of families has also grown
threefold to 15.3 million.
Table 13. Population, in millions
Number 1948 1960 2000 2000/1960
People 19.2 27.1 76.5 2.8
Families 4.43 15.3 3.5
Source: National Statistics Office. Philippine Yearbook 2002
Questions the poor may never ask:
Will we have, and are we ready to have, a population of 100 million Filipinos
by 2014? If the answer is no, how will we convince the population that
government policies on family planning are moral? If our answer is yes,
how will we alleviate the conditions of the poor who have the bigger families
and are less likely to practice family planning?
Neither have we distributed very well the opportunities from our modest gains.
Every year at least 1.5 million children reach school age and hope to begin their
education. It appears that every year, the government is finding it more and
more difficult to meet this need. Already there has been a slight decline in the
(simple) literacy rate, that is, to read and write a simple message, in the past 10
Table 14. Literacy
Philippines 1970 1990 2000
Simple literacy rate 72 94 92
Source: National Statistics Office. Philippine Yearbook 2002
Table 15. Internet Access
Internet Subscriber per 100 Persons 1999
Brunei Darussalam 4.19
Source: ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN Statistical
Questions the poor may never ask:
How do we intend to put these children through the educational system, as
it has been established that in the medium term this is key to the reduction
of poverty? How will we provide educational materials and facilities,
including computers and Internet access, as well as good teachers to
provide knowledge? Will the bridge program become mandatory?
For the past 15 years, 10.8 million found jobs. Most (7.1 million) of the jobs
were created in the services sector. Agriculture and industry had less than 2
million more jobs. Industry share of employment, supposedly the job creator or
multiplier, has not gone up enough (1 % up). That of agriculture went down by
Some 1 million individuals found work during each of the last three years and the
rates have shown some improvements. But the numbers of the unemployed
remained at an average of 3 million and the underemployed close to 5 million.
Table 16a. Employment, October
Sector 1987 2003 Difference
Total: Thousands 20,795 31,520 10,725
Agriculture: Thousands 9,940 11,675 1,735
% Share 47.8 37.0 -10.8
Industry: Thousands 3,045 4,941 1,896
% Share 14.6 15.7 1.1
Services: Thousands 7,810 14,904 7,094
% Share 37.6 47.3 9.7
Source: National Statistics Office. Website:
Table 16b. Employment, October
Quarter/Year 1/1987 4/2003 Difference
Total Labour Force: 31,684 35,078 3,394
Employed: Thousands 28,087 31,524 3,437
Rate 88.6% 89.8%
Unemployed: Thousands 3,597 3,554 (43)
Rate 11.4% 10.1%
Underemployed: Thousands 4,743 4,964 221
Rate 15.0% 14.2%
Source: National Statistics Office. Website:
Table 17. Data on Farms (Agriculture)
Farm, number and size 1991 2002 Difference
Number (in millions) 4.6 4.5 -0.1
Total area (in million hectares) 9.97 9.19 -0.8
Average size (in hectares) 2.16 2.04 -0.12
Source: National Statistics Office. Website: http://www.census.gov.ph
The number of farms has decreased from 1991 to 2002. Average farm size has
Questions the poor may never ask:
How do we understand the effects on poverty reduction of a minimum wage
rate? What kind of support will we give small and medium industries, which
can provide the poor jobs and livelihood? Are we sufficiently promoting the
culture of entrepreneurship? Are we predisposed to restrict strikes/work
stoppages in industrial/export zones to assure investors of a strike-free
regime? Is this moral?
Is the decline in jobs and prospects in agriculture programmed or an
accident? Are we open to increasingly import food products from other
countries? How do we view agrarian reform and its impact on farm
Gender and Development
The Philippines fared better than other neighboring countries in terms of women
participating in government, business and the economy. However it does not do
as well when the composite indicator, Gender-related Development Indicator
(GDI), of a long and healthy life, literacy and a decent standard of living is
The Human Development Report 2001 produced by the United Nations Development Programme
calculated the Human Development Index (HDI) of 162 countries. The HDI was based on life expectancy
Table 18. Selected Gender and Development Indicators, 1999
Country Seats in Female Female Gender-
parliament legislators, professional related
held by sr. officials & & technical Development
women (% managers workers (% Index (GDI)
of total) (% of total) of total) Rank
Japan 10.8 9 44 11
Hong Kong - 22 38 23
Singapore 6.5 21 42 26
Korea 5.9 5 31 29
Malaysia 14.5 21 44 55
Thailand - 22 55 58
Philippines 11.8 33 63 62
Source: United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report
Questions the poor may never ask:
What is the relationship between family planning and reproductive health
considering the high maternal mortality rate? Why are there bigger
percentages of females who are obese and who are underweight? Is it
alright to society as a whole that the largest proportion of women who go
overseas to work are aged 25-29 and are hired as laborers or unskilled
workers? What measures have been put in place to effectively control, if
not eradicate, violence against women here and abroad?
at birth, adult literacy rate and gross enrolment ratio, and per capita Gross Domestic Product. It also
calculated the Gender-related Development Index (GDI), a variant of the HDI accounting for gender
We have managed to reduce the number, area and annual allowable cut of
timber licenses from the highs during the early years of martial law.
Table 19. Selected Forestry Indicators: Number, Area and
Allowable Cut of Timber Licenses
Calendar Number Area Annual
Year Allowable Cut
1972-73 338 8,453 16,810
1986 159 5,849 8,516
1992 71 2,311 1,936
1998 21 1,036 524
Source: Forest Management Bureau. In the Philippine Yearbook
2002, National Statistics Office
But the harm has been done. See how we compare with our ASEAN neighbors.
Table 20. Selected Forestry Indicators in ASEAN, 2000
Country Proportion Average National
of Land Annual Rate Protected
Area of Areas (as %
covered by Deforestation of Land Area)
Forest (%) (%)
Cambodia 52.9 0.6 18.5
Indonesia 58.0 1.2 19.7
Lao PDR 54.4 0.4 13.1
Malaysia 58.7 1.2 5.3
Myanmar 52.3 1.4 0.9
Philippines 19.4 1.4 5.7
Singapore 3.3 0.0 4.9
Thailand 28.9 0.7 13.9
Viet Nam 30.2 -0.5 3.5
Source: Asian Development Bank. Key Indicators 2003.
Many have said that our seas have been over-fished; however I have not been
able to access data to objectify this claim.
Questions the poor may never ask:
How much further can our resources support the increasing population? Are
we aware that poverty has contributed to deforestation in the rural areas?
To what extent will we allow the exploration or exploitation of our mineral
resources? How far are we from desertification as depletion of forest and
water reserves continues?
After going through these data, evidence holds that there has been more decline
than growth in the past forty years and this has resulted in growing inequity,
rising poverty in all its dimensions, and weakening competitiveness of both the
economy and society.
It might be worthwhile to ponder on the kind of growth that the government
should strive at. Largely the kind of growth that has been experienced by the
economy has not succeeded in fulfilling the requirements of pro-poor growth as
Policy-makers need not only be concerned with the rate of growth but also its
structure and quality. Unless governments take timely corrective action,
economic growth can become lopsided and flawed. Determined efforts are
needed to avoid growth that is jobless, ruthless, rootless, voiceless, and
futureless. Unfortunately these features can be seen in the Philippine
Jobless growth occurs when the overall economy grows but does not expand the
opportunities for development. It means long hours and very low incomes for
the millions of people in low-productive work in agriculture and informal sector.
Labor force statistics have been consistently portraying this scenario. Ruthless
growth means that the fruits of economic growth mostly benefit the rich, leaving
millions of people struggling in ever-deepening poverty. Income distribution
statistics attest to this disturbing. Rootless growth is the one that causes
Mr. Onder Yucer, UNDP Resident Representative. Opening Statement at the Symposium on Pro-Poor
Growth Policies organized by UNDP Pakistan and the Pakistan Institute of Developing Economics in
people’s cultural identity to wither, like the growth in the Gross National Product
attributed to remittances from overseas workers. Voiceless growth means that
the economy has not been accompanied by empowerment. Voiceless growth
can also be growth that gives women only a minor role in an economy’s
management and direction. Lastly, futureless growth is the one where the
present generation squanders resources (forests, water, minerals, etc.) needed
by future generations.
In the short term
Representative Jose Salceda22 gave a succinct summary of the overall prospects
of the country. I agree with most of his conclusions and I reproduce in full
“The key downside risk to the ongoing growth momentum remains external,
particularly higher commodity prices given China's appetite for inputs. This has
driven global oil prices to new highs since the 1991 Iraq crisis. In turn, this is
putting upward pressure on consumer prices that could compel the Banko
Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to raise domestic interest rates, which could in turn
dampen domestic demand.
The other risk is internal, namely: (1) a P200 billion annual fiscal deficit that has,
thus far, been contained despite the pressure from the elections, and (2) the
huge public debt of P5.2 trillion, which, when combined with higher domestic
interest rates, could further increase an already huge public debt service.
Nevertheless, the domestic economy appears to have sufficient internal
momentum that could ride on favourable global economic trends to at least
maintain a GDP growth rate of 5.5% for the rest of the year, driven principally by
continued well-targeted expenditures in agriculture, bright prospects for
telecommunications and IT sectors and major public investments in
transportation that would be outlayed in the next nine months. In the long term,
however, rapid economic growth needed to reduce poverty can only be
sustained by investments.”
The fresh mandate given the reelected President cannot be solely anchored on
merely continuing past economic policies and present political dispensations. It
also expects a fresh outlook toward the participation of the people, especially the
His view was featured in the 9 June 2004 issue of BusinessWorldOnline. He was the chairman of the
Congressional Oversight Committee that monitors performance of the president and of nearly every cabinet
department and government agency.
bulk heaped at the bottom of the income distribution, in the process of equitable
and sustainable development.
A Few Points to Ponder for the Medium Term
Good news relating to sustainable change and healing divisions in society would
take a long time in coming because it is not only the economy but also the polity
that requires healing and mending. Perhaps somewhere in the policy sphere the
following points are being seriously discussed for the medium-term. Allow me to
raise these, just in case they are not.
1. Poverty incidence in 2000 was 41.4 percent in the rural areas, much higher
than the 15.0 percent in the urban areas. One reason for this phenomenon is
that more resources and opportunities available in the latter, particularly in Metro
Manila and highly urbanized cities. This brings on rural-to-urban migration.
However as more people flock to the urban areas, the demand for livelihood and
employment increase disproportionately to what is available and place added
pressure to existing habitat space and social services. Meanwhile in the rural
areas, more farms may lie untilled and agricultural activity and output may
dwindle with the exodus of young people who find limited opportunities in their
Is it not time to revisit the formula for determining internal revenue allotment
(IRA) and reduce the weight for population size which is 50 percent, which
clearly favors the densely-populated areas? As the urban population grows due
to in-migration, the IRA of urban areas also increases, and the more people
resettle under the bridges, in the parks, on the sidewalks, in the carts or any
available space to become the urban poor. With the continuing reduction of IRA
payments, which are their major sources of funds, the low-income municipalities
will experience the outflow of population to their detriment, with their farms
abandoned. And this unhealthy cycle, which is being seen now, may go on
unreversed until something drastic is tried such as working on the IRA formula.
2. With the resulting decrease in the number of farms, the average farm size,
and agricultural employment share, the specter of poor nutrition and even
starvation in extreme cases should not be a surprise. The footnotes on reported
‘hunger’ and the ‘lack of food to eat’ should alert the government to the policy
relevance of a ‘green revolution’ at this time. Going ‘green’ will not only mean
the greening of our rice and vegetable farms but also refer to the processing of
the resulting surplus which will not harm the environment.
3. The population of Japan is expected to decline by 2006; already its population
of 65 years and older reached 17 percent in 2000. Moreover Korea, Hong Kong,
and Singapore as well as many European countries are reporting a rapid growth
of the elderly, declining numbers of the youth, and low fertility rates. Soon they
will not have enough young people to join the work force and run the farms,
factories, and firms. Soon their elderly will be receiving less and less from their
pension systems as funds run down due to fewer contributions coming in. Labor
surplus countries like ours would be sources of migrant workers, including
women, who will provide the work force and at the same time prop up their
public, including pension, funds.
It will take time to arrest if intended, the growth of the Philippine population and
with the twin problems of fiscal deficit and public debt, the limited provision of
economic and social services and opportunities will continue to swell the ranks of
the underemployed and the unemployed.
Should the government not face up to the challenges of providing a wide array
of goods and services to the demographic phenomenon of ageing (and wealthy)
societies around us and direct the policy debate to how we can train and protect
our migrant workers and further benefit from this strategy? After all, almost half
of all the families in the country are affected by the fortunes of our overseas
4. The income distribution is lopsided and had remained like that for four
decades. We did see the trickle-down effects of growth; the charts in the
appendixes vividly depict the ‘ski slope’, steep and narrow at the top and flat and
long elsewhere, when income shares are plotted. The target of reducing poverty
somehow implies that this is to be achieved by the government, and the elite,
who will handle and dispose of the requisite resources. This effectively excludes
the poor to be part of the liberating process and fosters patronage to the purse-
keepers and its bad effects on the distribution of political power and exercise of
governance in the country.
Is it not time to discuss how the poor and the needy can actively participate in
the poverty alleviation efforts? Should the target instead be to empower the
poor, to work with them in their communities in providing better nutrition,
health, and education?
The media reports that daily the government continues to consider many policy
options to stimulate growth that is hopefully pro-poor, but the above points may
not have given enough exposure and scrutiny.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been elected President of the Philippines. But prior
to this proclamation, one of the most bitterly fought campaigns in Philippine
elections since the snap elections of 1986 had already preceded a long drawn-
out period for the counting of votes from 10 May to 20 June, a forty day fast
from the truth. Or was it? The Poe supporters complained that during this
period the exit polls of the SWS (as of May 19) and the continuing tally of the
NAMFREL had already psyched the public that the incumbent had won. Because
of this, they alleged that the minds of the electorate had been conditioned to
believe that their candidate had lost, and consequently due vigilance over the
election returns dwindled allowing for irregularities and cheating in favor of the
Upon review, the early results of the SWS exit polls underestimated the Poe
votes, possibly due to the ‘undecideds’ whose share increased as the elections
neared. It did not help that the NAMFREL count was not quick enough, that it
was perceived to have counted first the areas where GMA was strong, and that it
ceased operations when some 20 percent of the precincts were still unaccounted
for. There seemed to be reason for the opposition camp to suspect that there
may have been some cheating in favor of the administration.
But while the results are official and it is time to face the future together as a
nation, the strong showing of a Poe bereft of a sound platform, good campaign,
sufficient background and experience, an efficient organization, and favorable
media coverage has to be examined more closely, especially since he was strong
with the large and poor D and E socioeconomic class voters.
An analysis of income distribution and other key economic indicators shows that
there has been more decline than growth in the past forty years, and that this
has resulted in growing inequity, rising poverty in all its dimensions, and
weakening competitiveness of both the economy and society. Growth has not
Any development plan therefore has to accept the presence of this fragmentation
of the economy (of the rich and the rest) and society (of the opportune and the
oppressed). It must outline viable options to convince and involve the active
participation of these groups in concert to bring about an equitable and
sustainable growth process. We cannot continue to have growth that causes our
economy to lag behind that of our neighbors, and our society to further
Articles and Publications
ASEAN Secretariat. ASEAN Statistical Yearbook 2001. Jakarta, Indonesia.
Asian Development Bank. Key Indicators 2003, Volume 34. Manila, Philippines.
Klaus Deininger and Lyn Squire. A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality’.
The World Bank Economic Review Vol. 10, No.3, pp.565-91
National Statistics Office. Family Income and Expenditures Survey publications.
____________________. Philippine Yearbook 2002. Manila, Philippines:
Pulse Asia. March 2004 National Survey on Presidential and Vice-Presidential
Preferences. Media Release 12 April 2004
Salceda, Jose. An Analysis of the 1st Quarter Performance of the RP Economy.
BusinessWorldOnline, 9 June 2004.
United Nations Development Programme. Human Development Report 2001.
World Bank. World Development Report 1981 and 2002. Washington, DC.
Yucer, Onder. Opening Statement at the Symposium on Pro-Poor Growth Policies
organized by UNDP Pakistan and the Pakistan Institute of Developing Economics
in March 2003
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas: http://www.bsp.gov.ph/statistics/spei/tab28.htm
National Citizens Movement for Free Elections:
National Statistical Coordination Board:
National Statistics Office: http://www.census.gov.ph
Philippine Daily Inquirer: http://www.inq7.net/opi/2004/jun/03/opi_mpdoyo-1.htm; ,
Philippine Institute of Development Studies: http://dirp.pids.gov.ph/cgi-bin/sg?key.tbl
Social Weather Stations: http://www.sws.org.ph/pr051904.htm;