D’ Strafford levels up: ‘Proving’ the upwardly mobile phantoms of the elections

You have to give the guys from D’Strafford credit for cheek, for cobbling a parallel #Halalan2016 universe.

You have to give them credit, too, for causing very respectable and decent folk to hyperventilate with joy.

d strafford

Never mind that the morning after, the equally respectable Manila Bulletin had to take down the   news item about Mar Roxas “sustaining” his lead over rival wannabe-presidents Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Santiago.


I guess it’s hard for professionals to ignore the reality of D’Strafford’s latest press release. Guess it’s hard to defend a survey firm’s credibility when their release mentions candidate Poe twice, under different rankings.

poe twice

It’s also hard to keep a straight face when the Sun Star — whose editor got into a tussle with social media critics after its report on Strafford’s debut — placed in ”      ” project manager JM Balancar’s defense of their methodology.

It’s the “proving” question, dudes, Balancar told journalists in  press conference following the release of their April 13-18 alleged survey.

He was asked why their press release had nothing to back up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte ‘s rape joke scared off some fans. He said other things, of course. Feel free to read the quotes.


Unlike other survey firms, D’ Strafford sends out a press release, instead of a detailed report that includes mechanics and sub-topics.

We still haven’t seen the actual “proving” question. So we don’t know if voter-respondents got lost in the racing syntax of D’ Strafford’s pollsters. It’s a trademark.

Read: Ro-Ro and the Funny Survey

Maybe Balancar’s just exciteable. Maybe its ecstasy. Hey, you can actually “feel” them breathless with admiration whenever they tweet about Roxas.

It’s the kind of wide-eyed wonder that gals and guys fall for. They’d be lovely in front of the television cameras, yes?

Except it’s also hard to get a handle on these guys. They are virtual phantoms. Read Thinking Pinoy’s latest report.

All that money spent for this reported un-commissioned major survey by a “family-owned corporation with five members” — if the SunStar got the details right.

I got some names during an earlier interview with an incorporator named Mark Lim.

But D’ Strafford dudes go through names as fast as Balancar rushes through his sentences.

Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, credentials a top secret.

The SunStar story said it was in-house consultant Ralph Fuentes who did the honours of presenting results of the first survey.

ralph Fuentes

But they seem to have levelled up fast, if we can trust the tabloid Abante, another eager chronicler of D’ Srtafford.

They apparently now have a “survey director” by the name of John Stevenson. 


When I clicked the share button on that story, here’s what came out.


So I googled John Stevenson.

And, hey, these dudes must be real movers and shakers!

Imagine that, a Conservative British MP for survey director?

stevenson mp

Or so Abante claims. You would think they’d bring a photographer to a press con announcing the results of a major survey. You would think any reporter these days would have a mobile phone with a still and video camera.

Instead, we get a file photo and a leap of faith on the part of the editors. The story actually sounds lifted from yet another wacky press release — though I’ll lay the blame for the photo on Abante.

I was tempted to write to Mr. Stevenson but suddenly thought of the embarrassment that could bring Roxas, the man who would be President. But I will. Tomorrow.

Meantime, let us rejoin in the miracle! And let us enjoy the cosmic tweets from the phantoms of this election.


(UPDATE) Poe also calls for probe into #TanimBala; more than 22k sign #LaglagBala petition

Senator Grace Poe has joined fellow 2016 presidential aspirant, Sen. Miriam Santiago, in seeking a legislative probe into the rash of #TanimBala cases at Philippine international airports.
In a press release, Poe also sent a message to Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado, “to put an end to the proliferation of ‘tanim-bala’ at the country’s airports within a week or quit.”

Poe gave the statement as members of the House of Representatives pushed for the resignation of Honrado, who is a relative of President Benigno Aquino and a confidante from his younger days.

Reports of “planted bullets” have angered many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and netizens, who see the cases as schemes by some unscrupulous airport personnel to milk locals and foreign nationals passing through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Vacuum-packed luggage of OFWs at the Dubai International Airport Terminal 1. Photo by Peachy Rallonza-Bretana
Vacuum-packed luggage of OFWs at the Dubai International Airport Terminal 1. Photo by Peachy Rallonza-Bretana

As Filipino netizens posted photos of travellers wrapping their luggage in layers of plastic, all in the hope of not falling prey to #TanimBala, the petition calling for a probe into the alleged scandal continued to amass signers, hitting the 22,000 mark mid-afternoon.

Nervous OFWs are taking extra efforts -- and paying additional costs -- to ensure they do not fall victim to #TanimBala. Photo by Peachy Rallonza Bretana, taken at the Dubai Int'l Airport
Nervous OFWs are taking extra efforts — and paying additional costs — to ensure they do not fall victim to #TanimBala. Photo by Peachy Rallonza Bretana, taken at the Dubai Int’l Airport


Poe’s press release said:

“The number of cases where passengers are being detained for allegedly concealing bullets in their bags have grown exponentially like there’s a deliberate plan to victimize poor, unsuspecting passengers for extortion.  This is unacceptable, and Mr. Honrado should be able to stop this within a week,” Poe said.

Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, filed Senate Resolution 1636 to look into possible abuses of security personnel and failure of airport officials to stop these. Two other resolutions have been filed with the Senate to probe the alleged extortion racket.

The senator also urged the creation of a special task force of law enforcers to replace the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) personnel in the airport as a first step while additional cameras are being put in place and the investigation is ongoing.”

Ednalyn with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn
Ednalyn Purugganan, who started the change.org/laglagbala petition with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn

The President, meanwhile, summoned to separate meetings officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the agency that supervises the X-ray equipment handlers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) , as well as the Philippine National Police aviation command.

Adding fuel to the anger was the disclosure by a choir musical director that a teenaged choir member had also missed their flight  because of a #TanimBala incident. The intriguing parts in the story involve:

One policeman allegedly replacing the live bullet found in the girl’s bag with a smaller, empty one; and cops’ disclosure of a feud with the airport security force.

Vargas said that amid the commotion, police told Rachel that even if they release her, she would not be allowed to board the flight because the police are “not in good terms” with the NAIA’s security guards.

“Nagkaroon ng komosyon doon e, tumakbo iyung ilang singers ko. Nalaman na nung roving security guard nung airport doon pagpasok sa boarding gate, iyung mga nangyari doon sa bullet. Sabi nung pulis, kahit i-release kita ngayon, hindi ka pa rin papasukin doon. Parang ang dating sa usapan nila, they are not in good terms with the security guards. ‘Iyang mga yan, sipsip iyan,'” Vargas said.

Upon Rachel’s release, police also allegedly remarked that the security guards should be “slapped” with the incident.

“‘I-release na iyan, isampal na iyan sa mukha ng mga security guard.’ Sabi ng pulis,” Vargas said.

He said the SWAT member stayed with Rachel until her mom arrived. He said Rachel had to book another flight with her own money to follow her choir to South Korea.

Strange reports kept social media users in a tizzy. A 65-year old woman bound for Singapore to attend a grandchild’s soccer tournament was also arrested and slapped with criminal complaint — even though she had padlocked her bag, wrapped the openings with plastic and even had a pocket sewn shot. A wheelchair-bound Filipino-American likewise almost missed her flight to California after two bullets were allegedly found in her suitcase. An American missionary is seeking release on a similar incident. 

The cases have aroused a complex mix of feelings among Filipinos, anger and shame the strongest.

Even children have taken notice of the scandal. Mary Jane Reyes posted on Facebook a conversation with her child, who suggested taking the cases to the United Nations.

Oh. But are they doing something naman? Super dami na kasi ng victims. I heard even this teenager got victimized and was almost unable to join a prestigious competition abroad. Then some OFWs and now even a 65-year old grandma. What’s the government doing?

Well, they said they have installed or will install a help desk at NAIA and they intend to add more CCTV.

That’s all?

With so much disappointment on her face and after few minutes of silence, she exclaimed:

“Mommy, since there was a Japanese citizen & also an American citizen who got apprehended & jailed recently because of alleged possession of 1-2 bullet/s and were likely also victims of this tanim-bala, and since it seems to me our government is not doing enough or is not really capable of putting an end to this menace, is it possible for you to please contact UN (United Nations) now and ask them to please intervene already?”

All agog about GAGO

It’s not your IQ; it’s what you do with it.

That is not an original line. Our late Nanay used that when any of her offspring tried to coast along, take shortcuts or humiliate people. I’ve had much cause to remember her wise words during the past few weeks.

All the actors in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona are intelligent. Their education pedigrees leave me envious. Their CVs hint at wealth earned by dint of gray matter and, presumably, hard work.  And yet week after week, we see them acting like boors or engaging in antics that call into question the definition of “honorable”.

The defense counsels staged a tantrum over charges they could not substantiate, a display of bad taste and judgment matched only by social media bully Judd Roy’s appetite for phallic symbols. The righteous prosecution has no qualms about using illegally obtained information. When in a bind, they peddle tall tales that insult our intelligence.

And then there are the mighty judges of the impeachment court.

We’ve seen the cavalier treatment of witnesses in numerous investigations launched by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The senators have carried this over — exaggerating their cheap theatrics – to the Corona impeachment trial. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada smirks while joking about “half-Filipinos”, a racist reference to the accent of a Megaworld executive. Sen. Franklin Drilon has shown brilliance in catching the prosecution’s wayward balls, but has a bad habit of cutting off witnesses bearing inconvenient versions of the truth.

And then, there’s Sen. Miriam Santiago.

There’s a clear difference between shrill and hectoring. It’s one thing to criticize the prosecution’s litigation tactics — their lack of preparation and penchant for mistaking slogans as proof of evidence. It’s an altogether different story when you treat them likes slaves with no right to usage of their intellect.

Defensor-Santiago is not alone in her frustration. On Facebook and Twitter, you can see even staunch anti-Corona observers expressing disappointment over prosecution blunders, with some dropping strings of curse symbols. But they’re kibitzers, not “honorable” senator-judges. We expect high ethical standards of prosecutors who claim to be  white knights in the fight against evil. The same high standards apply to judges who will decide Corona’s fate.

I agree with much of Defensor-Santiago’s criticism of the prosecution. Some days, the feeling comes close to contempt and revulsion. But nothing excuses her paroxysms of rage or the abuse she heaps on fellow lawyers.

Photo by Alex Nueva España, Senate Pool (from abs-cbnnews.com)

It’s tempting to rail when prosecutors try to lead on witnesses or impeach their own. Rep. Niel Tupas wasn’t doing that when she tried to reduce him to the level of a student on the verge of flunking. And no reason on earth justifies calling anyone “gago” (idiot) in the middle of a trial.

This behavior is unfathomable because Defensor-Santiago has a vocabulary that leaves most of us breathless. The former editor of the UP Collegian can weave phrases and spin entire paragraphs in the amount of time it would take us to mutter sweet-Jesus- spare-us –from-the-wrath-of-hell.

I’ve heard jokes about the terrors of law school. Strict is one thing, abusive is another. What kind of lawyers, lawmakers and judges do we churn out if they’re made to live like masochists for years? The abused child most often visits the crime on the next generation. And we wonder why this country keeps slip-sliding like a drunk whose only thought is that of the next thirst-quenching gulp.

Santiago’s acts, however, do not excuse lawyer Vitallano Aguirre. (He has also exhibited less-than-stellar ethics in the scuttled effort to pin Corona on grounds the he tattled confidential court matters — prosecuting on a matter involving his interests and those of his client. He tried to present a very selective version of the truth and, when this could not be arranged, opted for default.) 

In the “gago” incident, he was caught covering his ears. When asked, he expressed defiance, presenting himself the protector of his hapless prosecution colleagues — a posture that further reduces Tupas to a sniveling, pitiful waif. That earned him a contempt citation and some of us proclaim him a hero.

I cannot fathom the games people play. How hard is it to stand up and, in polite language, point out Miriam’s unacceptable behavior to the presiding officer and seek redress? Politeness would have shown her up for the bully she is. Instead, Aguirre plays the game of one-upmanship. And we hear the refrain, serves her right.

That’s not what Nanay taught us. There was another line she liked: Those who think themselves enlightened should display matching behavior.

And there’s the major cause of this country’s problems. We rail against injustice. We condemn short-cuts. We fulminate against abuse of power. And then we turn around and do the same things all over again.

It’s very tribal – and that’s an insult to tribes. It reduces our democracy to a battle among playground bullies. Kill all those who won’t come to our side.

We insist on slapstick and simplistic solutions. It’s a never ending settling of IOUs and payback against others. And the saddest thing is we, the Bosses, allow these honorable public servants to drag us into internecine wars for spoils.