“Takot sila sa akin,” Mar Roxas, Liberal Party standard-bearer said in March after the second debate among #Halalan2016 presidential bets. He also said surveys didn’t matter and that rivals were ganging up on him because of fear.
But a certain survey does matter a lot to the Liberal Party and its followers.
A minor Twitter stir occurred on April 20. Accounts linked to Roxas loyalists erupted in jubilation, sharing headlines on a miraculous survey surge that had President Benigno Aquino III’s candidate tied with Sen. Grace Poe at first place.
The day before, Pulse Asia released the results of the ABS-CBN commissioned survey, showing Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte extending his new front-runner position, from 30% to 32%.
Pulse Asia said Duterte managed to capture “a sizeable plurality of Filipino registered voters.”
Had one of the two other big survey firms like the Social Weather Stations (SWS) or Laylo released the April 20 report, it would have been major news.
Both firms have displayed similar rankings, though with different percentages and margins of error.
The catcalls that followed were louder than the hosannas. Many Roxas supporters were too embarrassed to join the chorus, for good reason.
Only a few tabloids carried the momentous announcement. One report, credited to the Philippine Star, actually comes from its Filipino-language tabloid, and has since been taken down.
A simple Google search brings you to the website of D’ Strafford Research & Strategies, Inc.
The firm claims it uses the language of the business elite.
Its site looks sleek but turns out to be a skeleton – no profile, projects, no clients. Not even an address.
When I visited mid-afternoon of April 20, it didn’t even have anything about an election survey.
D’ Strafford’s first appearance on email accounts of newsdesks was after it got a deluge of phone calls from curious Netizens.
I called up two numbers. Several tries on the first only got a recorded voice saying Extension 6138 was not available.
A man named Mark Lim answered the other number. He gave their office address as Unit 1, Penthouse, on the 35th floor of EcoTowers on 32nd St., BGC. He said a JM Balancar presented the survey results during “a press conference for tri-media at the Shangri-la Fort.”
Who is Mr. Balancar? What are his credentials?
Lim described Balancar first as “project manager” then as “project director”.
When asked for the name of the CEO – the website does not list company officials –Lim pointed to Balancar. Prompted for the names of other company officials, he mentioned a Mark Tan and Anthony Seno.
I asked if any of them were statisticians. No.
He also said the survey was done in-house and not commissioned.They interviewed 2,800 respondents face to face from April 13-18, he added. The outcome has a +/-1.9% national margin of error.
Then, unprompted, Lim attributed the lead to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial joke about the rape-slay of an Australian missionary in 1989.
I asked for the education and professional credentials of Balancar and their survey leader. Lim said their in-house, corporate survey lead was a Jeffrey Concio, but he was mum on credentials.
Mum on clients. Mum on most everything, except that the firm’s owners were businessmen with ages ranging from the 30s to the 40s. Lim said he’s 38 years old. He would not give me his education background.
D’ Strafford incorporators don’t come up on Facebook or even Google. They must be very, very private men.
Balancar’s email to news desks was a gem . Will share it as is:
Nothing in their press release backs up the claim that Roxas surged because Duterte scared off some fans. Analysts say he may have lost some number of “soft voters;” but we’ll have to wait for the next surveys.
But Pulse Asia places Roxas fourth among voters’ second choice, with 14%, compared to Sen. Grace Poe’s 29%, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s 17% and Duterte’s 16% — though that category is premised on the condition of a favored bet not able to continue contesting the presidency.
D’ Strafford’s press release shares the press release’s quirky writing style, especially the unique use of punctuation.
Even more curious was the passage on the undecided:
“Of the 4.2% undecided, 1.5% goes to Poe, 1.3% for Roxas, 1% to Duterte and .4% for Binay.”
You make try to decipher that.
Roxas’ official Facebook account did not share the story. His vice presidential bet, Leni Robredo – D’ Stafford claimed she had a rating 32%, leading r Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (25%) and Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero (23%).
After chatting with Lim, I called up Balancar. He was busy and just asked for a text query. I asked about the firm’s SEC registration.
He replied: “We will have another round of press conference this coming Friday. We will be sending invites. Thank you.”
A follow up text from him said: “All are invited even Duterte supporters, of GP and ke Binay. Thank you.”
Netizens Mariah Sanchez and Jae Manuel Sta Romana did separate searches and discovered that D’ Strafford’s website was registered only on April 14, a day after the claimed start of their survey.
It only registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11.
Sta Romana also found out that the firm borrowed i’s entire website template from a Chicago-based company. Unlike D’ Stafford, Omotosho and Associates details a range of services.
So a very young firm of mysterious men decided to spend a caboodle of money for a nationwide survey because of the goodness of their hearts.
Don’t let those inconvenient truths divert us from this sure-fire reality, says an undersecretary.
Roxas will win, according to Malacanang, because the government has the most organized force.
This administration has a genius for twisting the meaning of words. Let’s parse out organized in the next installment, starting with the Palace downloading voters’ personal data stolen from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) website.