New poll shows Philippine president still hugely popular

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte retained a high public approval rating in an opinion poll released on Friday, a stark contrast to a different survey earlier this week that showed a sharp decline in trust and satisfaction in the maverick leader.

Philippines 'President Rodrigo Duterte stands at attention during a courtesy call with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Ministers in Manila, Philippines, September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Pool/Mark Cristino

Eighty percent of 1,200 Filipinos surveyed by pollster Pulse Asia late last month said they trust and approve of Duterte slightly down from 81 percent and 82 percent respectively in its June survey.

“Approval” rates the president’s performance and “trust” relates to his personality in the Pulse survey, which did not ask respondents to give a reason.

A poll by Social Weather Stations conducted at the same time and released on Sunday showed trust and satisfaction in Duterte - also ratings of personality and performance - fell to the lowest of his presidency.

The falls by 15 points and 18 points respectively were significant, and came after a demonstration by thousands of Filipinos and unprecedented public scrutiny on his war on drugs, triggered by the Aug. 16 killing by police of a teenager.

Thousands of Filipinos have been killed during the past 15 months. Police insist none were executed, as activists have alleged.

Duterte this week ordered police to stand down from the campaign but has not said what motivated his decision. His office said that was to shift focus towards bigger targets.

Analysts were unable to explain the big difference in the results of surveys by two well-respected pollsters.

Academic Edmund Tayao said the Pulse poll showed the public still recognized the importance of the war on drugs, and Duterte would stick to his policy agenda.

“The president’s tone does not change, regardless of the numbers,” Tayao said. “Whether these surveys will result in major changes to his policy, I think not.”

Ranjit Rye of the University of the Philippines said the latest poll showed that, despite recent setbacks and adverse headlines, Duterte had not lost his appeal.

“Despite all the political noise, all the opposition against the president, he continues to be wildly popular and people approve of his leadership,” Rye said.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said there was “an enormous amount of appreciation” for Duterte, and suggested the earlier poll may have been “some form of orchestrated information, disinformation”.

“It’s not for us to speculate. But there seems to be that particular effort in order to the put the president and his administration in a particular light,” he told reporters.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty & Simon Cameron-Moore