Reading the Inquirer website today over my morning coffee, I clicked on the first headline in the nation column, an article titled: “Let people be the judge of Arroyo.” Of course, my immediate reaction to this statement was a jubilant, “OK!”

But, much to my chagrin (and half-laughing, half-yelling at the computer screen), what I went on to read was a series of incredibly incoherent statements by EDSA hero-come toady marionette, Executive Secretary Ermita. A rundown:

The article begins by summarizing the Palace’s stance with “The people, not surveys, should judge President Macapagal-Arroyo’s performance.”

Um, excuse me, but isn’t the whole point of surveys to reflect the sentiments of the people? The Palace is not willing to go so far as to question SWS’s methodology, so in essence it accepts that the surveys that say the President has a negative 38 percent rating are sound measures of the nation’s sentiments. So, although Ermita accepts that SWS survey results = the people’s judgement, he says that people, and not the survey should judge the President. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Ermita then went on to reiterate that much-loved Malacañang phrase: running and managing the country “is not a popularity contest.”

Well, I too will reiterate my main message in “Ready to Serve,” holding public office in a democracy is largely a popularity contest. You are always under obligation to answer to the will of the people; you serve only at the pleasure of the people. Telling the people that “you may hate me but I don’t care, what I’m doing is good for you,” is demeaning, it strips the citizenry of their dignity, and illustrates how this administration is just another perpetuator (patron) of the clientelist system.

Ermita then went on to “wonder” why all the good things that the President has done for the people haven’t been recognized, like the Katas ng E-VAT, NFA rice subsidies, and the ever-present “infrastructure projects” that supposedly create jobs.

So, the Presidency is not a popularity contest. Can anyone honestly and convincingly make the argument that these actions, are not populist in nature? Keep them poor, keep them dependent, and as a result we will keep them quiet.

Then, after refusing to question SWS’ methodology, Ermita went on to say “What is important is for the people to feel the effects of what the President is doing, so that they will see that the President has real concern over their plight.”

Oh, the people feel it alright. the highest inflation in 14 years, increasing rates of hunger, 71% of the people self-identifying as poor or very poor and 59% saying their situation has worsened in the last year, a decrease in personal optimism (in other words, a decrease in HOPE) and rise in economic pessimism. Of these and numerous other indicators, what hits me the most (and what should hit the President) is the decrease in hope, which is all that far too many families have. We feel what the President is doing alright, talagang ramdam na ramdam namin.

I only wish the President felt what she is doing to us. Despite my salty rhetoric I still have some faith that she is capable of mercy.

And finally, just for laughs, Ermita threw in that the President will prove in the SONA that “is a very active performing achiever, performing political leader, performing President.”

So, the record national disapproval ratings of the President, measured scientifically by a reputable (indeed, the Palace quotes SWS when it has results which are favorable to the administration) institution are not enough to prove that she is not doing a good job. We should look at the effects on the ground and the real difference in people’s lives. Okay. But wait, forget looking to the ground, a speech she will deliver next month will be enough to prove she’s doing a good job!

Yeah. The tortuous logic Secretary Ermita. Then again, he doesn’t actually like her, so maybe he’s incoherent on purpose. Sa abangan…