SWS: Filipinos believe there is "strong" freedom of speech

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) More than half of Filipinos believe they can freely speak their mind even if it is critical of the government, a nationwide Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey said.

Fifty-five percent of Filipinos agreed with the statement: "I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration," said the survey, conducted March 25 to 28 and released on the SWS website on June 30.

Twenty-one percent disagreed with the statement, while 24 percent were undecided, it added.

The statement generated a net agreement rating of +34, calculated by subtracting the disagreement rate from the agreement rate. The SWS scores net agreement ratings as follows: "very strong" for +50 and above; "strong" for +30 to +49; "moderate" for +10 to +29; "neutral" for +9 to -9; "poor" for -10 to -29; "weak" for -30 to -49; and "very weak" for -50 and below.

President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration have been widely criticized for the controversial war on drugs, which has seen the deaths of more than 3,000 since its launch a year ago. The Philippines, whose media is considered one of the most free in the world and has one of the highest numbers of Facebook users, is facing the onslaught of so-called "fake news" online.

The survey hit a record low net agreement of +3, ranking "neutral," in July 1985, when the survey was first conducted under former President Ferdinand Marcos. Freedom of speech was vastly curtailed when he imposed martial law from 1972 to 1981. But even after its lifting, dissent and opposition were still stifled. He held office until February 1986, when he was deposed in a bloodless revolution that swept Corazon Aquino into power.

Following the end of his rule, net rating of freedom of speech reached its highest at +63, or "very strong" in March 1987.

Net agreement averages ranked +33 under Aquino, +38 under Fidel Ramos, +41 under Joseph "Erap" Estrada, +34 under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and +32 under Benigno Aquino III.

The First Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey also found Filipinos' belief in freedom of speech "strong" across Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao

The "strong" sentiment of freedom of speech was also seen among respondents across socio-economic classes from A to D  with a net rating of +37. The lowest socioeconomic class, E, scored a moderate +16 net rating.

The survey was done from March 25 to 28 this year using face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults, 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The report noted there were sampling error margins of ±3 percent for national percentages and ±6 percent each for Metro Manila, of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.