Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Uneven Trustworthiness of Key Sectors

The Church is perceived to be the most trustworthy institution in the Philippines, while Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) are perceived to be the least trustworthy.  These are some of the findings shared during the launch of the 2012 Philippine Trust Index (PTI) at the Ateneo Professional Schools Auditorium on 27 February 2013.
The 2012 PTI is the fruit of the partnership between the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and EON, the Stakeholder Relations Firm.  The 2012 PTI is the result of two nationwide surveys, a General (Gen) Public survey and an Informed (Inf) Public survey. 
The Gen Public survey involved 1,200 respondents, 18 years old and above from all socio-economic classes (A to E).  The Inf Public survey involved 600 respondents, 25 years old and above from classes A to C who have at least 2 years of college education and who are significant media consumers.  Both surveys were conducted through face-to-face interviews in November and December 2012.
The PTI used a 5-level scale:  Very Much Trust (Napakalaking Tiwala), Fairly Much Trust (Medyo Malaking Tiwala), Neither Trust nor Distrust (Hindi Tiyak), Fairly Little Trust (Medyo Maliit na Tiwala), and Very Little Trust (Napakaliit na Tiwala).

In the PTI Gen survey, if one looks at the results of the Very Much Trust level only, here is what appears in descending order:  Church (68 %), Academe (45), Media (32), Government (15), NGOs (12), Business (9).
If one uses Very Much Trust plus Fairly Much Trust in the PTI Gen survey, the last two places change:  Church (92 %), Academe (85), Media (77), Govt (58), Business (55), NGOs (52).

In the PTI Informed Public survey (very much + fairly much), Business (60 %) and Govt (58.5) are nearly equal in their trustworthiness ratings, with Business barely higher.  NGOs (54.5) unfortunately again constitute the sector perceived to be the least trustworthy.

Stronger linkages with the Academe (especially universities) may help raise the trustworthiness of NGOs, Business and Government.  For example, a university can help an NGO in evaluating objectively the impact of the NGO’s work, especially its poverty reduction impact.  Based on the evaluation, the Academe can help the NGO come up with a better strategy or more effective programs to help those in need.

In the case of Business, the Academe can help it evaluate the impact of its policies and practices on its internal stakeholders, its personnel.  The Academe can help Business in its Research and Development of new or innovative products and services.  The stronger partnership ought to be mutually beneficial, and thus the Academe, for example, can benefit from access to more resources from Business in order to support academic research and to upgrade educational standards and methods.

In the case of the Church, perceived to be the most trustworthy institution, a stronger linkage with NGOs, Business and Government can be helpful for the less trustworthy sectors yet it is more problematic and risky than linkage with the Academe.  

Based on one of the top answers respondents gave to the question on what qualities are important for the trustworthiness of the Church, a significant source of its trustworthiness is its perceived autonomy or independence from the less trustworthy sectors especially Government.

Based on the qualities that respondents identified as important for the trustworthiness of the Church, its very high rating suggests that respondents perceive priests as quite good in providing spiritual guidance, modeling holiness, and practicing restraint in political involvement.

More members of class AB identified restraint in political involvement (40 %), as a trustworthiness criterion for the Church, compared to providing spiritual guidance (24 %) and modeling holiness (25).  In contrast, only 9 % of farmers and fisherfolk among the respondents identified restraint in political involvement as a criterion.  Clergy restraint in political involvement is a trustworthiness criterion especially for the urban elite.
The Church’s very high trust rating can be considered an encouraging sign for Philippine Church leaders (but if it leads to complacency or arrogance, such high rating will likely be unsustainable).
We may compare the PTI with the Edelman Global Trust Index or Barometer.  Edelman, an international public relations firm that has been conducting an international survey on trust since 2001, uses a 9-point scale in which 9 means “trust a great deal,” 1 means no trust at all, and 5 means neither trust nor distrust.  Edelman prioritizes the Informed Public, and limits its survey to 4 institutions (Business, Govt, Media, NGOs).

Here are the overall ratings from its 2013 study, which covers 20 nations:  NGOs (63 %), Business (58), Media (57), Govt (48).  For Edelman, 50-60 % is still neutral rather than clear trust.

If we adapt the Edelman standards for the Informed Public, one can say that, in the Philippines, the perception of trustworthiness of key sectors is uneven:  very high for Church (89 %), high for Academe (83) and Media (76), and neutral for Business (60), Govt (58.5) and NGOs (54.5).

If we look at the ratings of Malaysia and Indonesia in the 2013 Edelman, the Philippines is like Malaysia as regards the ratings received by (Mal) Government (60 %) and Business (63), and as regards the similarity of the gap between Govt and Business.  

But we are like Indonesia as regards the ratings received by (Ind) NGOs (51 %) and Media (77).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the overall trustworthiness ratings of Indonesia (62 %) and Malaysia (64) would make them our neighbors, if the PTI average (62 %) for Phl Media, Business, Govt and NGOs were included in the 2013 Edelman Global Trust Index.

As regards the “advanced democracies” in the Edelman Trust Index, why is Canada (62 %) the only one with an overall clear trustworthiness rating, while the U.S. (59), the Netherlands (59), Germany (55), France (54), Sweden (54), the U.K. (53), and Australia (50) received neutral ratings?  Why are the one-party states of China (80 %) and Singapore (76) the top two nations in the Edelman Index with Government in China (81 %) and in Singapore (82) perceived to be the most trustworthy by their citizens?

Why is Government in most of the advanced democracies perceived to be either neutral or untrustworthy, rather than trustworthy (exceptions are the moderate ratings received by Government in the Netherlands and Sweden)?

In the Edelman Study, the dominant reasons for less trust in Government are, first, corruption or fraud, and second, incompetence or poor performance.  Similarly with the PTI, corruption reduction is the primary trustworthiness criterion for Government, while other criteria are poverty reduction, job creation, and fulfillment of campaign promises.  The neutral rating of Government in the Philippines means it has to work harder and smarter in reducing corruption and poverty and in creating jobs.

Going back to the advanced democracies, why is Government generally perceived to be either neutral or untrustworthy?  One reason, which is connected to the issue of competence, is articulated by Russell Hardin, a professor of politics at New York University:  A contemporary government’s “tasks may be so diverse and so complex that it must typically often fail in them, so that citizens continue to find it incompetent and, therefore lack confidence in it” (Hardin, 2006).

The other reason, for Hardin, is the tradition of Liberal Distrust or Skepticism in Government.  According to classical liberal thinkers like John Locke (1632-1704), David Hume (1711-1776), and Adam Smith (1723-1790), Government is necessary for public order, yet it is prone to abuse of power owing to its monopoly powers over the armed forces and many sectors in life.

There is no evidence that the influence of the tradition of liberal skepticism toward Government contributed to its neutral rating in the Philippines.  Of course, there is the folk wisdom about avoidance of excessive trust, which the prolific Filipino historian, Gregorio Zaide (1907-1986), articulated as: “Ang labis na pagtitiwala ay nagbubunga ng kamatayan [excessive trust leads to death].”
Going back to NGOs in Indonesia and the Philippines, why are they perceived to be less trustworthy and their ratings lower than a 20-nation average, where NGOs got highest marks since 2008?  Are there doubts about their helpfulness (benevolence and/or competence) towards those in need?  I believe these questions are worth pursuing for further research.

Why is business in Indonesia perceived to be more trustworthy than in the Philippines?  Does Indonesian business treat better its internal stakeholders (e.g. thru fairer compensation) and offer better value-for-money goods and services?

To restate some points:  Stronger linkages/partnerships with the Academe may help raise the trustworthiness of NGOs, Business and Government in the Philippines.  Clergy restraint in political involvement is an issue more for the urban elite.


  1. The Church may be perceived as the most trustworthy institution in the country today. But lest they stop meddling in this country's political affairs, I see this perception to erode soon and fast, at least with the educated and informed. The church's most recent political crack (at least that's how I see it) was the "Team Patay, Team Buhay" tarps in the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod. The COMELEC ordered the removal of the controversial tarps, citing violations of its rules on posters for those running for office. The church, however, said it was merely stating an opinion. While it may be true that the church has its rights to its opinions, I, a Catholic myself, would not like it to be opinionated. Let the people decide who their leaders will be, and let NOT the church use its spiritual ascendancy over the laymen to dictate who it thinks OUR leaders should be. If the people think that the RH Bill will produce a more healthy and productive society, let not the Church say we will all burn in hell for that. The church needs to step back, and re-evaluate its role in our society. They are NOT our political advisers, they are our spiritual ones. And lest they start to realize this basic fact, any perception of their trustworthiness will go down, along with their tarps.

  2. But we are like Indonesia as regards the ratings received by (Ind) NGOs (51 %) and Media (77). - NGOs usually profess their objectives and do their fund sharing activities but after raising money dont see any results. An interview with a homeless person said in our project in leadership class mentioned that "why are you always interviweing us? You guys dont come back anyway"