Why discretionary authority is a good thing

maslow

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I am struck by how different and isolated my view about DAP seems to be. I view DAP as a GOOD tool, and have argued consistently to that point since it became a popular issue. I favor significant executive authority and discretionary power. I don’t know how to get a troubled nation going and growing without it.

How does a weak president get the Philippines moving, going against the grain of prior presidential self-dealing and mismanagement? How does a president succeed if he must subordinate his initiatives to checks and balances from institutions that are divided, filled with political players and incompetents and hostile to change?

Do you realize how many senators at the recent DAP hearing questioned the efficacy of specific DAP expenditures? That is, nit-picked Executive choices with their own personal views? Senators Poe, Recto, Osmena and Binay, for sure. Others, too, I think. This illustrates that progress of the Philippines, under a subjugated Executive, would have to be worked, investment by investment, thousands of them, through two huge committees with different ideas of what is good or bad. And the committee members, because it is a collective decision, can personally deny any accountability for anything!

The horror! The horror! Meddlers making the nation’s investment decisions with NO ONE accountable.

I like DAP.

Most Filipinos hate it.

So let’s talk about that.

When we have a disagreement so substantial, it helps to look at the context, or the historical and cultural framing of the respective sides of the debate.

You can correct me if my interpretation is wrong about the Filipino historical, cultural framing. It’s based on personal observation and I’ve made a mistake or two in my life.

The Filipino Side

First of all, no one trusts those in authority in the Philippines, and for good reason. Those in authority have repeatedly taken advantage of their power to rule autocratically and for personal gain, stealing garbage bags full of cash from taxpayers who have worked hard to earn their pay and who sacrificed to remit taxes honorably to the State. Time and time again, taxpayers have been abused. Filipinos are rightfully suspicious

Second, Filipinos are emotional. They both feed and are fed by the sensationalist press, by teledramas that are just a shade away from what really happens, loaded with brutality and cheating and power game-playing. In that sensationalist setting, small things get blown up into big things. Emotions are a great multiplier, a magnifier of importance. A decision someone doesn’t like suddenly converts a well-meaning and respected president into a “dictator”, an impeachable scoundrel, someone who is another self-dealer and thief.

Never mind that the disruption and chaos the critics provoke with their emotional complaints is EXACTLY why the Philippines struggles to get any sustainable growth going.

It is hard to sustain growth if you can’t sustain stable leadership. Or stable support for the leadership.

If the Philippines starts to go backward again, I lay the blame on the people. Not the President.

Interestingly enough, I drafted that line before the President’s SONA.

It seems to me Filipinos don’t know how to build a nation. Because they don’t know how to sacrifice. Don’t know how to trust.

So Filipinos react in explosive fashion if a supposedly trusted president appears to betray them. I say APPEARS to betray them, because, again, they are operating on emotion and not facts. On mistrust and not information.

That’s the Filipino side.

The discretionary authority (accountability) side

My own framing is very different. I grew up in a nation proud of its values and largely trusting and appreciative of its leaders. That Pollyanna notion has eroded recently due to sharp partisan bickering in America, but the values remain in my head and heart.

Furthermore, I served in the military with its clear lines of authority and discipline. And I worked a lifetime for a large corporation, also well structured in layers, one subordinate to another. So the better part of my life has been spent acceding to the authority of others or delegating and respecting subordinates if they did something differently than I would have done it. As long as results were good.

Respect and “letting go” of one’s own ways are important qualities in a successful corporation.

I greatly appreciate the corporate style of achievement, of people motivated as a team to compete for profits. I understand that it is not perfect, that it involves risks, and decisions made with imperfect information, and mistakes made in an earnest effort to move forward. It makes for a challenging, invigorating work style if done well. A corporation fosters a hunger for good information, intelligent reading of the information, plans, action steps, research and development, performance targets, regular merit salary increases, the opportunity for promotions, and incentive payouts for big successes.

It is uplifting. It is productive.

It is rather like Secretary Abad runs DBM.

I like the style so much that I once proposed that it would be a better form of government than the existing Philippine way, which is patterned on an American format but warped by oligarchic fundamentals, feudal dispersion of power to the provinces and cities, and the peculiar “in crowd” trade of favors found in many corrupt cultures.

So I like a president with authority, and who is not afraid to use it.

Waging the Debate

So those are the two sides of our debate. The framings for the participants differ. One is mistrustful and emotional; the other is concessionary and team-oriented.

Let me wage my side of the debate for a moment, and you can wage yours in the discussion thread.

What do we have in a corporation that is different from what we see in Philippine governance?

Hierarchy of Authority and Accountability

There is a clear structure in a corporation, and respect for that structure. There is a big boss and little bosses and a hierarchy of, if not respect, at least obedience. Free speech is tempered by prudence, or the risk of losing promotional opportunities if one offends one of the bosses. It’s not like the chaotic democratic way of open criticism that eventually generates a lack of respect for the leadership and often leads to partisan bickering, turmoil and lack of continuity.

Indeed, interpersonal politics is what undermines corporations that DO NOT get their players and structure right. Interpersonal politics in a corporation is just like political power-playing, and it is destructive.

The well-crafted corporation has a discipline that democracy lacks, a clear delegation of responsibilities and accountability. The boss runs his area and if he fails at his assigned responsibilities, he is held accountable. He does not get to wait to the next election to justify himself. He is fired.

Philippine government has a similar hierarchical structure, but it does not have the same clear authorities. Voters make a lot of the staffing decisions, and they are often poor decisions.

Secretary Roxas oversees LGUs but has no authority over them. BIR must shame them to try to get tax revenues up.

Laws form constraints, forming a cumbersome web of inefficiency and control. Some appointments are difficult to make and difficult to undo. Justice Secretary De Lima operated four years before being confirmed. Senators stayed in office for months after having been accused of corruption. They were not suspended as a matter of ethical prudence.

There are not a lot of competent people to move into vacant slots. There are few career development plans and little succession planning.

Government tends to be an uncontrollable, slow-oozing mush, twitching under new leadership now and then. It is not an organization of crisp decision-making and action.

Intelligence

Intelligence has two facets, information and the ability to put it together in successful ways.

Corporations are expert at it. They invest huge sums in knowing the competition and their markets and customers’ changing tastes. They invest in research and development to stay ahead of the competitive curve.

Democracy’s biggest failing is its inability to do that kind of structured thinking, of analytics and looking ahead and moving stepwise toward measured targets. Except for high-quality executives like Secretary Abad and Secretary Purisima. Who are criticized in the Philippines for being little dictators.

Democracy also does not typically get and disseminate good information to the voting public. Rather, what is produced is spin and smoke and deceit. The best funded advertising campaign often wins the election. The candidate does not win it. Today’s “intelligence” is dirtied up by social media that create a hostile, undisciplined, poorly informed network of negativity and distortion. Democratic “intelligence” generates stupid decisions, like boxers as legislators and plunderers as mayors and senators. The Philippines operates a democracy with citizens broadly uninformed about choices and platforms and the damage done by bad choices.

Democracy is also very poor at putting information together successfully. When you work through two super-committees, one with over 400 members, each member jostling for position, and the other with 23, and have them working AGAINST the other elements of government – executive and judicial – you have a pretty dysfunctional organization. The beginning of each sitting session has each legislator slapping 20 or 30 bills onto the table to demonstrate that he is an active legislator, and then everyone goes home and nothing much gets done that is well prioritized and productive.

Fifteen years for RH. Then off to the Supreme Court under challenge. Same with cybercrime. Year after foot-dragging year for FOI. No divorce bill. No cutting edge legislation at all. No ability to act crisply or purposefully. Talk talk talk. Showboating and poor levels of competence among the super-committee members are the opposite of the disciplines found in a well-run corporation which is DRIVEN to produce.

A corporation seeks to get everyone on the same team, not have checks and balances destroying the teamwork. The main check in a corporation is the Audit Committee, and that committee has a hard, respected role to play that is not at odds with corporate objectives.

Democratic information and intelligence are dumb and dumber. No question. Corporate information and intelligence are aimed at one thing: success.

There is no measure of success in the democratic Philippines, only an annual blundering from one woozy and wobbly milestone to another.

And the nation’s president does not see the need for FOI.

Different clocks

Time is often not important to achievement in Philippine governance. The ho hum attitude toward FOI displayed by the House of Representatives is a perfect example.

Time is a vital resource in a corporation. Goals have a stop-watch attached. Every project has deadlines that cross with other performance timelines. You can’t miss them. Performance has near-term and long-term shadings.

A corporation works with a sense of urgency. An energy. A drive.

The Philippine government kinda works sometimes.

President Aquino, tooled with DAP authority, actually MOVED the Philippines like it has never been moved before. 60,000 classrooms in three years. Roads across the nation. Improved airports and docks and military preparedness and disaster preparedness. He moved in executive fashion.

He took charge.

So refreshing to me.

So horrifying to Filipinos.

“He’s a dictator!”

“Impeach Aquino!”

Maslow was a corporate guy, Murphy was a Filipino

Maslow wrote about how to motivate employees. How to get them energized to produce year after year. Murphy is a joke, a saying, a truism. Murphy’s Law says that “if anything can go wrong, it will.” And Murphy is the culprit who makes sure things go wrong.

Murphy roams the halls of DOTC and DOE and DILG and screws things up. He’s a pro.

Corporations work hard to diminish Murphy’s influence, and to get people in a positive frame of mind about their job. They invest in “Human Resources”. They train employees and managers, give regular reviews, entice good results with performance bonuses, constantly coach and counsel staff.

The Philippines appoints friends and people owed favors, and Murphy comes along every time.

It seems to me that President Aquino has worked in a true executive mode. How rare to see a professional cabinet of honest people diligently pursuing agreed upon goals.

Filipinos mistrust the whole bunch. Or if one slips up, the whole team is suspect. And the guy who hired the screw-up is obviously incompetent.

What a way to run a country.

Recommendations

  1. I’d suggest Filipinos learn to let go of their neediness. Let go of the irrational and destructive demand that things be 100 percent “their way”, or declare it “wrong”. There are many ways to get to Rome, or even Manila.
  2. Demand information, yes. Insist on FOI. Scream it loudly. Understand the way government works in ways that Nancy Binay cannot grasp, for her failure to study.
  3. I’d suggest that Filipinos insist on a strong Office of the President and then vote smart to fill that office. The nation simply can’t move if you tie the hands of the top executive. It becomes a nation run by committee, by unwieldy consensus, by no one. With no personal accountability, ever.
  4. DAP is a tool. Or was. It worked. It was an executive success, not an executive failure. A strong executive is not a dictator. He is a mover and shaker. You want a wimpy nation, kick out the strong performer.
  5. I’d suggest Filipinos get their evaluations right. Use information well, put it together intelligently, and get rid of emotion and suspicion as a basis for making decisions.

Turn the Philippines into a mover and a shaker. Not an ineffective, accountability-deficient glob of unmoving mush.

Comments
48 Responses to “Why discretionary authority is a good thing”
  1. cha says:

    Yours is not an isolated view on DAP. Many Filipinos, from both ends of the economic spectrum and in between, have actually spoken for DAP. (Even the World Bank President has weighed in.)

    Unfortunately, the often agenda-driven if not superficially-inclined Philippine media only ever gives more attention to the naysayers than they do the rest. Social media has been bursting with more supportive commentary from both learned and ordinary Filipinos that just seem mysteriously invisible to most of mainstream media. (But that’s really a topic for Mariano)

    DAP was a program that effectively responded to the needs of that time wherein it was conceived. It was the early years. The President was newly elected on the wave of sympathy and blind faith amongst many Filipinos in the legacy of his parents and ultimately his own trustworthiness. He did not yet as yet have the political upper-hand over the Legislative that he eventually got to put on and wave around and got both Upper and Lower house dancing to his tune like Michael Jackson’s sparkling white gloves. DAP moved things in the accelerated fashion they thought it would with the nary a pip nor squeak from the Legislative.

    Aah,what should we say then of the previously revolutionary red-clad Congressmen and party-list representatives who suddenly decided a change in their color palette might just win more gullible folks to their side? Life is a never-ending peach, they might have thought to themselves. Apparently they didn’t realise that the one brush they used for painting the town red had DAP written all over it.

    And their colleagues in the Senate who likewise availed of the privilege that was offered to them by DAP and now have also come to resent DAP? They’re like the starving guests that came to your party and feasted over every last bit of morsel from your buffet table only to turn on you later when they came to know what they already to knew; that your buffet offerings came not from the five star caterer they wished you’d hired but from the lowly carinderia and turo-turo that they have secretly patronised ever since they’ve learned to eat with their hands.

    So yours, I repeat, is not an isolated view on the benefits of DAP. The only difference is that yours are clean hands that write that, while some supposedly honorable fellows forgot to wash theirs first.

    • Joe America says:

      How nice to hear from you again, Cha. I trust that you and your family remain healthy of body and rich of spirit.

      Indeed you are right. That is one of the unfortunate things that Supreme Court legalisms can’t take into consideration, that a transition WAS needed to break from the past. And the bowing of the legislature to the President was helpful, as well, for its time, but this version of patronage politics has run its course I hope.

      DAP was effectively over before the Supreme Court ruled, but the matter of how to have a vibrant Executive function remains. The solution is in institution of a new process between Executive and House where the House sets up an operating function to deal with expense adjustment requests from Executive, and to do that forthrightly with a minimum of political gameplaying. I hope that occurs. And I hope the Supreme Court corrects the implied “bad faith” in its ruling, and the assignment of criminality for the good faith acts. If there was a Constitutional crisis between Executive and the Court, I attribute it to the heavy handed ruling and lack of overall vision by the Court. If the Constitution does not respect good faith efforts of government executives, or the pragmatics of the time, then we are in deep doodoo.

      • cha says:

        The Supreme Court must have been infected with the ‘infallibility syndrome’ when they spent time with the bishops and other religious types during the RH Bill hearings. Hehehe.

        Happy to be back, Joeam .

  2. josephivo says:

    Filipinos like the centavos in a figure more than all the figueres before, the difference between 10 billion and 100 thousand peso is irrelevant. The same for laws, the exception on the exception is more important than the purpose of the law. They fight buy boasting on the amount of detail they can recite, not on demonstrating their understanding of an underlying problem. The details of the packaging are always more important than the content. And by the way if you state that Murphy is their guidance. You are wrong. They love O’Toole’s comment on Murphy’s law: “Murphy was an optimist”.

    More DAP? No to do more of the same. More DAP? Yes, to initiate DRAMATIC changes. Like the Chinese autocratic system was able to reduce poverty as never before.

    • Joe America says:

      Ha, O’Toole’s Law it is!

      DAP is dead. Dramatic change can occur if the Executive and House set up a dynamic budgetary function. Dynamic rarely happens with committee control, I think..

  3. Sal says:

    How truly refreshing to read a positive opinion about discretionary authority. Being myself a product of Corporate America, I cannot help but agree with your comparison between corporations and the Philippine government. I have often wondered if a top corporate executive would make an effective Philippine president.

    If I might suggest, please use less TLA’s (three-letter acronyms ) in your articles for those of us who are not fortunate to reside in the Philippines and are not hip on the lingo. I had to stop and google SONA, DBM, LGU, FOI, etc. to make sense of what I was reading and it kinda broke the momentum. Otherwise I thoroughly enjoy reading your take on Philippine current events and wish you continued success.

    • Joe America says:

      Good of you to stop by and comment, Sal. Yes, I agree of late I’ve gotten lazy on the acronyms, presuming that readers are all familiar with them. Which obviously they are not. As the readership of this blog grows, I’d better shape up. 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion, and I’m glad you agree that corporate disciplines could benefit the Philippines.

  4. Maxie says:

    “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” ~ Pogo Possum

    We are a nation of whiners. Just listen to the people interviewed on television who complain that all the economic gains of the Philippines have not improved their lives. Listen to the reds-turned-peach protest that DAP is anti-poor (new word for proletariat?).

    Do we even realize how many decades it took for us to be the basket case of Asia? And we expect one guy to work miracles in 6 years? We can make a composite of the best and the brightest in all of history of the world to lead the PH out of the rut. I bet that he isn’t going to succeed. Not unless we the people are willing to do our share in the difficult task of nation-buildiing!

    And the media … oh the media is more than happy to join in the bashing. Rappler reports that 25% were Angry after the SONA. What about the Happy 55%? Why banner only the 25%. How about the 75% who felt Inspired? I wish someone will write about the state of Philippine media.

    Indeed, its more fun to heckle on the sidelines!

    • Joe America says:

      I am doing an article on Monday about Rappler. Time to push back.

      • vernon says:

        Do it gently, Joe. As if I meant that. Nah!

        There’s a host of others in the media who deserve more than just passing scrutiny. About time some of them are put in place. Yet, in Manila, what gets attention are not reported facts but the controversies some media practitioners weave around them with malice. The “envelop” practice that prevailed during the Marcos years, I gather, is still around. It comes with a new monicker – “Crisis PR Management”. I can still remember the styles of writing and my brother over there still mention names of so-called “practicing conduits” & “PR Consultants”.

        Go for that article!

        More power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Indeed.

        vernon

    • Killer says:

      You know what would be better? If foreign media reported on the SONA as it should be reported: factually.

    • jym says:

      The poor always complained about being poor courtesy of their own laziness and aided by local media who does not chooses well in selecting people to be interviewed with in connection to SONA. If i was the field broadcaster and in the course of interview came across a person who complains bitterly about the government; I would tell the MFA to get a JOB and STOP waiting manna from heaven. You want to change your life condition, then go get yourself a work. It pissess me off to see fellow folks who complained and yet do NOTHING!

      • Joe America says:

        Thanks for stopping by, jym. I suspect many share your view. The difference between your world and that of the day laborer or minimum skill person in the Philippines is that you see job opportunities around you, but they do not. They are poorly educated, there are few jobs in the market, they do extraordinarily hard work for P150 or P200 a day with no job security, no social security, no health care. For a life time. I can understand how Rizal’s “indolent Filipino” becomes indolent. Call it burnout.

        I’m thankful I don’t have to walk in those shoes, because they are worn and tired and happiness is a jug of tuba.

        I would not tell them to get a job. I’d tell them to vote better.

  5. Killer says:

    Kuya Joe,

    Just a quick, tiny thought on FOI (and the Anti-dynasty Bill, for that matter). A friend and I were speaking about this yesterday and he presented what I thought to be a notion worth considering: given the current nature of the battlefield, Mr. Aquino, my friend proposes, needs to consolidate his troops and ensure they are dug in deep if he is to get anywhere with his plans for progress. Both bills may present…erm…”challenges” for a number of said troops.

    For now.

    Both bills will be passed in 2016, as one of Noy’s last acts as president. The ribbon on the package, if you will. And, depending on who you are — his gift or his curse.

    • Joe America says:

      Interesting thought, Killer. I also wondered if that is the reason for the delay. Too many bones in the cornfield. I hope Mr. Aquino writes a book in a few years that outlines some of the gory details he had to deal with, like coming into office midyear 2010 and finding all the money for the whole year already spent. And the cancellation of some of the pet projects and their kickbacks. Made lots of enemies, I’m sure. I’d imagine getting from fundamentally corrupt to absolutely clean would jail more than half the leadership if it were done in one day, as if by Thor’s lightning bolt. So the President probably said clean up your departments and I’ll softshoe this FOI thing for a few transition years, so we can make sure the bones are buried deep.

      • RHiro says:

        Pls note that the first year Aquino was in office the economy registered the highest growth rate ever recorded in 30 years. This under the previous governments budget.

        “Stepping Up Disbursements by Improving Absorptive Capacities in Agencies.
        Weak public spending, especially in the first half of 2011, slowed down Philippine economic growth last year. In October 2011, the Aquino government launched the PhP72 billion Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP). The DAP strategy entailed identifying slow moving projects, including unspent allocations, and then realigning them to i) agencies that can quickly disburse funds, ii) programs and projects that have poverty reduction impact, and iii) programs and projects that have big multiplier effects. While the strategy helped to boost public spending in the last quarter of 2011, the mere realignment of funds does not guarantee sustained improvement in public spending to address growth and poverty targets. A long term strategy should address internal bottlenecks in national government agencies, which include low absorptive capacity of agencies and weak monitoring and evaluation system, among others.”
        World Bank PHILIPPINE QUARTERLY
        UPDATE July 2012
        Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Unit
        East Asia and Pacific Region

        Pres. Aquino is the driver of the ship of state. It is the ship itself that is not built for speed.
        The government agencies themselves are NOT geared to accept high octane fuel.

        PUMP PRIMING IN ADVANCED ECONOMIES WORK QUICKLY AS THE PUMPS AND ALL IT’S LINKAGES AND SAFEGUARDS ARE BUILT AND IN PLACE.

        WE STILL HAVE TO BUILD OURS.

      • Killer says:

        Writing that book is practically mandatory for him, in my view. I also think he’ll do it when he is no longer in a position for political gain.

        On that note, I hope the president leads a quiet, private life after 2016. And that media never bothers him again. They owe him at least that much. Fricking parasites.

        • Joe America says:

          Ahahahaha, line of the year “Fricking parasites.” I literally laughed out loud. You’ll enjoy my forthcoming blogs about the media, for sure.

          • Killer says:

            Enjoy? Never expected myself to do otherwise, sir. Keep fighting the good fight, Joe. Be assured that at least this Filipino appreciates it.

  6. macspeed says:

    @Joe Am
    You are very accurate, the Philippine government should be run based on Corporate platform.
    Where in there are Managers, Lead and his members for each department. Where in each
    actions of members are scrutinize by each Lead, and the Lead are subject to meeting with the
    manager.

    Anything that was approved of Department manager has to pass the corporate checker such
    as the Senior manager. Unchecked documents should not be approved by Senior manager.

    All projects expenditure are to be checked by COA which is already established department.
    What was happening was, there were no checkpoints for each department expediture. There
    were no process on how to run each department. The system being used were obsolete and
    builds Red tape procedure. Corruption were the main reason why the old system were not
    revised at all.

    Because of these irregularites, the taxpayer, whom were already emotional people tends to
    believe even a very slight hint, that the President did plundering on DAP. The Taxpayer as
    well were driven to more negative actions by the opposition party to discredit the current
    PNOY government.

    The Supreme court should act as Senior manager only when there is actual plundering,
    but not in the case of DAP which has been spended and spending on truth and as required
    basis. Investigation for each penny spent from DAP should be done after PNOY group has
    submitted for audit, however PNOY group are still on the spending process to accomplish
    what is essential such as the victims of Yolanda. What the Supreme court did for announcing
    the DAP is unconstitutional were not really the right time. They could have spent more time
    on finding its constitutionality rather than finding fault on good actions of PNOY and judging
    the use of DAP as unconstitutional.

    Governance includes very experienced persons for all brances of government. Each
    branches should talk to other branches before a decision is made public to avoid agitation
    to emotions of people. If their decison is unsure, they can hire a third party or they can
    rent ISO 9000 to evaluate their decision for the good of the country before releasing to media.
    If the decision is not 100% unconstitutional, they may reverse it, however via technicalities.
    This will be lessons learnt, and it is happening in a corporate system.

    • Joe America says:

      Very good, Mac. I especially like your point that the Supreme Court could have worked in the nation’s best interest by using a broad interpretation of the Constitution’s intent to confirm that good faith efforts that accomplished good things are constitutional, rather than burrowing down into the legalistic details which, when put together, get translated into saying that good faith efforts that accomplish good deeds are not what a President is supposed to do. And they could have looked at precedent, what prior administrations did and minimally have ruled FORWARD, rather than backward against only one administration.

      The one thing I would say is that I do believe President Aquino has moved a long way toward a corporate style of governance. He has hired good people, delegates to them, and follows up carefully. He believes in measurable objectives. The problem with his “Development Plan” is that it is so intricate and detailed that the common man would never understand it. Perhaps he needs to popularize and simplify his few top objectives: GDP growth and incidence of poverty, for example, and focus energies on them. Not get bogged down trying to do everything. Then, as RHiro points out, the leadership is not so much the problem as that the ship is almost unsteerable. How many provinces or cities use measurement by objective? Zero? And as for competency? What qualifications do wives and cousins and classmates have?

      • cha says:

        That the President has moved a long way toward corporate style of governance, I agree.
        I was watching this program the other day with the DAR Sec. Gil de los Reyes speaking about DAP in relation to his department and the agrarian reform program and one of my take-aways from what I heard is exactly that .

        Sec. De los Reyes speaks competently about the issues he has had to address upon assuming office and the corrective actions they have had to institute within the department. (I got the same impression of competence and being on top of things when I heard some of the other Cabinet members, like Purisima and Abad himself, speak at the Senate hearing on DAP.)

        De los Reyes also gives an insight into how the Cabinet members work together under Aquino’s leadership and the advantages gained from how Aquino has organised his Cabinet into clusters with key issues/ directions as the basis for the groupings (e.g. Poverty alleviation, peace and security etc). My impression is that the Cabinet is staffed with and is working as if it were any good corporate management team.

        Here’s the link to the tv program (SMS) Say mo, Sec? It’s a bit long-ish and in Tagalog too (sorry about that Joe) but worth the time if one really wants to understand or even just get a view of how they’re government is being run.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=HOH4D2DhsBE

        • Sal says:

          Cha, thanks for that youtube link. It was very educational for me. Sec de los Reyes impressed me with his professionalism, knowledge of his area of responsibility and excellent communication skills (which helped me brush up on my Tagalog). He and his fellow cabinet members should tour the universities and have these kinds of dialogue with the students to educate them on how the government really works (minus the political theatrics) and what kind of management and leadership skills they bring to the table. I was truly very impressed and have renewed hopes for my motherland.

  7. Jose Guevarra says:

    Hi Joe. I am really not sure how I feel about DAP. On the one end, it did bring a lot of good to the Philippines. President Aquino is a trustworthy man and he did put DAP into good use. Still, not every one who will succeed him is as trustworthy as he is. So, yes, I am one of those who remain highly suspicious of our leaders having too much discretionary authority. The likes of GMA and Erap come to mind, never mind the long-gone Marcos. So what do we do now? How can our government win the people’s trust?

    Two things come to mind. Both of these are meant to provide people greater leverage to make sure our leaders also toe the line. One is the FOI bill. No need to elaborate on this, you have done so eloquently. The second one is the Anti-Dynasty bill. This is constitutiionally mandated and it’s been three decades, yet Congress still has to even put in a good first try. With a 100 million people, good leadership surely cannot be monopolized by a few political families. Everyone must have a fair chance to bring in their ideas about moving the Philippines forward. On top of that, it will force the people to seriously go through their choices come election time as they encounter new names and faces each time. Stop them from merely relying on name recall. Make the distribution of political power more equitable, not concentrated on a few who deem themselves as “chosen ones.”

    Maybe when these two conditions become reality in our country, I will be willing to change my mind on DAP. Until then, slowly but surely is the economic way to go in the Philippines.

    • Joe America says:

      Excellent point, Jose, that government needs to EARN trust, and therefore Mr. Aquino should understand that it is not Filipino citizens who are accountable for their lack of trust, but the succession of governments that have betrayed their trust. And your suggested ways to do it are excellent, with FOI and an Anti-Dynasty Bill. I think you are quite reasonable to be skeptical as long as those two matters are not done.

      Indeed, Mr. Aquino is accountable for the current lack of trust by refusing to make FOI a priority.

      I accept the point.

      Score one for an opposing view.

    • Killer says:

      Well argued, Jose. I, for one, believe that the straight and narrow really is, well, particularly straight and severely narrow. I agree with all of your points in principle but I feel I have to back this guy Noy and his methods at the moment; he is getting the job done.

      We have to also note that his asking for a supplemental budget from Congress is a good move–in practical and political terms. This also tells me he just wants to move forward, which is exactly the direction we all need to move in.

      BTW, I expect a review and an amendment of the Administrative Code soon. We can add that to his list of welcome drinks for the new guy/gal come 2016.

      • Jose Guevarra says:

        Hi Killer. No argument from me about Noy. He is good at what he does, though nowhere near perfect, of course. I am more worried about his successors.

        • Killer says:

          True, true, Jose. We REALLY need a good deal of positive change institutionalized as early as possible. I never expected miracles from Noy; his job in my view was to sow good seed. It’s all up to us after that. Cheers.

    • Sal says:

      Jose, you bring up valid points. It brings to mind Pres. Reagan’s “trust but verify”. It sounds like what the Philippine government needs to bring back the TRUST of the citizenry is an office like that of a District Attorney that will audit and prosecute through the Sandiganbayan corruption cases. Is there such a group? If yes, their work needs to be given more visibility to assure Juan de la Cruz that someone is keeping an eye out for the crooks.

  8. manuel buencamino says:

    You have to find a balance between representative or populist government and technocracy. Those two seemingly pull in opposite directions. The trick is to find a way to make them complementary.

    DAP is good in the hands of technocrats who do not lose sight of democratic principles, it is bad in the hands of cold-blooded technocrats and demagogues. In addition, DAP was a tool for governance. Democratic politics is about persuasion and there is nothing more persuasive than discretionary funds in the hands of the executive. But again that is good or bad depending on who is the executive. It’s the price we pay for democracy. You cannot have a democracy if there is no discretion and no compromise.

    I was also for PDAF because it is the reason why I send a representative to the Lower House of Congress, the only institution that handles the purse, the one that taxes and divides the pie. I want to make sure my district gets a slice of it.

    PDAF divided up the pie into equal shares in that it appropriated equal amounts to every district representative over and above what was included in the president’s budget. That in a sense theoreticallly guaranteed my share, although in reality, because the pay-out depended on the president, my congressman had to behave just to get what was the rightful share of my district.

    Now PDAF shares will become line items in the budget. That means I have to elect a congressman with ESP, one who can predict what will happen for the rest of the year so he can include it in the annual budget.

    PDAF was also an excellent governance tool. Although like DAP it all depends on who is the executive. But it allowed for certain adjustments, a quick fix for many of the unforseen events that would require “petty” cash expenditures in the course of a fiscal year.

    In short, if people were a little more nuanced, DAP and PDAF would be seen as doing more good than harm. If there are leaks, then those leaks can and must be plugged. That’s what Abad and the COA has been trying to do respectively. Abad works towards preventing leaks and the COA to hold accountable the causes of those leaks. I am really against the absolutist anti-pork movement because I thought their cure for dandruff was decapitation.

    Let’s face it, DAP and PDAF are immediate and direct solutions. Yes they can be misused as tools for patronage etc. but you take the bad with the good. When PDAF was cancelled, the government was suddenly burdened with several hundred thousand legitimate scholars who did not have the money to re-enroll. There were also those indigent patients who did not have Philhealth or whose coverage did not suffice for treatment or medicines. And what about all those little conveniences for barrio folk like waiting sheds, walkbridges etc.? All gone because of a few thieves and a bunch of do-gooders who didn’t have the nuance to distinguish between a shampoo and a bolo as the right cure for dandruff.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Never ever trust a Filipino with people’s money, period. We all know that DAP was used to buy impeachment vote against Corona that was and will never ever be investigated.

      Never ever trust a Filipino blogsites and Filipino newspapers. They are there not to help the Filipinos but to pit Filipinos against Filipinos.

      DAP is good. DAP is bad. DAP has shown the bad of Benign0…and the good…Benign0 thinks he is the Supreme Court.

    • Joe America says:

      Beautiful dissection of the whole matter, MB. I have nothing to add.

  9. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    STOP DAP NOW! DAP is good for Filipino that is perceived to be Goot.
    Be reminded, folks, Benign0 do not sit in Malacanang forever.
    What if Binay becomes President.
    Will use DAP technology …
    Will use DAP excuses …
    Will use DAP legal technicalities based on Benign0’s …
    DAP GOTTA STOP. DAP GOTTA BE REMOVED.
    DO NOT GIVE THE NEXT ADMINISTRATION the same excuse that DAP apologist use.
    BenignO should know this. Or, if he doesn’t he’ll be haunted by this DAP legacy.

  10. Bing Garcia says:

    Franklin Drilon says Congress will redefine the term savings. I think this should put a stop to the confusion of some people.

    • Joe America says:

      Right. It becomes such a simple matter. Savings generated by any project killed or under budget can be applied NOW rather than waiting to the end of the year. Common sense if one merely asks what is best for the nation. A cynic might say the Supreme Court seems not to think that concept is important . . . what is best for the nation. I am cynical on occasion. haha

    • Sal says:

      I think having Congress better define “savings” is the correct solution since it is the legislature that comes up with the laws and the judiciary can only interpret them as written. If laws are written clearly then there is very little wiggle room and the job of the judiciary becomes a slam dunk.

      I also used to be cynical about the Supreme Court when it ruled that the declaration of Martial Law by Marcos was constitutional. Until I had the opportunity to discuss it with then Chief Justice Querube Makalintal in an informal setting (where I did not have to maintain my composure or watch my French) and he made me understand how the law was written and followed by Marcos. He ended by saying (in my own words) “Marcos followed the law as written. We can debate the morality of it but there is no debating the legality of it. If we do not want to give that power to the President, then congress needs to rewrite the law.”

  11. Dolly Gonzales says:

    I like DAP, too.

    I was not distracted by the noise surrounding it. I saw from the start that it was a diversion, to keep attention away from the PDAF scam players. It was mostly politics. All in a day’s work for a politician.

    Until the SC ruling, that is.

    More specifically, the short part where the SC turned justice on its head, and ascribed liability where there should have been presumption of good faith.

    Evidently, that was a game-changer. The critics believed the ruling pulled them up to the exalted heights of the SC, their cause validated. The truth was, the SC (led by the ones bypassed for Chief Justice?) stepped deliberately down into the gutter of political pettiness. They provided a harmful weapon to the theretofore unarmed opponents of Aquino.

    Despite this saddening injustice, I’m glad Pres. Aquino reacted as strongly as he did. It was comforting to witness how he, Sec. Abad, and the other Cabinet members stood head and shoulders above everyone else. They were the only ones who were sincerely working to make the people’s lives better.

    And their critics?

    Plunderers and their allies.
    Obviously, they’d love to see the President charged and/or jailed like them. (Sec. Abad as well, the one who closed the cookie jar’s lid.) Impeaching Pres. Aquino is impossible. It seems that one strategy is to simply wait for 2016, but drag his approval rating down to weaken his endorsement power, by loudly criticizing everything he does. For this, the communist groups are the perfect pawn. (First step was to hijack the originally-anti-corruption Million People March group. Done. Deafening silence on the VP’s P2Billion parking building.)

    Communist militants.
    It’s doubtful they make noise for free. Whatever the case, they (i.e., China) stand to gain if the thorn on their side is removed. His unexpected move to bring the territorial dispute before the UN tribunal has inconvenienced them, to say the least.

    Former-but-now-disillusioned supporters.
    If some groups/individuals support candidates for influence, then the RH Law is a good example. When some sectors tried to demand that Pres. Aquino do their bidding, but he refused as he believed it would not benefit the public, they turned against him. Same with certain individuals, for more personal reasons, perhaps.

    Those seem to be the harmful opponents. They don’t care about the Filipino public, just themselves.

    The way I see it, the harmless ones, ironically enough, are those with purely political objectives. They may even have a sincere desire to serve the nation. But, first, they need to install an ally-president in 2016.

    I think, among this harmless group are the supporters of both the President and the VP during the 2010 elections (the Noy-Bi faction). If the LP’s standard bearer wins, the VP’s supporters are out. (And vice versa.) Their reporter-allies are a strong asset here, which may explain the shameless bias in news reports nowadays. DAP, after all, is a creation of Sec. Abad, an LP leader.

    The VP appears to be the common presidential candidate of all the harmful and the harmless opponents.

    The question I wonder about most now is:
    What happens when the Ombudsman finds probable cause in the plunder case? When the VP’s jailed, who replaces him? A lot has been invested (money, credibility, journalistic integrity, etc).

    PS. Government as an “uncontrollable, slow-oozing mush”… Favorite! 🙂

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