Dirty dishesis not just Boracay nowadays. The whole Philippines looks like one. But how does one clean up? Doesn’t look like a leader with a short fuse cuts it. Terminating the contract with all of Miascor nationwide over a few (link)? Closing Boracay and destroying livelihoods to “clean”? Or maybe indeed just to drive everyone away and put up a casino? Threatening to shoot drivers of colorum (unlicensed) public vehicles? Challenging the Maute to burn down Marawi? Of course there are promises like promising to end crime in 3-6 months. Who believed that sort of crap?

Short-term mentality

Instant gratification seems to be an issue with a lot of Filipinos. Thinking problems can all be solved quickly, like in action movies where heroes do exactly that. Long- or medium-term work, real work on improving fundamentals isn’t that visible, so it is not rewarded with social prestige. Maintenance is even less prestigious, and overhauling badly maintained systems is even worse as blame can be attached to it. Often the solution is just to buy something new. Nothing has really been fixed with the MRT3, but the Metro Manila Subway is all set to be built (link). Will it also rot?

The Luzon railway lines built by the Spanish and the Americans practically no longer exist today. The Bicol line still somehow worked in the 1970s, though it was rotting. Plenty of railway lines in Europe are as old as or older than the Bicol line – built in the 1930s – or the 1890s line to Dagupan. EDSA, the circumferential road around Metro Manila (also called C4 by planners) has at least survived from the times of Quezon – a leader with real long-term foresight. Just like the structure of government dates back to his times – and probably could use a massive IT-based reorganization.

Just details

But many of the entitled in positions of power and privilege tend not to care much about detail. That is something underlings do for them – at home and in the office. Politicking is important. Getting real work done is beneath them. Except possibly for soldiers and housewives. Why? Because soldiers have to take care of details from Day One of their training, down to their boots. Housewives because they also have to take care of details some more entitled men might scorn. There will also be elite housewives who just order maids around of course, but also hands-on ones.

The last former soldier to be President was Ramos – and he did fairly well. So did a lot of those who were Presidents after the war who passed through the challenges of wartime. They knew hardship. They knew situations where you are dead if you don’t watch the details. Even Marcos was a much better-organized leader than both (entitled) civilians Erap and Duterte. And there was a housewife who was President and did fairly well (link), inspite of coming from a very privileged family. But probably the challenges of bringing up her children while her husband was in jail steeled Cory.

True stewardship

A soldier, a housewife – or a former jeepney driver like President Magsaysay was, among other things – will know how to take care of stuff. Will know that details matter, not just ordering people. Many of the entitled just act like one consul who had a half-door removed that allowed his employees to talk to applicants without letting them into the office immediately – because his wife got caught in it with her Imeldific hair. The result was that all just walked in, making work much harder. Get whatever bothers me out, at once. And don’t complain to me. Or else – I will “jetski”.

You can’t do that as a leader I think – unless of course you are the kind of general who lets his enlisted men carry him over the water, who do exist in the Philippines. A real leader gets details from those working for him to get the big picture – and acts on it by delegating work back to all. Threatening to shoot or accusing people of being funded by imagined enemies is simply the petulance of a brat (link) who never truly faced a rival. Who is to help those who mistake tantrums for “leadership”? Who look down upon system thinking, attention to detail and perseverance?

True stewardship means having the drainage fixed so that waters return to clean and stay clean.  It means getting the MRT3 working again like it is almost new.  It can mean getting factories – not casinos – to come to the country to give jobs to the people. Didn’t Aquino manage to get Japanese, German and other factories to come to the Philippines? One good point not even critics can deny! But it didn’t get him much respect. Swearing, threatening and punching walls is what some see as “leadership”. VP Leni doing her work (link) is true stewardship. When will that be valued more?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 29 March 2018