A Big Mess..

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

3 thoughts on “A Big Mess..

  1. http://opinion.inquirer.net/112149/kill-boracay

    President Duterte recently declared that he would support recommendations to close the entire island of Boracay in order to address its environmental problems. If the President makes good on his threat, he will be applying to Boracay the same solution he has used on the nation’s drug problem.

    There’s a drug problem? Kill! There’s a Boracay problem? Close!

    The President’s inclination to use the most severe solution — even with a range of other options available — betrays a lack of patience to make distinctions on the different shades of a crisis. It shows that the President views the world in black and white. It reveals that the Philippines’ leader is blind to the nuances of his people’s problems, and the degrees of liability of the multitude of actors.

    Most lamentably, the President is insensitive to the great collateral damage that his action brings.

    Never mind the thousands of orphans and widows whose lives are irreparably scarred and whose futures are permanently altered by the loss of a loved one. Never mind if the loved one killed was not a peddler of illegal drugs but a mere user suffering addiction because of a family problem, economic reasons, or social circumstances. Never mind if the loved one slain had potentials for rehabilitation. In the mind of our President, all drug personalities are lurking murderers, rapists, and robbers.

    Never mind the many resorts and other business establishments that are compliant with environmental regulations on Boracay. Never mind if these businesses contracted huge loans the repayment of which is dependent on continuing commercial operations. Never mind if they face the risk of loan foreclosure..

  2. https://www.facebook.com/doyromero/posts/10155938602298880

    Excuse me, we are not looking for a savior from despotism

    We are not looking for a single person to lead us, for no single person can. We are looking for leadership that represents the collective wisdom of the people as distilled in a set of principles and strategies for inclusive governance, inclusive development, and inclusive security.

    We need real, principled, programatic, disciplined political parties supported by organizations, movements, and fronts that compete in articulating these principles and strategies. We need political parties that are able and ready to govern on the basis of operational platforms and programs they propose and which the people approve in elections, from time to time. We need party government, not a single person government.

    A people who look for a savior to look up to are an indolent people, unwilling to create the system by which it is they who eventually decide how government should be run, by whom, for whom, where, and why.

    We are a people struggling against a regime pregnant with despotic potential, yet we remain pillarized into fragmented factions, each pillar with factional leaders on top, supporters at the middle, and followers at the bottom. We all cast stones at the despot and his minions, yet we do so without concerted, ensemble, or bayanihan-level leadership.

    It is time our leaders and their close advisers cast away their respective images of themselves as potential saviors, and build the collective leadership this country needs to overcome despotism. Failure to do so is exactly the revenge of Ferdinand Marcos, as we would in effect be trying to erase his mark on the nation by following the very savior model he pioneered.

    • https://joeam.com/2018/03/30/why-the-philippine-propaganda-machine-prospers/#comment-248699

      Per Rep Kit Belmonte (partial):

      There were lots of other things to do in the succeeding days. But on Day 6, after everything was basically stabilized, and we were finally ready to pack up and leave, Sec Mar finds time to check up on the market. To say that he was frustrated is an understatement. The firemen had merely hosed down the mud, spreading it around even further. And because the available pay loader had suffered a flat tire the previous day, the garbage and debris remained uncollected. One could see the worms crawling in the mud amidst the all that squalor.

      The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) General and all of his men got a reprimand, the market master was dispatched to buy shovels, and every one – including his entourage and escorts – were made to buckle down and start clearing the mud and garbage.

      Mind you, these were the same men who followed him into the eye of the storm not so many days ago. These were the same men who helped clear the road to Dolores. And these were the same men who made the dangerous boat rides to relieve the isolated offshore islands. The firemen in particular spent the night of the storm evacuating people who waited till the 11th hour, and there is no accounting the number of people they had rescued. In my eyes, they were heroes – every one of them. And I am sure that they were all pissed at Sec. Mar for the censure they received and the manual labor he made them do! No matter how exhausted everyone was, no matter what they had accomplished before, in his eyes the work was not yet done, and no one had the right to slack off. He led them himself in that clean up operation!

      After seeing how news of his motorcycle slide was taken out of context by people who were not there, I think it is a good thing that there was no media in the market that day. If there was, I am pretty sure that all that drive and determination, all that attention to detail and leadership by example would have been reduced to a seemingly epal photograph of a perceived contender for the highest office in the land, shoveling mud and picking up trash in the market to curry popular favor. No, for us who were there that day, Mar Roxas was not popular. But he got the job done!

      And speaking of that motorcycle ride, there were two cabinet secretaries, two congressmen, and two generals making those last 20 hectic kilometers from the stalled convoy to Dolores in the tail of the storm, and approaching twilight in borrowed motorbikes. Among ourselves, we had several combat veterans, several experienced motorcycle riders, and a couple of iron man finishers. And let me tell you that most of us would have quit to wait for the rest of the convoy if not for Sec Mar leading the way.

      There was a whole off-road stretch of at least fifty meters of mud capped by an eerie cemetery that made every one’s knees tremble (from fatigue or fear, I don’t know). Of course, we all fell, slipped, and slid in the sometimes knee-deep mud and fallen trees. But it was only Sec. Mar’s picture that was published, out of context, by someone who waited for him from the relative safety of the road.

      But it was all worth it when we saw the gratitude and relief in the eyes of the people of Dolores when we finally broke through. They were no longer isolated, they had not been left alone, and their national government was with them. Together, they were going to get through this crisis and rebuild.

      The wise man says that the problem solver is always the least appreciated, his successes un-acknowledged, his every shortcoming magnified. Fixated on our image of the populist politician, we mistakenly think of his direct and no-nonsense approach as being high handed and elitist. In attempting to fit him into the mold of traditional politics, we dismiss his willingness to get down and dirty to handle the brass tacks of the job as simply desperate, epal attempts to garner media mileage and gain public sympathy. Always skeptical, we attribute other motives to the problem solver for simply trying to do his job. But in the end, the wise man says, it is not the populist nor the vigilante, but the problem solver who truly serves the people.

      My past experiences have often made me a skeptic. But one thing is clear in my mind: for those 6 days in Eastern Samar, many people were simply trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities: the mayor who left her hospital bed in Manila to be with her people; the planning officer, in over his head when he was made DRRM officer; the governor who deferred his chemo treatments to stay in the command center; the local and international NGOs and relief volunteers who rushed to help without hesitation; the media men and women who were on the ground reporting responsibly from the start; and many others who did their share.

      Like them, Mar Roxas was merely doing his job. He was serving the people.


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