He Can Win an Election But Can He Run A Country?
“He can win an election but can he run a country?” Rick Ramos of the Inquirer asks a question that once upon a time was asked about Nelson Mandela. This is a question that supporters of Gordon, Teodoro, and Perlas asked BEFORE the elections. This same question is being asked by an Aquino supporter AFTER the elections. The former was PROACTIVE. The latter was just being.. well… an Aquino supporter.
It is not enough to be honest – but one must be competent as well. To the PROACTIVE Filipinos who put on their thinking hats, eliminating Noynoy Aquino as their candidate was a no-brainer. But to those who would rather flash the L sign – these times are a time of rude awakening.
This is one of those moments when given an array of “equal” opinions – some opinions are more “equal” than the rest.The article below, published by the Inquirer highlights the importance of choosing well – or be stuck with remedial measures.
Aug 2, 2010 – The Inquirer, Executive search for P-Noy
Promoting leadership of excellence
By Rick B. Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:58:00 07/31/2010
Filed Under: Government
MANILA, Philippines—He can win an election but can he run a country?”
This was the headline of a newspaper in South Africa when Nelson Mandela was elected President in 1994 after the fall of the apartheid regime.
Thus, the greatest challenge facing a new administration taking over the reins of power is appointing people to top positions in national government from departments to the other agencies, including government-owned and-controlled corporations. All told, there are over 4,300 positions coterminous with the previous president that the Aquino administration has to fill up.
Looking at the appointments of President Benigno Aquino III to his Cabinet and other top positions, it is palpable that there was time constraint in doing a deep search for candidates. This is understandable since the camp of Aquino apparently was not prepared for taking over the government and running it.
Mr. Aquino said he started talking to prospective Cabinet appointees only after his proclamation by Congress, which he acknowledged as a “mistake.”
Those appointed were either personally known (like classmates) to the President or were referred to him by his supporters in the Liberal Party and the private sector. Others were approached for Cabinet positions based on publicity about them in newspapers and exposure to the broadcast media. Of course, all of the above do not necessarily mean that they have the capability to manage a department or an agency.
The unimpressive lineup of Cabinet members in the Aquino administration can be traced to the political criteria used in the selection process. As the erstwhile chief of staff to then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told this writer in 2002, appointments to senior positions in government are “90 percent connections and 10 percent qualifications!”
The remark was in connection with a mutual friend who was qualified to head a particular department, but was not considered because he had no political connections. He was a high-level officer working then for a multilateral financing institution for 10 years and comfortable with the tax-free dollar compensation and perks of the job.
An analyses of the appointments made would show that if a professional executive search was done as in the private sector, more than half of the Cabinet members would probably not have made it. This is based on the qualifications of the appointees vis-à-vis the positions that they were appointed to.
Academic credentials may be a good start, but what really matter are the track record of accomplishments and integrity in the private sector and/or in public service. Likewise, the stature earned from the record of success and integrity can bring prestige to the office they will occupy.
As I wrote in a series of articles, titled “Why government does not work,” in BusinessWorld in 1994, there was a mismatch between the qualifications of the appointees and the positions they were appointed to.
They may have eminent qualifications but are not suitable for the job. For instance, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee with a doctorate was considered a prize catch by then President Fidel Ramos who appointed him to his Cabinet.
A few years later, Ramos realized his mistake and transferred the poor fellow to another government post better suited for his qualifications.
On July 18, the Inquirer came out with the headline “A few good men in gov’t” on its front page with the drop head “Noynoy hard-pressed to fill vacant jobs in public service.”
The President said he had “difficulty finding good people” to serve in his administration. And after finding them, he said “it is difficult to convince good people to fill up these positions.” Furthermore, he said that there were “close to 5,000 positions” to fill up down to the “director level.”
However, the real problem may be that the “good men” P-Noy is looking for are not applying at all. This is because they do not know what the vacant positions are, the qualifications required and the job descriptions.
The Inquirer report said “Mr. Aquino has been swamped with applications from persons wishing to join his administration since a month before he was sworn into office.” Hence, how can these prospective candidates apply for positions they are not even aware of. This perhaps explains the real difficulty in finding the qualified people to appoint to critical government management posts.
Thus, the question is how would the “good people” know of these “vacant jobs” when they are kept like a “state secret?” Those who know what these positions are would most likely just keep it to themselves and approach only their friends, relatives, acquaintances, colleagues, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters.
On top of having limited choices, the people doing the screening are not equipped because they did not do such work before.
List job openings
What can be done?
First, in the spirit of “transparency and accountability” that Mr. Aquino has embraced, his administration can publish the positions on an official website and in leading newspapers.
This will eventually make the national government an equal-opportunity employer! For sure, the Office of the President will be swamped with applications of “good people” from across the archipelago and from Filipinos abroad.
Second, the Office of the President can constitute a full-time search committee from the private sector that will undertake the vetting process for the remaining positions.
Top Filipino practitioners of executive search and human resources companies can be chosen to form the search committee that will work with the Presidential Management Staff (PMS). Then the National Bureau of Investigation can conduct a thorough check on the personal lives of the candidates.
Third, to further help ensure quality control in the choice of candidates for top positions, a group of highly respected former Cabinet members, who have distinguished themselves in service with competence and integrity, can be organized to review the short list of candidates and the recommendations of the search committee.
The likes of Dr. Alfredo Bengzon, Rainerio Reyes, Guillermo Carague, Delfin Lazaro, Jesus Estanislao and Roberto Ocampo come to mind.
This thorough selection process will help discourage the unemployed and the underemployed (not marketable in the private sector) from even bothering to apply. This will also lessen the patronage system.
Fourth, the search committee, the PMS and the Civil Service Commission can work together to develop a databank of Filipino professionals. With over 10 million Filipinos overseas, composed of workers and immigrants alike, there is a wealth of talent that can be tapped.
In the selection of a Cabinet member who will manage a line department, the candidates must undergo a similar process as when a chief executive officer is chosen in the private sector. Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP), the new president and CEO of Meralco, has said that he will not stay for long at the helm of the utility company and that a search committee will look for his replacement.
Thus, the services of a professional-executive search company will be tapped to identify and interview the short list of candidates for the job. Then the candidates will be interviewed by the search committee that will submit recommendations to the boss (MVP) who will make the final decision.
A similar selection process when choosing the new CEO of Meralco must apply as when Mr. Aquino chooses his Cabinet members. The job of the environment secretary or that of the chair of the Housing and Urban Development Council is as important, if not more, than that of a CEO of Meralco. The same is true in choosing the energy secretary or the chair and CEO of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
Limiting the appointees to former classmates in college, who have hardly distinguished themselves, is not a wise decision.
More than loyalty, friendship and other considerations, what really matter are the sterling qualifications of the candidates. Is the person being chosen because of an outstanding performance in his or her job as a manager or administrator. Or is it because the person was just a vocal critic of the past administration and is media savvy?
There may also be those who have impressive academic credentials, but their work experiences may not show that they are successful in their jobs as reflected in the profitability of the companies they manage.
Another item that professionals in executive search look at is the employment record. Why were there gaps in their job history (translation: why unemployed for a period of time?)
Likewise, what is important is that the ignominy of the past is not repeated by the Aquino administration. The appointments made by former President Arroyo in her nine years in office were a blatant disregard of the merit system.
Never again should a bureau director, terminated for cause by the environment secretary, be promoted two ranks higher as energy undersecretary.
Never again should a bureau director jump over 11 more senior officials (7 assistant secretaries and 4 undersecretaries) and be appointed officer-in-charge of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Never again should a 23-year-old be appointed to the board of directors of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to replace his father who lost in a local election.
Legacy of P-Noy
A legacy that Mr. Aquino can leave behind is a professional civil service so that the new administration in 2016 will no longer fill up the same positions that he has to today. For starters, the chief executive can order a review if all these positions are needed. Can they be reduced to 4,000 or even 3,500 by streamlining government operations?
Afterward, P-Noy can appoint qualified career executive service officers and new professional recruits from the private sector to management positions, from the rank of director to undersecretary.
Thus, at the end of Mr. Aquino’s term, his successor would have an easier job with a professional civil service in place and with less appointments to make.
Of course, all of the above can be made possible when the Aquino administration finally gives a realistic compensation to top and upper-middle (third-level) positions in government.
Considering the responsibilities, they deserve emoluments that would give them dignity and self-respect and help them resist the temptations of corruption.
This is practical and possible because there are only a few thousands of them (3,000) with salary grade 24-33 of third-level positions. There are more than 1.5 million government employees.
Finally, the President should demand excellence from his Cabinet members and other top officials. Otherwise, he will fall into the same quagmire of mediocrity that characterized the administration of his own beloved mother during her term as president.
Thus, “the leadership by example” he said in his inaugural address must be matched by his own endeavor toward excellence. Examples of simplicity, humility, honesty and frugality may not suffice. The same virtues were practiced by the late President Corazon Aquino, but the country did not move forward since there was no leadership of excellence by example.
(Rick B. Ramos was involved in the 1986 presidential campaign of Cory Aquino. He served under her administration in the late 1980s. Later, he became active with NGO work on the environment. He can be reached at email@example.com.)
The advice provided to Aquino by Rick Ramos about Executive Search is par-for-the-course for seasoned exceptional leaders – it is a given. That Aquino needs to be tutored on this matter – says a lot. It says – Aquino was never ready on Day 1. He didn’t have a plan, he wasn’t ready for the job, but the 14th Senate’s No. 1 slacker – deluded himself.
By hitching to Aquino’s “destiny” – the Philippines is “destined” to wind up deeper in the index of failed states, a wider Gini coefficient, a least competitive environment for FDI, and have the highest utility rates in Asia.
AP already raised this issue about Aquino BEFORE the elections (incompetence, favoritism, kamag-anak inc). It is another I TOLD YOU SO MOMENT.
Going back to the festivities, merry-making, euphoria of P. Noys win, and the recent upheavals about the SONA, the Abads, and the Truth Commission – reminds me of a story from an ancient book.
Once when King Belshazzar was banqueting with his lords and drinking wine from the golden vessels of the Temple of Yhwh, a man’s hand was seen writing on the wall certain mysterious words. Frightened by the apparition, the king ordered his astrologers to explain the inscription; but they were unable to read it. Daniel was then summoned to the royal palace; and the king promised him costly presents if he would decipher the inscription. Daniel read it “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” and explained it to mean that God had “numbered” the kingdom of Belshazzar and brought it to an end; that the king had been weighed and found wanting; and that his kingdom was divided and given to the Medes and Persians (Dan. v. 1-28).
MENE, MENE, TEKHEL, UPHARSIN.
Shape up or ship out.