June 5 2010
In the next few days Noynoy will be ascertained as our next President. Winning was the easy part. Now comes the arduous task of governing.
The race for VP is still too close to call. Should Mar succumb, Noy would have lost a vital ally for his reform agenda. Mar can still serve in another capacity but would not be as effective. Despite its being derided, the VP position is constitutionally still the second most powerful, a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Binay winning presents issues. Noy has many challenges but watching his back was not supposed to be one of them. Once aligned against Gloria, the interests of these two gentlemen are no longer so. From the campaign and his family’s actions in the Makati mayoralty race, Binay has shown that he is his own man, financially and now politically one of independent means. He epitomizes the adage that in politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. Unlike Noli de Castro, Binay will not remain a potted plant for the next six years.
Politically the new President can expect little support from the legislature if, as surmised, Oppositionists will head the Senate and the House. His first engagement with the (presumptive?) Chief Justice has not gone on famously so that needs working on. Judicial reform must be high on his New Initiatives and that means getting Mr.Corona on side, principles notwithstanding.
The new president has his work cut out for him. For that he needs to get down to some basics.
Foremost is his health. When Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, coughs the stock drops by 3%. That is how important a leader’s health is to an enterprise. Marcos and Gloria understood this, Erap did not and his administration was all the sloppier for it. Sorry, Shalani, but Noy’s body now belongs to the nation, it is now this country’s most valuable piece of human capital. I won’t get into the smoking, Mr. President, but you really need to get into shape if you are to take on the greatest challenge of your life. Shalani may even be pleased.
The second priority is putting the right team in place. Noy will require the best and the brightest but also the boldest and the bravest. He has a core of technocrats to do the policy and Powerpoint stuff but he also needs savvy operators that will cut through the bureaucracy and get the programs to the people. Too many top-down initiatives get stuck in the middle. He needs managers that not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.
In Justice, DENR, Interior, Customs and BIR he will need brave men and women who are prepared to be at risk to combat the criminals, drug cartels and big time tax evaders.
Early on it is important that Noy set the tone for his Presidency with some visible display of the integrity, frugality and humility of his administration. Foregoing his salary might be a nice touch.
While setting forth the vision for the nation he must also be mindful of the smallest details of his government, the stuff people can relate to in their everyday lives. Government must always remain relevant to the common man. (When I was CEO of a company I worked on the visionary stuff, the so called 25,000 feet view; but I also made sure there were flowers at the entrance and the workers’ bathrooms were clean).
Coming from generations of hardship, people’s expectations for immediate and palpable change are enormous. In seeking to fulfill these Noy will at times disappoint, rekindling criticisms of his abilities and competence. The new President must therefore manage people’s expectations, warn that change will take time and hard work to reverse years of corruption and mismanagement. I believe Filipinos will forego immediate gratification as long as there is hope and trust in his leadership.
At the same time, the new administration must hit the ground running. The time for high-fiving is over.
If there is one quality the new President must display it is determination. In pursuing matters of great import, there are bound to be failures of frequency and sometimes of magnitude. But this should not be reason not to risk, not to undertake bold initiatives. Noy must persevere for only in taking quantum steps can he test the fortitude, willingness and capacity of the nation to become truly great. The Filipino is not there yet but he could be if someone showed him the way.