Poor Taste No Ground For Dismissal

It used to be that poor taste was just a social disorder, like bad breath.

No longer.

Questionable taste, or more accurately questioned taste, is now ground for dismissal from public office.

Such was the fate of Tourism UnderSecretary Vicente Romano who had the misfortune to sign off on what was deemed an ill-considered new tourist logo for the country. In what is henceforth to be known as the Romano Doctrine, anybody in Government who makes an unacceptable call on matters of aesthetics will be canned.

It is of no import that taste for logos, like taste for art or music, is subjective; that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that one calls it the way one sees it. If your taste is contrary to some notion of beauty as defined by loud-mouthed politicians (no matter how bad their own tastes or record of accomplishment may be) then you are history in this Administration.

Under this new found doctrine, that the aesthetically challenged have no place in government, then by my count at least half the Cabinet (and the President himself if one is to believe Kris) should be shown the door.

The Romano Doctrine contrasts with a previously established principle called the Robredo/Puno /Alvarez Doctrine. The latter states that no one may be fired for incompetence, for possible corruption or for publicly cheating in golf.

To his credit Romano, unlike some of his peers, was man enough to take the heat for his superiors by resigning under the principle of the buck stops below me. We wish there were more like him in public office. Unfortunately we are stuck with the dishonorable ones.

So add one more position to the 3000 Government vacancies still to be filled. P-Noy complains he has difficulty completing his roster. Well, with the standards of accountability being established in civil service his task just got harder.

In Foreign Affairs the President intimated he would stop the practice of nominating political appointees to juicy foreign posts over career diplomats who have toiled all their lives only to be continually denied their due. The latest list of ambassadors are all Administration friends or funders with no background in diplomacy other than how to curry favor. So much for professionalizing the ranks.

The whole DFA is, actually, a mess. There is so much confusion that important posts are vacant by default as outsiders jockey for position. DFA Secretary Romulo is himself in limbo. Nobody is minding the store.

Organizationally, this Government is, to be kind, not all there.

This was excusable in its early months but no longer. The task of overseeing the structure and manning the vacancies is theoretically that of the Office of the President, specifically  the Executive Secretary. The OP is no bastion of order and as for Ochoa, he is over his head even without his other foibles; so no relief there.

In a company, there would be a Human Resources Dept. in charge of hiring, firing and professional development but that does not exist in Government; and I suspect that is how the insiders want it. The more fluid, the more unsettled the ground, the greater the potential to move, disrupt and do monkey business.

There is supposed to be a Search Committee but nothing has been heard from them for a while, some say for the better given the quality of some of their choices.

Nonetheless, somebody has to get a handle on the organizational and personnel issue. The President should establish a Human Resource Department with rank of cabinet. In many companies the HRD head is a Board member reporting straight to the CEO, that is how important the position is or should be.

The tasks of this HRD should be five: One, to set the standards for hiring, promoting and firing. Two, to streamline the bureaucracy and codify benefits. Three, to fill vacancies with the best qualified. Four, to establish an Executive Program that will identify and develop our future civil service leaders. Five, to build a culture of public service in Government.

We need to make civil service a noble endeavor, one that will make the current crop proud, one that will attract the best in our youth.

Good people make for good government. Good people are also hard to find.

So let us not fire otherwise worthy individuals for lack of artistic or other social graces.

Not even for bad breath.


About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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