FAQs: Presidential Chief Of Staff

-What will be the difference between the Chief of Staff (Roxas) and the Executive Secretary (Ochoa)?

The ES will handle administrative matters while the CoS will help define the vision for the Presidency and oversee its execution. In a company the COS would be the COO. On the golf course, the ES would be the caddy cleaning the clubs and giving yardage. The CoS would be the swing coach, ensuring the player keeps his focus, rhythm and perspective.

-Which is the more powerful position?

Government positions are defined not by what is on paper but by the occupants’  force of personality, competence and results: Power, like water, seeks its own level. This is particularly true for a President like Noy who is hands-off and prepared to let authority devolve where it may.

-Will the CoS and ES not foment factionalism?

Governance is enhanced by competition for striving and good ideas. There should not be a monopoly on incompetence.

-What does Roxas offer the President?

Mar has business and management skills and a political dimension absent in Ochoa. Fourteen million people voted for him. Ochoa is more of an administrative assistant.

Mar is more socially and politically equal to the President. They both come from the aristocracy and bonded in the campaign. He can be more candid in giving advise: Mar could have told Noy not to buy the Porsche

– What else should Mar bring to the position?

The CoS should manage the President’s relationships with his key constituencies. He  needs to harmonize the different factions in Malacanang, oversee the line agencies, build bridges to the Legislative and Judiciary, and liaise with the private sector.

P- Noy is perceived not to have the toughness and ‘killer-instinct” necessary for the Presidency. While they may love him, people seem not to fear nor respect him, especially his opponents and those he should be taking down. The CoS should fill this role of enforcer.

-What are the challenges to Mar?

The biggest challenge is the President himself. How can he convince P-Noy of the historic opportunity to bring about quantum change not only to the economy but to the underlying values of the nation?

How can he convince the President to institute reforms that will survive 2016?

How can he convince P-Noy the Presidency is not just a job, it is a calling?

-What are the dangers for Mar?

Mar will be criticized for using the position as a platform for a Presidential run. His agenda must be seen as aligned with the President’s.

As P-Noy’s alter ego he will be attacked by those who do not want to directly take on the President.

He will be stymied if not swallowed by the inside game.

He will be blamed for failures of the Administration but not be given credit for its successes: The latter belong to the President. Mar can only bask in the reflected glory. Politically, the position is one where, arguably, he can only lose.

– What should Mar ask in exchange for the risks?

Foremost is the full and unconditional confidence of the President and the authority to hire and fire. Mar needs his own team if he is to get results.

Second, Mar must be convinced P-Noy wants the same things for the country that he does; and that the President is fully committed to the effort. Mar cannot be dragging P-Noy kicking and screaming through the process.

-How will Binay and Mar relate to each other?

Jojo has said he will play ball. Watch what he does and not what he says.

– How long will Mar stay on the job?

Mar’s shelf life will depend on:
1. His commitment, leadership, political savvy and, most important, toughness.
2. The President’s trust and willingness to accompany Mar on the journey.
3. Unforeseen events, the Black Swan(s) that will catch the Government unprepared.
4. The success of his detractors in undermining him.
5. His personal goals, private and political.
6. Ultimately results, however defined, and public opinion.

-What should be Mar’s mantra?

One, if the governance is right, the politics will take care of itself.

Two, always keep Government relevant to the people.

-To conclude?

The CoS is a high-risk proposition for Mar’s political career. It is not the ideal platform for future high office. It is a public service.

If he succeeds, the nation will owe him a debt of gratitude. If he does not, he should be prepared to ride, quietly, into the sunset.


About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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2 Responses to FAQs: Presidential Chief Of Staff

  1. Johnny says:

    Agree with you. And this is reinforced by their respective personalities. However, it’s complicated by the fact that Jojo has a Cabinet position which was a powerful office with Ermita.

  2. Tito_Ces says:

    PNoy’s mediocre character compels him to rely on Mar’s expertise and that would have been perfect if Mar were the executive secretary. PNoy’s biggest mistake is having appointed Ochoa for that position. Now PNoy is stuck with him. How the two can function without creating animosity towards each other is difficult to imagine.

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