E=mc2. Noynoy Aquino & A Comedy Of Errors
Revised 05 July at 0419 hours
MANILA - Mathematically, I’ve just figured out Noynoy Aquino: E=mc2, Executiveness equals memorandum multiplied by the speed of issuance of the circular squared. Squared means a thing multiplied by itself, c x c. If you keep thinking of memorandum circulars, you keep squaring the power of memorandum circulars. Since Noynoy Aquino's very first official act as newly installed President of the Philippines is to issue Memorandum Circular, MC#1 on Day 1, 30 June 2010, it tells me that Noynoy is going to live his life as head of his country by issuing many an MC. That’s why he kept saying “marching orders” even before he sat on that executive chair. He wants you to march to the beat of his own drums.
I never did like marching orders, even crawling orders. When I enlisted for ROTC at the University of the Philippines in 1959, I didn’t know how to salute properly, a shy country boy, that as punishment I was ordered to crawl under a barbed wire fence, in full public view. For want of a proper salute, I got my 15 minutes of shame.
But I understand. In the military, when you get your marching orders, obey first before you complain. Now you know why even if I had the highest general military course test (GMCT) score after 2 years of ROTC at the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines in 1962, if not the whole UP, I didn’t go ahead and become an officer (a UP Vanguard); I preferred to march to the beat of my own drums.
Marching orders. I thought Noynoy Aquino had no management skills. When I was the Chief Information Officer of the Forest Research Institute in the late 1970s, I remember a new management model was in vogue: MBO, by Peter Drucker - management by objectives. Now I shall call what Noynoy is practicing the modern MBO - modern management by orders.
MC#1, issued on the afternoon of 30 June, “declared all non-CESO positions vacant as of June 30, 2010 and extended the services of contractual employees whose contracts expired on June 30, 2010” (ANN, author not named, pia.gov.ph). This meant that the contractual employees, lower in rank, were more important and necessary than the non-CESO or officials above them. Ironically, “the directive was issued in order to prevent the unnecessary disruption of government operations and the impairment of all official processes and transactions as well as the delivery of services to the people.” This implied that those who were fired were disrupters of government services anyway. There’s a disruption in the logic of MC#1, but nobody noticed.
The real reason for MC#1 was “to clear the bureaucracy of the last administration’s appointees” (ANN, 01 July, abs-cbnnews.com). Team A couldn’t say goodbye to Team GMA fast enough?
That was fast; in fact, it was too fast. The next day, 01 July, Team A withdrew MC#1 Version 1 and replaced it with a “fine-tuned” edition (Version 2), that declared “all co-terminus third level positions vacant” effective June 30, 2010” (Maila Ager, 01 July, inquirer.net). And “All non-career executive officials occupying career executive positions in all agencies of the executive branch shall remain in office and continue to perform their duties and discharge their responsibilities of the position until July 31 or until a replacement has been appointed or designated” (Christine O Avendaño, 02 July, inquirer.net). Did Team A have a fast learning curve? It wasn’t fast enough; it didn’t catch the booboo within 15 minutes of impending shame. You can’t simply fire government officials by marching-off orders. You have to mark time, mark.
Journalists can make mistakes too. Amita O Legaspi (30 June, gmanews.tv) said, “The Aquino administration took the first step towards undoing the so-called ‘midnight appointments’ of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by ordering non-career presidential appointees to vacate their posts immediately.” That is incorrect. What MC#1 Version 1 did was declare all those positions vacant immediately - those poor fellows were never ever told they were going to lose their jobs in just a minute. Somebody had simply pulled the rug under them.
What happened was there was confusion multiplied by confusion, C2. It had been provoked by the request of former Presidential Management Staff, PMS Head Elena Bautista-Horn for the A Team to issue an appropriate directive before Wednesday, or 29 June, Tuesday. She was asking too much - how can a non-President issue an executive order?
The problem was that, barely warming his butt in the executive chair, Noynoy Aquino thought of all those GMA appointees, which raised his blood pressure, and he shouted “Fire!” and all the President’s Men ran twice as fast as before. “Fire when you’re ready, men.” Fire all those SOBs. And so unto the rabbit hole they stumbled, and then Alice in Wonderland helped them get up, with bruised knees and egos, and now we have MC#1 dated 30 June replaced by a differently worded MC#1 also dated 30 June from the Office of the President that is as memorable as irregardless and needless to say. Version 1 has now been supplanted by Version 2 to become Version 1. Now you see how all the President’s Men had to fine-tune their running so that they can run thrice as fast just to stay in place.
The story of MC#1 is like that of a text in Microsoft Office Word 2010 (or Word 1997, or Word 2003, or Word 2007) that was targeted for change that everyone could believe in, where somebody with a revised text did a Shift-Insert - voila! objectionable text replaced instantly, the rest of the document remaining as is - and Team A was pleased, thinking nobody would notice and/or complain. Team A knew their Word commands, but they didn’t know the commanding presence of the mass media.
If you are into vocabulary-building, here are a few ways of looking at the story of the wrong circular that went right (here I’m borrowing much from thefreedictionary.com):
snafu (situation normal, all fouled up)
mistake (error due to ignorance or inattention)
blunder (big mistake)
bull (serious & ludicrous blunder)
misstep (unintentional but embarrassing blunder)
faux pas (“false step” - social blunder)
spectacle (blunder that makes you look ridiculous)
clanger (a mistake whose effects reverberate)
howler (glaring mistake)
booboo (stupid mistake).
Still and all, the Comedy of Errors that was MC#1 that was issued, withdrawn the next day, revised, then reissued as MC#1 with the same date it was first issued, is only a small sign of a larger presidential drama:
as new leader of his country,
Noynoy Aquino is working out his presidential
Logic of the List.
His heart is full because his list is long about what to do. Here is his list (from his inaugural speech in mixed Tagalog / Filipino and English, which I have completely translated into English; see “Noynoy Aquino’s Mandate For Greatness,” Frank A HiLARiO, Blogger):
(1) “To be true to my parents and country being an honorable son, a kind big brother, and a good citizen.”
(2) “To make sure that this democracy will truly benefit everyone.”
(3) “If many of us will bear the cross, we will be able to bear it, no matter how heavy.”
(4) “With the help of right governance in the coming years, we will find release from our many problems.”
(5) “We are here to be servant and not be king. The mandate you gave us is change - a clear command to restructure (the relationship between) government and society from a government benefitting only a few to a government taking care of the needs of (all) the citizens.”
(6) “No corrupt, no poor. ... This is a principle by which this administration is founded on and stands.”
(7) “Our primary duty is to exert efforts to raise this country from poverty, by means of institutionalizing loyalty and good governance.”
(8) “The first step is to have a whole range of upright and honest leaders. This begins with me.”
(9) “In truth, most (of those who serve government) are honest. ... We are hoping that they will help restrain corruption within the bureaucracy.
(10) “We will begin earning back the trust of the people by investigating ‘midnight appointments.’”
(11) “We will not postpone meeting the needs of students, so we will try to fill up the lack of classrooms.”
(12) “Little by little also, we will lessen the lack of infrastructure for transportation, tourism and commerce.”
(13) “We will revive the ‘Emergency Employment’ program set up by former President Corazon Aquino in building such new infrastructure.”
(14) “We will reinforce the collection and stamp out corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs so we will be able to fund our desired (projects) for: quality education ... health services ... residence within safe communities.”
(15) “We will reinforce and increase the strength of the armed forces and the police ... to protect the citizens.”
(16) “We will help (the farmers) with irrigation, extension services, and in selling their produce at the highest possible prices.”
(17) “We are directing incoming Secretary (Proceso) Alcala to set up trading centers where farmers can link directly with consumers. We are going to skip the (middleman).”
(18) “We will make this country attractive to commercial interests. We will cut red tape dramatically and implement stable economic policies. We will level the playing field for investors and make government an enabler, not a hindrance, to business. This is the only way we can fill up the lack of jobs for our people.”
(19) “I am directing the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) and the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) and other relevant agencies to heighten their responsiveness to the complaints and needs of our overseas Filipino workers.”
(20) “We will enhance the process of consultation with and feedback from the citizens. We will strive to implement what is written in the Constitution that recognizes the right of citizens to information on matters of public concern.”
(21) “We revived The Spirit of People Power during the campaign. Let us continue this and bring it toward upright and honest governance. “
(22) “To those who abused me, I can forgive you and I hereby forgive you. To those who abused the people, I have no right to forget your sins. “
(23) “There can be no reconciliation without justice. If you forget the sin, you are making sure that the sin will be committed again. (Justice) Secretary (Leila) de Lima, you have your marching orders. Begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.”
(24) “We are glad to inform you that former Chief Justice Hilario Davide has accepted the challenge of creating and heading a Truth Commission to shed light on many suspicious issues that up to now remain unanswered and unresolved.”
(25) “Anyone who has committed a crime must face justice. It cannot be the continuing norm that abuse continues without retribution.”
(26) “My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all – may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.”
(27) “We shall defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform, and equitable governance leading to a better life. With right governance, life will become beautiful for all; with a good life for all, who will wish the return of the times of oppression?”
(28) “If you are with me, we can support a country where there are equal opportunities for all because we all are fulfilling our duties equally. “
(29) “To our friends and neighbors around the world, we are ready to take our place as a reliable member of the community of nations, a nation serious about its commitments and which harmonizes its national interests with its international responsibilities.”
(30) “We will be a predictable and consistent place for investment, a nation where everyone will say, ‘It all works.’”
(31) “I now invite you to pledge to yourselves and to the people: No one shall be left behind.”
(32) “There will be no visits to foreign countries and spending without the right reason. There will be no turning back on pledges made during the campaign, now and through other challenges that will confront us in the next 6 years.”
(33) “No handicapping, no patronage, no stealing. No blaring sirens, no counter-flow, no tong. It is time that we be all charitable.”
(34) “The people who are behind us dared to dream. Today, the dream starts to become a reality. To those who hesitate to help bear the cross, I have only one question: Just when we have won, now you’re going to quit?”
(35) “You are my boss, so I cannot help but listen to your orders. We will design and implement an interaction and feedback mechanism that can effectively respond to the people’s needs and aspirations.”
(36) “My parents sought nothing less and died for nothing less than democracy, peace and prosperity. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward.”
(37) “My aim is that when I step down from responsibility, everyone will be able to say we have traveled far on the straight path, and the future we are going to bequeath to the next generation is more beautiful. Join me in finishing this fight. Let us go on to the straight path.”
A good list, as far as lists go; I give an A to Team A for effort. The problem with that long list is that it follows only 2 of the 4 Cs of communication, and these are Clarity and Conciseness. The items in the list are more or less clear, and they are brief. But on the whole they lack Comprehensiveness and Coherence. They don’t cover all the bases, and they don’t make one unified whole. If you were in UP, you get a grade of Inc.
The only way to make that list comprehensive and coherent is to have a Vision for the country to begin with. Since Noynoy Aquino did not bother about thinking out a national vision, I have a good reason to talk about it. The President is not always right!
My position is this: Where there is no vision, the leader vanishes from view even when he’s visible in all media.
If Noynoy Aquino claims “No corrupt, no poor” is his vision, why that’s an impossible vision. It is not SMART: not Specific, not Measurable, not Achievable, not Realistic, and not Time-Bound. If you don’t have a vision for the Philippines, how can you have a mission to accomplish to bring about the fulfillment of that vision? If you don’t have a mission, no wonder you have a long list of goals that go in 4 different directions: North, South, East, and West.
Try me! For instance, my Vision is for the Philippines to become #1 in Knowledge Management in Asia by 2020. That will call for new and improved information and communication infrastructure, new and improved high school and college courses, not simply more classrooms and more number of years of stay in school. This calls not only for education for employment but more so education for entrepreneurship. That will also call for the teaching of conservation agriculture via the Internet in the language of the knowledge user, not the expert. You build your knowledge bank in English first, then you translate in the local languages. At the very least, this will spawn new businesses and new online marketing opportunities. And last but not least, this calls for declaring English as the national language of the Philippines. If you can’t beat them, join them.
In the new Philippines, this is my E=mc2: English equals mental creativeness squared. Tagalog / Filipino will ever be as creative as it has always been: forgettable. Where are the Philippine masterpieces of the arts? In English; here’s a short list: Nick Joaquin’s fiction and non-fiction, F Sionil Jose’s books. Don’t forget the geniuses of Jose Garcia Villa, Carlos P Romulo, Carlos Bulosan, Leon Ma Guerrero, NVM Gonzalez, Bienvenido Santos, Edilberto & Edith Tiempo, Ricaredo Demetillo, Manuel & Lyd Arguilla, Kerima Polotan-Tuvera, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Ninotchka Roska, Renato Constantino, Horacio dela Costa, Wilfredo Ma Guerrero, Gemino Abad, Wilfrido Nolledo, Cirilo F Bautista, Eric Gamalinda, Krip Yuson, Virginia Moreno, and Ricky Lee.
The genius of the world is in the Internet that is ruled by the greatest language of all: English. And yet we Filipinos insist on a language that ignores the bottomless knowledge that we can tap in the name of the people. Mathematically, I’ve just figured out our national language: Tagalog (Filipino) divides, not multiplies. English covers all, and it keeps growing. Once we drink from that intellectual, unending spring and do what we must, the Philippines will stop being the Comedy of Errors among the nations of the world.
I was thinking that if Noynoy Aquino doesn’t know that English is a million times richer as a language than Tagalog (Filipino), it’s time somebody told him – in English!