The de Lima report itemizes not only the failings of law enforcement during the hostage crisis of August 23rd. it is an indictment on the brand of law enforcement represented by the mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim and his cohorts.

De Lima is becoming an archetype for the kind of law enforcement official that adheres to procedure, a stickler for doing things by the book, in this case the manual for handling such crises. Mayor Lim on the other hand represents an opposing archetype that would rather dispense with the rule book in bringing about justice.

He represents the kind of justice you would expect from the wild, wild West. His archetype is the cowboy who makes his own rules as he goes along—a sort of nonchalant attitude that flaunts at procedure in order to get the job done.

These twin opposing tensions hold sway over our law enforcement culture. Mr Lim gained notoriety for the no-nonsense attitude he took towards criminals in his city. His nickname, “Dirty Harry” says it all. It represents an individualist persona establishing his stamp of authority in “no man’s land.” He stands for a code that is beyond the rule books. His way of operating is “my way or the highway.”

Leila de Lima on the other hand represents a culture within law enforcement that calls for nothing but rules of engagement to define the scope of our actions in dealing with conflict and criminal activity. Her adherence to the rulebook was evident during her stint as the CHR chair.

In that role, she had to contend with different branches of law enforcement that dispensed with the constitution in order to achieve their objectives. In our macho culture, it was quite ironic that it took a woman to stand up to this Leviathan state.

In this office she represented a kind of justice based on procedure that adhered to formal rules. This is a brand of law enforcement anathema to the dirty harries of the world. She earned her stripes as a no-nonsense enforcer of a different kind—an advocate for the proper discharging of duties and functions bound by a codification of principles acquired through corporate and social learning.

If Lim represents the philosophy of “getting things done no matter what the cost”, Lima represents an opposing view, that of “getting things done right regardless of the outcome.” Had Lim observed the proper protocol of convening the local crisis management committee and so forth, he would not be faulted for the outcome. It is because he chose to “go his own way” and handled the situation based on his own rulebook that he is now being included in the list of officials that are liable for the outcome.

Mr Lim was once favored by Cory Aquino to become the next president of the Philippines. Had he succeeded in winning that post, he might have turned the Philippines into a kind of paradise for cowboys. As for Ms de Lima, this feisty lady is demonstrating why the rules are important especially when human lives are at stake.

A study that I once read on regional profiles of management styles showed that the Philippines, compared to other societies in the region, was a country that was over-processed, but under-managed: meaning that our managers had great sophistication in terms of designing procedures for handling problems, but were less effective in terms of delivering outcomes.

In the past our judicial system has been faulted for adhering to form, but ignoring substance. For this reason, we have tended to gravitate towards leaders like Mayor Lim who promise to get things done regardless of the legal constraints they are faced with. With the events of August 23rd still ringing in our collective ears, we as a nation are beginning to realize the flaw in relying on such charismatic men; we are beginning to value the rules that bind their actions. It is these limits to power that guarantee us the best chances of survival in the jungle that we face out there.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • manuelbuencamino

    Doy,

    A very good comparison. Lim is a throwback to the past while de Lima represents the future. If de Lima succeeds them we will have a law enforcement and justice system that is predictable as it will adhere to procedure and the rule of law.

    The problem with the Lim types is that they break the law in order to defeat criminality and impose order. Obeying the law must be the starting point.

  • Mind you “getting the job done” has several connotations as well depending on which branch of the system you belong to. The “dark side” or “the cowboys” (even the terms vary depending on which side of the fence you are on) get it done by circumventing the strictures. The “boy scouts” may not necessarily get it done right away, but follow procedure to the “t” and by doing so ensure an outcome that will sustain any form of public scrutiny. I’m sorry if this was not made more apparent at the onset.

  • GabbyD

    “By saying that his intention was to get things done no matter what, it does not necessarily mean that he indeed succeeded in getting it done. ”

    earlier you said: “. His archetype is the cowboy who makes his own rules as he goes along—a sort of nonchalant attitude that flaunts at procedure in order to get the job done.”

    which is less nuanced than what you just said. my point is that its confusing, as written now.

  • I was referring more to his anti-crime philosophy of taking shortcuts to achieve results which until recently was held in high regard by the community. By saying that his intention was to get things done no matter what, it does not necessarily mean that he indeed succeeded in getting it done. As I mention above, it is precisely those shortcuts (not following procedure) that may have undermined the operation and led to the lack of preparedness during and after the incident as the IIRC report has borne out.

  • UP nn grad

    … ahhhh, what again did Lim get done? Quirino grandstand was a massive failure of Lim not getting things done, what are you talking about?

    The guy is a danger to Pilipinas and an embarassment to the Philippines. He is dangerous. He can get people killed!!!!

  • GabbyD

    “If Lim represents the philosophy of “getting things done no matter what the cost”,”

    how can you say that? whats the basis for this assessment of mayor lim?

    instead, could it be: “getting what he wants done, done”?