Putting friendships at risk

Not socially optimal

The most fatal disease of friendship is gradual decay, or dislike hourly increased by causes too slender for complaint, and too numerous for removal.— Samuel Johnson

In a bar…

“How old is Noynoy?”


“That’s young. What’s he going to do after Malacañang?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you care?”

“Of course I do, he’s my friend.”

“Speaking of friends, are you happy he appointed several of them to his Cabinet?”

“Sure. They’re honest, qualified, and will do right by him.”

“But what if they slip?”

“What do you mean?”

“In politics, your enemies are always looking to make mountains out of slips and molehills out of accomplishments.”


“So it’s not good to put friends in the line of fire.”

“You don’t want the people you trust working for you?”

“Sure I do, but not friends.”

“I don’t think Noynoy’s friends see it that way. I think they see it as helping him through a difficult job.”

“What about the perception of a tayo-tayo thing going on?”

“Noynoy is not Gloria. He’s not running a criminal enterprise.”

“True, so let’s approach the issue from a different angle: appointing friends puts friendships at risk.”


“Jojo Ochoa didn’t want to be executive secretary, but he could not turn down Noynoy so he left his law firm.”

“Noynoy appreciates his sacrifice.”

“Of course. But then the first piece of paper from Ochoa is Memorandum Circular 1. That had to be recalled and fine-tuned. Next came a story that he ‘celebrated President Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration by having a drinking spree in Malacañang with his deputies.’ That story was followed by a report that he was seen ‘drunk as a skunk’ in the Manila Penn lobby at 2 a.m. on the Friday after the Luneta tragedy.”

“They are blowing things out of proportion.”

“That’s exactly what I told you would happen, more so if you’re holding a job because of your friendship with the President.”

“What do you want Jojo to do?”

“The question should be addressed to Noynoy, will he fire Jojo, reprimand him, or ignore what happened?”

“Firing is too harsh.”

“Well, suppose Jojo was Jesse Robredo?”


“See? Now Rico Puno, he follows Bishop Cruz’s allegations of jueteng payola with an admission that emissaries of jueteng lords approached him. And then he refuses to name them.”

“This Rico Puno doesn’t sing. Hehehe.”

“Not only that, he also said he didn’t do anything about the ‘approach’ because he didn’t think it was illegal.”

“That’s dumb.”

“Thank you. And that puts Noynoy in a spot. Now what if the de Lima report on the Luneta tragedy comes down hard on Rico?”

“Noynoy trusts him.”

“But not everyone does.”


“So let me go back to my original question, what is Noynoy going to do after his term?”

“I told you I don’t know.”

“Okay but we can assume that he’s going to want the friends he had before he became President to still be his friends, that he’s going to want to hang out, go to class reunions and socials without having to worry about running into a friend he fired because politics demanded that he do so.”

“Sure, but…?”

“So you don’t appoint friends. You don’t want to be placed in a situation where you have to choose between friendship and public expectations. You don’t want to put friendships on the line because there is life after the presidency, and it’s going to be mighty lonely without your best friends.”

“Well, Noynoy has a lot of relatives, anyway. Just kidding.”

“But you don’t want them anywhere near the presidency either.”

“Your point?”

“Assuming that you are choosing from a list of equally qualified candidates, it’s always better to pick someone you can fire without any hesitation, if and when it becomes necessary. That way you avoid losing friends and straining family relationships. ’Yun lang.”

image: from “Movie Seating, by XKCD,” some rights reserved.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • Joe America ,

    Well, the Johnson quote is horribly negative and reflects the soul of those who tear down rather than lift up, like those AP characters. Many friendships build to bind stronger than romantic love, which is oft a (hot) flash in the pan.

    The yun Lang quote is hypothetical and never achievable, as no two people bring identical skills to the job. One should always pick the candidate offering the most productive promise. This is rarely done in the Philippines. Period.

    • UP nn grad ,

      Having hire-authority doesn’t mean you have final authority. Just like Eugene S. Acevedo who March2010 became President/CEO of Philippine National Bank. You’d think he has final authority. Nope! BigBoss Acevedo has a higher-boss, the board of directors, and Lucio Tan is on board of directors.

      Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino is president but who is Big Boss?

      • GabbyD ,

        is it possible to subscribe to “walang personalan”?

        is it possible to separate being friends from the friend’s performance in a job?

        hiring friends is a tricky situation. i’ve never done so. i’m just wondering if its at all possible to work with friends, and if it doesnt the work doesnt “work”, say its ok, and move on, but keep being friends?

        i think it must be possible right? especially, if 2 friends are childhoood friends, no? afterall, you didnt become friends with him coz of his ability to remove corruption — u became friends coz u like the same jokes, the same activities, etc…

        • Cocoy ,

          “Assuming that you are choosing from a list of equally qualified candidates, it’s always better to pick someone you can fire without any hesitation, if and when it becomes necessary. That way you avoid losing friends and straining family relationships. ’Yun lang.”