There have been numerous controversies in recent days, and months. The rowdy militant left, for instance have struck in defense of state universities’s budget reductions. The recent debacle on “Pilipinas Kay Ganda,” remain in the forefront. The matter of the facebook debacle, the nature of public-private partnerships, freedom of information act and reproductive health bill remain on the sideline.
These issues have something in common, the whole of government and the media remain slow to inform. It is an indictment of the quality of our conversation. The public remain embroiled in minutiae, and whoever the president dates.
The organs of government— in general– remain lethargic. Congress in the six months it has been in office has not passed a significant measure. Congress did not fail to party with Representative Paquiao upon his return.
If one believes social media, it can be attributed to the president, an indictment of the presidency.
Yoly Ong pointed out a rowdy social media that was the source of the failed Department of Tourism campaign. The president himself lamented that mainstream media was slow to report his government’s work, preferring to talk about the women in his life.
Perhaps the lack of real controversy is keeping idle minds occupied?
In any case both the President and Ms. Ong speak from a corner where government and its allies have been slow to counter-act information– disinformation or misinformation– and at times, lack of information. It is a far cry from Aquino’s campaign when it pwned both mainstream and social media.
This is most troubling.
The government has been far too slow in sending its version of events to counteract public opinion— whether misplaced or not— and snowballs into hysterics and mob mentality.
An apology from Mai Mislang for example— very early on failed to stem the tide of negative opinion. It should have been over and done with after that yet it grew needlessly, and exaggerated a situation and devolved into mob mentality.
The case of Enteng Romano, is the latest example. In any reasonable world, his resignation and thus a signal of a redirection of DOT’s strategy should have silenced the critics. Did secretary lim fail to reach out to stakeholders?
A few years ago, in the Desert Transformation I wrote that it is the leadership at the highest level that must change. Everything else follows after that. The reality is that our people are willing to change.
“What’s lacking is direction. Leadership that inspires, that leads, that has vision, that is for the people.”
With Aquino’s election— the inspiring part got through.
Six months into office, by the mere fact of his election, Aquino stabilized a once untenable political leadership.
People voted for the straight road. That fundamental part— that head of state part of the political calculus— has been solved. To misunderstand this is to ignore Aquino’s electoral mandate, and an unprecedented trust rating.
Expectations are naturally high. Critics will not be silenced. The failure to pass laws is the president’s fault.
The reorganization of government and the tightening of the fiscal position while painful could not be understood by the people. Not when the obvious perks given to Congress remain.
It is a chicken and an egg problem, a compromise, an inherent part of our imperfect political calculus. The people expect Congress to let go of its pork, and the political fallout is Mr. Aquino’s fault.
Both critics and the people cannot be blamed for that mindset.
We cannot lay blame on Arroyo’s presidential-style. She took to Philippine presidential power the way a fish takes to water. The presidency in the Philippines though watered down by the 1987 constitution is fundamentally still an elected monarchy.
It is inherently an unconscious thought so embedded in Filipino-psyche. The President is monarch. Imperial power resides in Manila.
People know this isn’t the case. On paper of course it isn’t the case. The Constitution is clear on the balance of power, but our people’s reaction to August 23 botched hostage drama, indicting Aquino for not stepping in with the full force of the government solidifies this belief.
Here is a president so far different from Arroyo in wielding presidential power. Arroyo would have stepped in, guns blazing, Rambo-like. Aquino the Liberal preferred to delegate his Imperial presidential power. Aquino’s fault lie in trusting men who were incompetent. That and the system just isn’t built for decentralization of command functions.
You can see Aquino’s touch in how he wields presidential power. He is slowly decentralizing the government’s business.
The liberal President has a natural inclination to decentralize. The sketch of which can be seen in the president’s style of governance. An empowering of local governments and strengthening of government agencies is the right way to go. Of course the critics are correct in that it would depend on who the President appoints or gives his trust to, and in this government, the Jekyll and Hyde personality of the executive department exists.
There are obvious flaws. The biggest of which, for an Administration so expert in communicating, it hasn’t done that much communicating. There is an exception: gov.ph is doing a splendid job of relaying official correspondence. The rest of the government seem so locked in the past, moving like 20th century dinosaurs.
Again we go back to Yoly Ong and the disastrous DOT campaign. A better and cohesive messaging that reframed the discussion would have served the government better. Instead it played catchup, and too late to stop the avalanche of negative opinion.
The President’s own lament that his government’s accomplishments are not being reported, while his private life is. A stronger social media presence would help stem the tide.
That’s not what’s glaring about what’s happening in government and what’s happening in both old and social media. It is an indictment of the quality of our media, the state of our discussion, and forgive me for being blunt and tactless— the level of our intelligence.
Could a government better inform its citizens through social media? Reframe the conversation?
Could mainstream media inform the public better on issues instead of inciting?
Could a more responsible social media help reframe the discussion towards a more responsible, and intelligence discourse?
Let us switch gears.
The militant struggle on the matter of education speaks from a corner of entitlement. “we are poor, we deserve to be educated by the state.”
Financially viable state universities are following the footsteps of the Department of Health hospitals. DOH has long since been decentralized. They have been meant to operate on their own. To make money on their own to keep operations going.
The same is being done for Higher Education and state universities.
Self-sustaining entities will serve the nation better down the road.
The fiscal reality is that this government is focusing its attention on basic education. It can be characterized as performing triage.
Militants are laying the blame on the president. The question is understandable: why this, and not pork?
Austerity is fine, but is this austerity punishing the poor, without so much as a consuelo de bobo from our politicians to the public?
Then again, if pork really mattered to them so much, why not protest in front of the Batasan? Why then do they not pressure their representatives in congress to give in, or campaign for better representation? Why then did our people vote in the old guard? Why then do we not have deeper benches? Why then did the likes of Ocampo and Masa lose their own recent campaigns?
Why all the pomp? Why all the hysterics?
Why all the noise, and the lack of signal?
Can a nation such us ours be so governed, and be so dedicated long endure? How then does one bring rationality, and reason; a strong signal, amidst the noise of this ungovernable republic?