The ungovernable republic

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?


Photo credit:

Some rights reserved by wili_hybrid

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • GabbyD

    just to keep talking about fpic…

    up nigs’ dr arcilla being interviewed on ANC. clearly fpic made excuses as to the source of the leak for months… incredible.

    dr arcilla was being politically correct when he said that fpic had a lack of “transparency”…

    the funny thing is, i remember when bongv wrote about this. he wrote about this outlandish conspiracy theory about the lopez group of companies being the oligarchy.

    i still think he’s wrong.

    but the fpic is clearly remiss here.

  • GabbyD

    just to keep talking about fpic…

    up nigs’ dr arcilla being interviewed on ANC. clearly fpic made excuses as to the source of the leak for months… incredible.

    dr arcilla was being politically correct when he said that fpic had a lack of “transparency”…

    the funny thing is, i remember when bongv wrote about this. he wrote about this outlandish conspiracy theory about the lopez group of companies being the oligarchy.

    i still think he’s wrong.

    but the fpic is clearly remiss here.

  • GabbyD

    just to keep talking about fpic…

    up nigs’ dr arcilla being interviewed on ANC. clearly fpic made excuses as to the source of the leak for months… incredible.

    dr arcilla was being politically correct when he said that fpic had a lack of “transparency”…

    the funny thing is, i remember when bongv wrote about this. he wrote about this outlandish conspiracy theory about the lopez group of companies being the oligarchy.

    i still think he’s wrong.

    but the fpic is clearly remiss here.

  • Anonymous

    I think you / Cocoy (and to repeat… this is my opinion) It is wrong when a president who believes in decentralization believes that decentralization should be applied for each and every instance. A president should not only have one tool; or rather, the citizens of a country should choose a president who has enough experience, depth, vision and understanding of governance to know that different problems and different scenarios would require different tools.

    IT WAS, and it remains wrong for Noynoy to repeat “decentralization” with regards Quirino grandstand massacre. My opinion. Actually, Noynoy doesn’t even say “decentralization” with regards 2009 Quirino grandstand. He says that he has determined that Rico Puno is absolved of all responsibility for the failures that happened on that fateful evening. (Notice that I didn’t type “… he has determined that his BFF Rico Puno….”)

    Again, my opinion.

    Take a gander at Ellen Tordesillas and her presentation of China and Pilipinas.

    • GabbyD

      oks. under what circumstances should decentralization (i.e. accountability by the actors most directly responsible) NOT a good idea?

  • Anonymous

    I think you / Cocoy (and to repeat… this is my opinion) It is wrong when a president who believes in decentralization believes that decentralization should be applied for each and every instance. A president should not only have one tool; or rather, the citizens of a country should choose a president who has enough experience, depth, vision and understanding of governance to know that different problems and different scenarios would require different tools.

    IT WAS, and it remains wrong for Noynoy to repeat “decentralization” with regards Quirino grandstand massacre. My opinion. Actually, Noynoy doesn’t even say “decentralization” with regards 2009 Quirino grandstand. He says that he has determined that Rico Puno is absolved of all responsibility for the failures that happened on that fateful evening. (Notice that I didn’t type “… he has determined that his BFF Rico Puno….”)

    Again, my opinion.

    Take a gander at Ellen Tordesillas and her presentation of China and Pilipinas.

    • GabbyD

      oks. under what circumstances should decentralization (i.e. accountability by the actors most directly responsible) NOT a good idea?

  • hi cocoy, nice piece you’ve written here. you have touched on a number of significant issues that have led to the conclusion declared in your title. i’m just wondering what you see as the underlying problem. you use the words, “ungovernable republic” as opposed to the ungovernable “country” or “people”. that sort of identifies the systems and structures that define how our government functions as opposed to the social and cultural underpinnings. yet in some of your points, you identify the culture within the media and the social networks by extension, which focus too much on the superficial rather than substantive matters. i think your article is a good way of drawing out the distinctions between the way PNoy manages the government on the one hand, and the way his government manages its conversation with the various publics through the media and social networks on the other.Mind you a lot of the curiosity with his personal life has to do with the novelty of having the first bachelor in Malacanang. Normally the attention would be on the First Spouse and children. The fact that there is a vacuum in that space means that the media will look for scoops elsewhere. But all that is just par for the course. PNoy shouldn’t allow that to distract him. At this point, PNoy’s administration is merely laying the groundwork for performance with its appointments, budgets, legislative agenda and collection of pledges for investment and aid. There are no concrete milestones of actual delivery to speak of at this point.But what is crucial is to sell these packages of reform to the broader community so that people are aware of what he is planning to do and support him on that journey. To that end perhaps it has been difficult to get his message across. All that means is that his team will have to work a lot harder and smarter!

    • “what is crucial is to sell these packages of reform to the broader community so that people are aware of what he is planning to do and support him on that journey. To that end perhaps it has been difficult to get his message across. All that means is that his team will have to work a lot harder and smarter!”Exactly!

      –Cocoy

  • hi cocoy, nice piece you’ve written here. you have touched on a number of significant issues that have led to the conclusion declared in your title.

    i’m just wondering what you see as the underlying problem. you use the words, “ungovernable republic” as opposed to the ungovernable “country” or “people”. that sort of identifies the systems and structures that define how our government functions as opposed to the social and cultural underpinnings. yet in some of your points, you identify the culture within the media and the social networks by extension, which focus too much on the superficial rather than substantive matters. i think you’re article is a good way of drawing out the distinctions between the way PNoy manages the government on the one hand, and the way his government manages its conversation with the various publics through the media and social networks on the other.

    Mind you a lot of the curiosity with his personal life has to do with the novelty of having the first bachelor in Malacanang. Normally the attention would be on the First Spouse and children. The fact that there is a vacuum in that space means that the media will look for scoops elsewhere. But all that is just par for the course. PNoy shouldn’t allow that to distract him. At this point, PNoy’s administration is merely laying the groundwork for performance with its appointments, budgets, legislative agenda and collection of pledges for investment and aid. There are no concrete milestones of actual delivery to speak of at this point.

    But what is crucial is to sell these packages of reform to the broader community so that people are aware of what he is planning to do and support him on that journey. To that end perhaps it has been difficult to get his message across. All that means is that his team will have to work a lot harder and smarter!

    • “what is crucial is to sell these packages of reform to the broader community so that people are aware of what he is planning to do and support him on that journey. To that end perhaps it has been difficult to get his message across. All that means is that his team will have to work a lot harder and smarter!”

      Exactly!

  • GabbyD

    thanks for writing this cocoy. i feel that the “controversies” are blown up, and everyone’s default prescription is ” resign”.

    there is a lack of perspective among people, and alot of real stories are buried.

    Ex: i havent seen any opinion piece at all about how FPIC basically didnt do anything about the lead, said its not from its pipe, until the UP NIGS found proof.

    this is the sort of thing that journalists should keep reminding people of…

    • Anonymous

      Writ of kalikasan by Supreme Court about FPIC pipeline…. written up/ reported (but many readers were not interested so they didn’t even see the news bylines).

      • GabbyD

        i dont think lack of interest is a factor. people are interested. but some of these internet writers arent.

        • Gabby,

          FPIC pipe is a huge environmental issue. For one thing, I think it is “under control.” The tenants have already formed a group. They are in court looking it over. i think clear cut is that the oil company would need to pay damages.

          I hate to admit it though— there are limits to what ProPi can accomplish for now, and while we recognize those limits, we are continuously working hard to overcome it.

          –Cocoy

          • GabbyD

            not just environmental. its a corporate governance/ social responsibility issue.

            the fact that it took UPNIGS to figure it out is prima facie evidence that they werent looking hard enough.

            hindi lang ito — lots of other issues…

            for example: has the remedies for the HK tourist bus hostage taking been begun? whats happening with the admin cases? who is responsible for pushing these cases?

          • Good point, Gabby. very good point.

            –Cocoy

  • GabbyD

    thanks for writing this cocoy. i feel that the “controversies” are blown up, and everyone’s default prescription is ” resign”.

    there is a lack of perspective among people, and alot of real stories are buried.

    Ex: i havent seen any opinion piece at all about how FPIC basically didnt do anything about the lead, said its not from its pipe, until the UP NIGS found proof.

    this is the sort of thing that journalists should keep reminding people of…

    • Anonymous

      Writ of kalikasan by Supreme Court about FPIC pipeline…. written up/ reported (but many readers were not interested so they didn’t even see the news bylines).

      • GabbyD

        i dont think lack of interest is a factor. people are interested. but some of these internet writers arent.

        • Gabby,

          FPIC pipe is a huge environmental issue. For one thing, I think it is “under control.” The tenants have already formed a group. They are in court looking it over. i think clear cut is that the oil company would need to pay damages.

          I hate to admit it though— there are limits to what ProPi can accomplish for now, and while we recognize those limits, we are continuously working hard to overcome it.

          –Cocoy

          • GabbyD

            not just environmental. its a corporate governance/ social responsibility issue.

            the fact that it took UPNIGS to figure it out is prima facie evidence that they werent looking hard enough.

            hindi lang ito — lots of other issues…

            for example: has the remedies for the HK tourist bus hostage taking been begun? whats happening with the admin cases? who is responsible for pushing these cases?

          • Good point, Gabby. very good point.

            –Cocoy

          • Good point, Gabby. very good point.

            –Cocoy

  • Bert

    “Perhaps the lack of real controversy is keeping idle minds occupied?”-Cocoy

    More like it, I guess. Better for the country that the people merely get noisy over mundane things than having those crisis that agitate the people, affecting the economy, the safety, and the stability of the republic. To say that the present noise is a sign of an ungovernable republic is a bit of a stretch, I’m sorry to say, ‘Coy.

    What’s happening at present is understandable. The social media is always rowdy, it will always be rowdy, whether mundane, personal, or the real thing that concern the government and the nation, because they’re people having the weaknesses and strengths of human beings. While the mainstream media is an institution that caters to what are to/for its best interests. And its best interest is profit, well, mostly profit, :). As they say, good news is no news. So, why should the mainstream media report government’s accomplishments as lamented by the President, which is good news, when it is more profitable to report Noynoy dating this girl and that girl, salacious news being a more salable subject, heheh.

    • Bert,

      I don’t care about Facebook but I was there when Twitter was young, and only the digerati was there. It wasn’t that rowdy. It was more about ideas and making things work rather than complaints. It was about engagement, not rants and snark. I miss learning new things from the smart people on the list.

      as for mainstream, the cynic in me would always say that they’ll go for the sexy stories. But the question is, why isn’t government spreading more about its accomplishments? Raise the discussion. Lead the discussion? They rant that they’re not getting the message across, but social media is there to help spread theirs. there has been little engagement from their side. I mean look at gov.ph, it is doing a splendid job. Why not other organs of government? you know?

      –Cocoy

  • Bert

    “Perhaps the lack of real controversy is keeping idle minds occupied?”-Cocoy

    More like it, I guess. Better for the country that the people merely get noisy over mundane things than having those crisis that agitate the people, affecting the economy, the safety, and the stability of the republic. To say that the present noise is a sign of an ungovernable republic is a bit of a stretch, I’m sorry to say, ‘Coy.

    What’s happening at present is understandable. The social media is always rowdy, it will always be rowdy, whether mundane, personal, or the real thing that concern the government and the nation, because they’re people having the weaknesses and strengths of human beings. While the mainstream media is an institution that caters to what are to/for its best interests. And its best interest is profit, well, mostly profit, :). As they say, good news is no news. So, why should the mainstream media report government’s accomplishments as lamented by the President, which is good news, when it is more profitable to report Noynoy dating this girl and that girl, salacious news being a more salable subject, heheh.

    • Bert,

      I don’t care about Facebook but I was there when Twitter was young, and only the digerati was there. It wasn’t that rowdy. It was more about ideas and making things work rather than complaints. It was about engagement, not rants and snark. I miss learning new things from the smart people on the list.

      as for mainstream, the cynic in me would always say that they’ll go for the sexy stories. But the question is, why isn’t government spreading more about its accomplishments? Raise the discussion. Lead the discussion? They rant that they’re not getting the message across, but social media is there to help spread theirs. there has been little engagement from their side. I mean look at gov.ph, it is doing a splendid job. Why not other organs of government? you know?

      –Cocoy