It took them awhile but more than a year on after the 2010 elections, the president’s men have finally come up with an embryo of a plan to translate his slogans into a meaningful and measurable set of actions.

The Executive Order #43 entitled, “Pursuing our Social Contract with the Filipino People through the Reorganization of the Cabinet Clusters” dated Friday the 13th of May 2011 (and tweeted by the Palace yesterday) will probably receive very little attention in the media, but it is a document that starts to define the strategic intent of the president.

The game plan

By its title, you know that it seeks to re-organize the groupings of secretaries called cabinet clusters, but its real purpose is to set up a strategic framework for cabinet deliberations as well as a strategic monitoring and reporting system around five key themes on which the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) the administration’s strategic document has been built.

The idea is that each cabinet cluster will be assigned a theme. The themes correspond to each of the key result areas of the social contract that was the Liberal Party’s platform during the election. They center on the following:

  • Good governance and anti-corruption
  • Human development and poverty reduction
  • Economic development
  • Security, justice and peace, and
  • Climate change, adaptation and mitigation.

The idea is for all departments to “orient their programs, projects, and activities towards the pursuit of these five (5) key result areas” and to “set concrete and measurable targets per program and/or project every year until 2016 leading to the intended outcomes.”

In other words, it seems that the Palace has finally gotten on the ball to convert its plattitudes into a plan for moving the nation forward, something that I have been harping on for the last few weeks needed to be done.

Finally! But why did it take so long?

It gets interesting

The process for converting these thematic key results areas into a cascade of objectives, targets, outcomes and outputs with aligned strategies, programs, projects and budgets is now set to commence. This will presumably be influenced by government’s engagement with the different sectors which should allow for electronic and social media interaction and town-hall type, community cabinet sessions.

Once the elements of the plan have been bedded down, then the administration ought to trumpet the plan to the public and make available successive monitoring reports and scorecards (online possibly). This is where we might start to see how disparate programs hang together within an overall strategic framework.

This should be the start of a more intelligent conversation over what the agenda is or should be and how to define success. My personal experience in this, having worked in a state government that has adopted a strategic plan is that more than just the strategic targets and objectives is the thinking that goes on behind it. This should start to generate new ideas, particularly if a performance management framework is attached to it.

Because a certain amount of risk aversion and “gaming” the system inevitably will occur, it is essential that whoever manages the strategic process is able to challenge the proponents. It would be essential to get someone who can remain “above the fray” in a sense, a “primus inter pares” or “first among equals”. I have my own view as to who this should be.

Hopefully it does not take another year for us to see meat on the bones of this skeletal framework, but it is good to see that finally, bit by bit, things are starting to fall into place.

Feedback and advice

Given their intention to solicit feedback from the public, I cannot let this opportunity slip without offering my 2 cents worth of advice on the plan so far. There are three points, I would like to make.

Firstly I would like to start with the vision, which states

Our vision is a country with:

A re-awakened sense of right and wrong, through the living examples of our highest leaders;

An organised and widely-shared rapid expansion of our economy through a government dedicated to honing and mobilizing our people’s skills and energies as well as the responsible harnessing of our natural resources;

A collective belief that doing the right thing does not only make sense morally, but translates into economic value as well; and

Public institutions rebuilt on the strong solidarity of our society and its communities.

My reaction to this would be: c’mon, guys, seriously…for real?! Premising the vision on “a re-awakened sense of right and wrong” sounds a bit moralistic, preachy and condescending. I know it was cut and pasted from the LP’s social compact, but the vision has to be more positive, inclusive and expansive; this sounds parochial. Given how the government is trying to steer the debate over reproductive health away from theology, this vision has a whole set of dogmatics painted all over it.

It is time for the administration to pivot away from retribution. This has led them to spend the last year achieving hardly anything…well just two things, really: the Merci impeachment and the GOCC reform bill. Rather than just being a one trick pony since the public is showing signs of discontent, it needs to govern on behalf of the entire nation, not just its flock or peeps. Here’s a newsflash: you’ve won already! It is time to situate good governance (code for going after Arroyo) within a broader policy agenda and reflect this in the vision.

Secondly, it may seem trivial, but the acronym PDP forms the the prefix of the party of the vice president who belongs to one faction within the administration. Is this meant to signal something? It sounds like someone is pulling a prank here. My view is that there needs to be a separate strategic plan as distinct from the medium term development plan anyway.

Perhaps PSP for Philippine Strategic Plan or PSRM for Philippine Strategic Roadmap would be more fitting. And drop the 2010-2016 bit. The strategic plan should envision where we hope the nation to be 20, 30, 40 years from now and look at how to lift our trajectory to get there much sooner with action items for the next five to ten years.

Thirdly (and this is a positive comment for the most part), I think the themes cover most of the bases. I can see how most of our externally committed goals with the UN Millennium Development process to close the gaps on education, health and poverty would slot in nicely under the human development and poverty alleviation theme for instance. The country’s commitments to reduce its carbon footprint and gain funding from the global fund set up by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change could fit nicely under the climate change, mitigation and adaptation theme.

I can see how the remaining themes could look at our standing in externally published scorecards, like the cost of doing business, global competitiveness report, corruption perception index, impunity index, and others to set up some targets around how we can close the gap or increase our ratings vis-a-vis the ASEAN-5, Developing Asia or some other reference peer group that would be appropriate.

I assume the DILG will use a performance management system with LGUs to reward those that meet their human development and poverty alleviation goals and quarantine their spending of IRAs for certain areas if they fail to do so. I also predict that Industry and Agricultural boards and councils will be used to work out how to achieve higher rates of investment, production and exports to cover the economic development targets.

All this is possible, but it does not quite tackle the problem of making our finances sustainable in the long-run. That has to be a separate process that should run parallel to the strategic plan. I reiterate my recommendation for a sustainable budget commission or SBC to review the tax and spend programs of the government under this plan and to propose ways to re-balance it so that we can afford to meet our targets.

The sorts of things this commission should be able to tell us are

  1. under the present zero based budgeting approach or ZBB adopted by the government, what we can realistically afford to do,
  2. compared to a program based budgeting approach or PBB, how much we really need to hit our targets, and how big a funding gap there is, and
  3. based on the imbalances, what form of tax reform measures would be needed to fill the gap.

My proposal is for the SBC to make its recommendations before the mid-term elections of 2013. By then we would be able to see how well we are travelling with respect to our 2016 targets. If it appears that we are significantly behind on a wide range of objectives, it would bolster the case for significant changes to the tax system that I have made elsewhere. The administration could then present its case at the next election and seek a mandate for a fully costed social contract by saying even with a reasonably honest government, tax collections are still too low.

A positive step

The commencing of a cabinet reorganization, rather than the reshuffle everyone was expecting, is a positive development. It sets the tone as the benign one enters his second year in office. I made known previously that I was not a big fan of the cabinet clusters as a substitute to full cabinet deliberations. Under this set up though, there is an over-arching framework where it sits. This to me is a sign that perhaps the administration is pivoting away from personality based factionalism and moving towards objectives based management.

In the final analysis, what they say is true, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. It took them long enough, but at least now, we know the direction they are heading as far as setting up a process for governing the agenda and seeing it through.

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 ( 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.

  • J_ag8

    Anyone who has a little understanding of economic history would know that development happened when labor was given access to the means of production.

    For post industrial economies it is now access to higher education for the more specialized division of labor.

    For backward economies like the Philippines it remains to be the access to land and capital (means of production). Capital would mean capital goods of a public and private nature. Moving to a third tier economy would be impossible without going through the development of the physical economy.

  • J_ag8

    There is no plan and there is no cogent policy and program for economic development. This was simply a reorganization for the cabinet to prepare for the entry of Mar Roxas.

    Economic mal-development and continuing under development is primarily due to the lack of access to the means of production. Not to the lack of access to contraceptive devices.

    Keeping vast swaths of the population stuck in a sort of Palaeolithic stage where men and women are kept in their natural primal state.

    • I blogged a response to Doronila’s op-ed piece. See the The Plan: Update (link is below).
      You might want to expound on this further there.

  • Bert

    ” It took them long enough, but at least now, we know the direction they are heading as far as setting up a process for governing the agenda and seeing it through.”

    That’s better. Maybe President Noynoy was reading Pro-Pinoy Blog after all at nakulitan na sa “That Vision Thing…version 1, 2, and 3” ni Doy, :).

  • UP nn grad

    “Us” versus” Them” is actually a significant part of PresiNoynoy’s first year in office. In one way, “Us” versus “them” has shown itself — Makati Business Club versus provinces. Read again the Monsod article of Sept2010 and let the thought sink in. The PRO-POOR/Pro-Provinces programs have taken a serious hit already under Presi-Noynoy’s administration. “farm-to-market-roads” (provinces) has been reduced by a whopping 55 percent,
    “…33-percent reduction in the allocation for the Philippine Health Insurance Program for indigents..

    Valte/Mislang Ochoa-Lacierda and PresiNoynoy has been sadly quiet, too, about construction-money for more elementary- and secondary-school buildings in the provinces while PrfdsiNoynoy (and others) show up doing inspections of vvrroooomm-vrroooom new highways between Hacienda Luisita/Clark and metro-Manila or around metro-Manila.

    cocoy may use different words to describe things (or ManuelB may write up a mock conversation to entertain us too) “MakatiBusinessClub us” versus “them/provinces” while folks have been shaking the trees pomp-and-fury media-time show-and-tell entertainment about “GMA-talsik-Diyan” Truth Commission-2010/2011.

    “Us” versus “Them” amidst entertainment.

    Of course, Abe Margallo may just explain the happenings as PresiNoynoy following the precepts of the Washington Consensus (same guidelines that shaped Gloria Arroyo years in office).

    • UP nn grad

      Hey, I nver thought about it, but “Daang matuwid” 🙄 means those straight-shot vroom-vrooom roads around metro-Manila or Clark-to-Manila expressways and not the crooked slow-moving “farm-to-market roads”. Who says Presi-Noynoy does not have any food self-sufficiency 😐 program?

    • UP nn grad

      Pilipinas is probably really getting urbanized. That’s one way to explain how PresiNoynoy won on his campaign slogan of a fifty-percent-cut — farm to market cunstruction funds.

    • GabbyD

      i wonder what the total spending looks like. this is just the NG spending; but what are the spending choices for the LGUs?

  • Liberty

    ‘Moral’ can also mean secular. In this case perhaps the government’s moral standing is that it go after those who shat on each and every one of our public institutions.

    • We can go down this road of discussing different philosophical stands on the issue, but it will lead to an “us” vs “them” saga which frankly descends into theological hair-splitting debates of the “how many angels can stand on the tip of a needle” sort.
      That discussion needs to take place at a lower level. The Plan has to be situated on a higher plane.

      • GabbyD

        this is weird.

        us vs them?

        is right and wrong relative to you? — A re-awakened sense of right and wrong, through the living examples of our highest leaders; is this a “us vs them” statement?


        are you seriously saying:
        “look, maybe they are wrong… whatever. it doesnt matter”?


        if you were to write a non-moralistic vision (whatever that is), what would it be?

      • I would appeal to a common sense of values, rather than the use of words “right and wrong”. This is just a word-smithing issue, but words can be loaded sometimes.

        • GabbyD

          now i’m really confused.

          isnt a sense of right and wrong an example of “common values”?

          in what sense can right and wrong be loaded? loaded in what way?

          loaded as in judgement?

          but ALL visions have judgement. why? coz all visions say, essentially,

          A) where we are now is wrong;
          B) let me tell you where we ought 2 be, which is “right”

          • manuelbuencamino

            good point Gabby

          • Bert

            I agree with both GabbyD and MB.

          • From the reactions it is eliciting here, I would say these words are VERY loaded.

            The nation can either get bogged down in semantics over the next five years or it can actually pick itself up through a shared sense of PRIDE and national DIGNITY.

        • UP nn grad

          actually, PresiNoynoy shafted both urban and rural when to do RIGHT — budget balance — he chose 55% budget cut — provinces.

        • GabbyD

          i dont think its accurate to conclude that just coz i (cant speak for others) am confused about the sense in which you think “right and wrong” are loaded, doesnt mean they are loaded!

          in fact, let me lay it out for you explicitly.

          i am the one who is not interested in semantics.

          i dont care what the specific words that are used.

          as long as they are a coherent policy that isnt obviously wrong, i’m fine with it.

          now, if PNOYcomes out with the vision of the “rent is too damn high party” or the “rabbits are the source of all evil” party, then i shall care.

          but for me: the philosophy you criticized above as loaded is “as loaded” ( or as un-loaded) as ANY other coherent political philosophy.

          • Ok, suppose you are correct (for argument’s sake), Gabby. If indeed gaining a sense of moral fortitude ought to be the vision.
            Then all our strategies must be focused on achieving it, then. To be coherent that is.

            My suggestion then would be to have a flagship program called “RAGS” or Run-After-Gloria-Stupid! because that is what the words. “right and wrong” are code for (hence me calling them LOADED).

            You are right, let us forget about semantics and say what we really mean to say (and not hide behind flowery words).

            All 5 KRAs should then focus on that. That would mean PNoy is on the right track and doesn’t need to change course because economic development and the end of poverty can only happen if we bring these people (who are on the “wrong” side) to justice.

            That is if we accept the way the Vision is framed as it is…

        • GabbyD

          i think is very interesting indeed!

          My suggestion then would be to have a flagship program called “RAGS” or Run-After-Gloria-Stupid! because that is what the words. “right and wrong” are code for (hence me calling them LOADED).”

          see, whatever baggage is what you yourself brought in.

          a few things:
          1) if thats what what the phrase “right and wrong” means for you, then you have to prove it.

          if you feel that knowing right from wrong == get gloria, then i need to know why you think that.

          coz, just from a simple reading of the words, “right and wrong” perse doesnt exclude ANYONE. indeed it is about EVERYONE who has issues with right or wrong.

          in otherwords, clearly its loaded for you.

          but its not loaded for me. to me, its a general statement. its a vision.

          but i’m curious: HOW did it become loaded for you?

          2) i will anticipate your answer. you might say that its due to the fact that arroyo and allies claim being persecuted. that the truth commission is about the arroyos, etc.

          i submit– they only “claim”being persecuted. many people are being charged with tax evasion, etc. they scream loudest; hence are heard more.

          the truth commission is only ONE thing that pnoy wanted 2 do. in fact, the truth commission. moreover, due to the limited mandate of it (which makes sense from a practical perspective, but not philosophical/legally), it sought to investigate PGMAs admin first.

          • Having had numerous exchanges with someone who now sits in the cabinet on the topic, I know the loaded meaning of the statement.

          • GabbyD

            now, color me intrigued!

            so, did this guy actually SAY that the vision was drafted BECAUSE its the LP is focused on a GMA hunt?

            that they dont believe it on a general level?

            now, this is much more interesting, do share!

          • nothing as explicit as that, but from numerous exchanges you can gain as much from their vocabulary what they mean when they say certain things.

        • GabbyD

          All 5 KRAs should then focus on that. That would mean PNoy is on the right track and doesn’t need to change course because economic development and the end of poverty can only happen if we bring these people (who are on the “wrong” side) to justice.”

          whoa! slow down. we are ONLY talking about the first line in that vision.

          there are other things there, that relate to economic mgt and philosophy.

          you are making a leap here. i’m not jumping with you.

    • UP nn grad

      This “right-or-wrong” thing is already tripping up Presi-Noynoy in his first year. Nothing moral, just practical — it is RIGHT — “balancing the budget — right!!!”. One would think “helping farmers — farm-to-work roads — right!!!” is also RIGHT. No pontification nor morality blah-blah-blah for both items, just “common-sense RIGHT”. In doing the first “right” — budget — PresiNoynoy shafted the farmers — 55% budget cut. Boo!!!!

      • KG

        helping farmers, farm to market roads……..

        you posted monsod’s article.let me post habito’s article.

        “Having been in government once upon a time, I like to ask simple folk the one most important thing they would ask of government if given the chance. Almost certain that this upland Sarangani farmer would point to their road badly in need of repair, I was surprised—and wisened—when the old man simply replied: “Horses. We could use a few horses to bring our produce down to the market.”

        The wisdom in that answer easily dawned on me. He had no illusions that money would be forthcoming to fix some seven kilometers of a narrow mountain road leading up to nowhere—actually to a couple of tiny farming communities with too few voters to matter. And that old farmer must have realized too that fixing their road would only put the still lush forests around them within reach of loggers’ trucks.”

        “More recently, a study team I was with interviewed another upland farmer in what was described to be one of the poorest barangays in the country, also in Mindanao. His answer to my usual question, this time, was carabaos. They needed carabaos to be able to till the land around them, which were noticeably farmable yet idle, in a place where rainfall comes all year round. We asked further what they actually got from the government. His answer? Fertilizers and hybrid seeds. “We take them anyway [even though we can’t use them without the carabaos],” he remarked. We asked, “Did they ever ask you what it is that you really need?”—and got a negative answer.”

      • GabbyD


        its not clear to me that horses and kalabaws are cheap. its not just the upkeep, but the production of horses and kalabaws is difficult, and requires cutting edge fertility science.

        also, the key thing is to get the product from the farm to the market. roads are important, but not not sufficient.

        the interesting thing about habitos article is:
        “They key was to make sure farmers had the needed cash through farm credit—something we have failed to provide enough of to this date. Now, with costs of petroleum and farm inputs the way they are, it seems to me the economics have completely changed, …”

        while it must be confirmed that the cost-benefit has indeed changed, the idea is crucial; which method will lead to more money on net, and a more secure income stream.

        • KG

          Thanks for your insightful inputs Gabby 🙂

      • UP nn grad

        I have made inquiries and so three people are coming up with a theme after they themselves made inquiries.

        Eto day are the thoughts as to how PresiNoynoy administration has justified that huge 55% cut.

        (1) No money … daw, but there was money last year, so it is more that the money was put to someplace else.

        (2) MMillenium Challenge corporation and Australia. This is not a joke, but they will not print this. Noynoy administration is hoping for more foreign aid like the Samar road.

        (3) GMA — again, the Noynoy admin will not put this to print, but not only was infrastructure one of GMA’s priorities, she put money into it. RORO most visible, but there have been many kilometers of highways built under GMA years and Noynoy admin says Pilipinas, puwede na munang maghintay.

        (3) Money — Noynoy admin has to cut spending on other places so he can claim budget-balancing as something he accomplished already. Reason for “budget-balancing”? So he can resist this social-justice-needs higher taxes.

        Above are from unofficial contacts from Washington DC and from metro-Manila. Pinoys and non-Pinoys.

        Noynoy is serious about “…NO NEW TAXES” and rural spending, for now, is suffering. “Rural” is not visible in metro-Manila. This is how “They” think that the Noynoy-administration is justifying the spending-cuts.

        PLUS — Noynoy himself is surprised that the RATS/RATE going-after-smugglers has not really raised government collections. His advisers (during elections) promised at least five times the numbers. This is the chismis chismis.

        • UP nn grad

          Addendum — money daw will get released for the probinsiya pag malapit na eleksiyon. If the timing is right, Millenium Challenge or maybe United Nations make new grants. Maari din, Asian Development or World Bank gives loan so PresiNoynoy makes another expansion to the 4P program.

          • UP nn grad

            Man… Noynoy is a more calculating politician than I thought. The guy is actually good, he knows how to make tough decisions. At least on choosing the rural-budget cuts, I think he can get away with the Macchiavellian view on things.

        • He has been given bad advice, poor advice.

          That is why he needs an independent commission to give him a proper assessment of the tax and spend programs. He won’t get it from his eunuchs.

          All this making do with what you have is a consequence of Zero Based Budgeting, which they have made out to be some grand invention, when really it is a relic of the Carter administration.

          And his “no new taxes” pledge is straight out of Bush’s playbook. Bush, Sr that is, who eventually broke his promise. Many of these ideas are really several decades obsolete.

          So taking the tough decisions? I wouldn’t put it that way. So far they haven’t been well considered.

          • Bert

            You continue to really amazed me, Doy.

            First, you are saying that making do with what you have is a bad thing as if splurging beyond your means is a better alternative.

            And then, to attain that objective of splurging you want the government to tax the people in order for the government to have the funds to be able to ‘live beyond its means’, in the process subjecting the president to lose credibility by reneging on his promises to the people of no new taxes and no corruption.

            If you’re trying to give suggestions to the present government for a better alternative of governing and sound policy I’m afraid you might hit a blank wall..

          • manuelbuencamino

            good points bert

          • UP nn grad

            to bert: Doy is making sound economic advice. You’ll find what he says propounded in various economic textbooks.

            The objective is not to live beyond the means of Pilipinas. You (more than Pnoy would understand — PresNoy — no children). Governments (like parents) do make tipid and sacrifices to spend for their children (and spending to build schools — you can’t call that living beyond means).

            I keep saying it — property taxes. People who can afford to buy themselves P50million- glass-and-concrete houses should be able to “make tipid” to pay more in taxes.

          • UP nn grad

            Maybe to use words PresNoy can understand —- a better-educated rural elementary- and high-school population results in better maids and drivers for metro-Manila/Makati Business Club denizens.

          • Bert, let me clarify. When I say making do. I am referring to making do with our present revenue mix.

            Presently, we are not living within our means. Our fiscal deficit will still be about 2-3% of GDP until 2016 according to the IMF World Outlook. To make do at present means “expenditure contraction”: a euphemism for “breaking our promises for a social compact” if ever there was one.

            So as a result of the bad advice re: no new taxes, just relying on RATE and RATS to rake it in, we find ourselves living beyond our means. That is even before we consider expanding social services to the same level as our ASEAN 5 peers.

            But what I am pushing for is an independent commission to look into this and advice the government on the range of steps it can take to correct it.

          • UP nn grad

            Doy: this has become a black-and-white issue.;

            BLACKNESS (BOOO!!!) is wishy-washy-wishy PresNoy breaking his “No-New-Taxes” promise made to Makati Business Club. Damn the torpedoes (or fund requirements to grow rural Pilipinas) but PresiNoynoy has to be true to his promise to Makati Business Club. Nakakahiya naman sa kaniyang mga kumpare kung iyon simpleng bagay, hindi niya maibigay, bakit pa siya perssss-idente? Pambihira naman, si Jag_8 at si 🙄 ManuB, naiintindihan ito — amor propiyo lang ito!! — bakit ikaw, hindi mo makuha? Matagal ka na bang wala sa Pill-pinas?? 😀

          • UP nn grad

            🙄 Muka atang perssi-dente Noynoy will fulfill his “…no new taxes”-promise even if it means kawawa 💡 muna iyong mga pamangkin sa probinsiya at ibang kamag-anak ng kaniyang driver at nuong katulog nina Lacierda at sa bahay ni Mar Roxas …. ganuon lang iyon.

            US versus THEM, GabbyD. Pero itinaas ang suweldo ng mga heneral at ng mga sarhento at privates, so hindi naman black na black ang black-versus-white. Mabait naman si Perssi-Noynoy sa military.