The Plan: Update

 

The plot thickens; or does it?

On Wednesday, I wrote a piece on the cabinet re-organization, called The Plan, hailing it is a significant positive development in the administration of the benevolent one.

In today’s Inquirer, Amando Doronila seems to think that it is more of the same, saying that it is a factional maneuver by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr, a member of Camp Binay, preempting the entry of rival camp leader Mar Roxas into the cabinet. Doronila opines that

The adoption of the cluster mechanism was no less a coup staged by Ochoa to fortify his position. It was announced amid statements by the President that he intends to appoint former Sen. Manuel A. Roxas II as chief of staff, a new Cabinet position with still unspecified functions and jurisdiction. The EO explicitly situates the ES at the apex of the Cabinet hierarchy, as the overarching “premier” of the President’s official family. There is no mention in the EO about the position of the chief of staff and the place of Roxas in the nomenclature and Cabinet hierarchy. The EO promulgated by Ochoa, presumably with the approval of the President, is an exclusion order that puts Roxas on notice that he has no place in the Cabinet, or a power base (emphasis added).

The basis for Doronila’s conclusion is the provision under Section 5 of the executive order that promulgates the cabinet restructure, which states

The Executive Secretary and the Secretary of the Presidential Management Staff shall attend all Cluster meetings as regular members, in the performance of their general monitoring and oversight functions (emphasis added).

This is where perhaps Doronila’s logic has gone astray. He seems to be reading too much into the above statement. How the ES goes from being an attendee to all cluster meetings to occupying the ‘apex’ of the process is beyond me. Why does he not make anything of the fact that the head of the Presidential Management Staff is also meant to sit in all the meetings?

Naturally, the President has to stay informed over the deliberations by his cabinet officials to stay on top of the situation. It would naturally mean being represented in all of these meetings by the ES, the PMS head and his communications people.

That is not to say that these representatives will be chairing the meetings or directing the process. The EO specifically designates two department agencies within each cluster, one to chair and the other to manage the secretariat.

May I suggest to those who think along similar lines as the mischievous columnist that the reason why the EO is silent over the role of chief of staff is probably because it hasn’t been created yet. A subsequent EO could well and truly clarify that role.

To me, Doronila is deliberately fanning the flames of factionalism by assuming there is some clandestine agenda in the design of the restructure. He seems to be second-guessing the intentions of players at every turn:

This jigsaw puzzle developed as the President made a great show of the eminent entry of Roxas into the Cabinet with a bicycle caravan around Quezon Circle, dressed in the emblematic yellow color of the administration.

In an ostentatious show of unity that failed to mask the factional infighting within the administration over the spoils of office, the President led the bicycle brigade, with Roxas and Ochoa riding along. There was, however, a sour note in that demonstration. Vice President Jejomar Binay, who defeated Roxas in the May election, did not show up. Ochoa is said to be allied with Binay in the cleavage that divides the administration supporters into two main contending factions.

The fact that the soon to be determined role of the chief of staff was not mentioned in the EO is not to say that when the official appointment comes it will not define his role in this process. Even assuming that the chief of staff is not directly involved in the cluster process (for argument’s sake) does not mean that he cannot make a significant contribution to it.

As a strategist, the chief of staff could look at the process as an outsider who is allowed to think outside the box. The cabinet clusters are designed to create strategies and implement them under current constraints. Those constraints include a budget that at the moment is limited by our current tax system and a set of policies that are in the president’s legislative agenda.

Who is to say that someone with a bird’s eye view cannot look at the overall architecture of the strategy and decide that a structural break or re-design needs to happen.

Doronila makes much of the yet undefined organizational and financial clout the chief of staff will or won’t have. A strategist does not require huge resources to perform that role. It only requires a person daring enough to think in an innovative manner. Ideas don’t require huge bureaucracies, in fact, sometimes heft creates a handicap in this department.

So in the final analysis, what are we to make of EO43? More of the same, or a positive development? Over to you…

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.