Bully pulpit

A grade of 91 percent is possible but highly improbable.

In my more than 20 years of teaching, handling classes for more than a thousand of students, both in the military and in several law schools, I might have given a grade of 91 percent or its equivalent, twice or three times at most. Not that my learners do not deserve it as a few have actually nailed some of my exams, but such a grade connotes great eminence, in my standards. For a tricky and complex legal specialty, say, Wills and Succession, it takes more than intelligence to secure a 91 percent average rating. More than the required know-how, a student has to exhibit comprehensive understanding of the nuances of the subject to earn the trust and approbation of his teacher.

President Duterte recently secured a 91 percent trust and approval rating as indicated by the recent Pulse Asia Ulat ng Bayan Survey. Such a rating reveals that a majority of the Filipino people set their trust and confidence in him. I believe it was the same rating that the President obtained from a similar national appraisal in 2016. The level of trust among his constituents just keeps on “soaring,” per commentaries anent the survey. For the Filipino to accord the Chief Executive with such a doable yet highly improbable lofty score, in the midst of a health pandemic and an organized chaos in one government agency after another (i.e. Bureau of Immigration, PhilHealth, Congress), he must have demonstrated great competence as to merit the trust of 91 percent of the respondents. In response to said survey result, Malacañang appears to be ecstatic if not ebullient, while the critics are despondent as expected.

Some have opined that the timing of the survey could have played a critical role in the 91 percent rating. Conducted nationwide for the period covering September 11-20 of this year, and while most areas of the country were under general community quarantine or its modified version, most of the respondents must have had a favorable view of the President as they were allowed to come out of their caves for work or essential services. The survey was likewise done during the time when the government cash aid—formerly known as Social Amelioration Program (SAP) was handed out anew, so something fortunately tangible was seen and likely felt by the survey voters. If the survey indicated the number of respondents who were beneficiaries of SAP as opposed to those who were SAPPED of time and energy complaining about much prolonged quarantine, the 91 percent rating would have greater credibility.

The nationwide televised press briefings that make the President physically available to the general public might have added to this 91 percent trust rating. A working paper written by Mr. Tristan Canare revealed the findings of the Ateneo School of Government regarding “herd behavior,” meaning “individual perceptions of the group’s satisfaction appeared to be linked to their own answer or satisfaction.” What the group perceives, the individual adopts. With access to the weekly press briefings and government information coming from the news, some of the respondents may have fleshed out their votes pursuant to the general perception as circulated. Note, however, that to most of the discerning viewers, content-wise, these briefings have become a series of non sequitur statements as the President keeps on mouthing off invectives, from time to time. More than establishing science and logic, he has talked in the past about using gasoline as a disinfectant and the injection of an anti-venom like vaccine coming from a horse or a cobra.

One must walk his talk, be consistent both in words and actions, lest he be called a hypocrite like the scribes and Pharisees of the Bible (Matthew 23:13). Being the highest official of the land, the President can make full use of the “bully pulpit” where anything and everything he says can have nationwide if not global impact. The leader who we should trust and place our confidence in, should not just articulate a vision for the country using the bully pulpit, but should seriously promote responsible behavior by example. In my own bully pulpit through this weekly column, I try to temper my words and deliberately use respectful language as best I can. I try not only to appeal to this paper’s discerning readers and followers but also to those less informed masses whose minds might be influenced by positive or inspirational writing.

In his own version of bully pulpit, Jesus Christ made clear his reasons for coming to us, as can be gleaned from Luke 4: 18-19—to bring good tidings to the humble; to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives; to open the eyes of them that are bound; and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. His actions all throughout his entire journey on earth demonstrated humility and assertion in living out the things that He said and came here for.

In one of our daily videoconferences during the quarantine, my father once asked all the participants (my mother, my siblings, myself) who do we consider as the best leaders in history. Some answered Lee Kwan Yew, Margaret Thatcher, and Abraham Lincoln. Without a doubt, these leaders could have earned a 91 percent trust rating at their peak. My response was Jesus Christ whose rating goes beyond 91 percent or any other numerical value. In our biblical history, we have a servant leader who paid no attention to any popularity surveys as He simply walked the talk with much integrity.

We should likewise expect the same level of sincerity from any of our leaders as each of them dutifully sworn to “faithfully and conscientiously fulfill his duties;” “preserve and defend its Constitution;” “execute its laws;” “do justice to every man;” and “consecrate himself to the service of the Nation.” Completing their oath with the phrase, “So Help Me God,” I expect leaders in government to always remain mindful of God’s presence in everything that they say or do. In so doing, some of these leaders might just get a 91 percent from me—possible but highly improbable.

A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.

For questions and comments, please e-mail me at sbmison@gmail.com.


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