Is the system broken?

IN one of his past campaigns for public office, former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was asked what was the most pressing concern for reform in the Philippine government. His answer was that the Philippines lacked a professional bureaucracy.

Enrile cited both the agencies tasked with delivering day-to-day services to the people, as well as various “authorities” classified as government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs). As an example, he gave the civil-service bureaucracy of the United Kingdom, which consistently functioned at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness regardless of the political leaders who ran the government.

This was not a particular indictment of those in the bureaucracy but of a system that had failed. Companies understand that you must have competent people in all positions of responsibility regardless of rank. However, if a department suddenly falls apart because the head retires or if one or two of the rank-and-file employees leave, then it is the system that is broken.

In 1987 the International Organization for Standardization established the ISO 9000 family of quality-management systems standards designed to help organizations ensure that a company could function at a high level of effectiveness, even as the members of the organization changed over time.

That is not to say that a detailed operations handbook can compensate for incompetent employees. But a broken system can never be expected to reach its proper potential no matter how good the people are within the system.

For example, does being an elementary-school classmate of a Philippine president—who happens to need a job—qualify someone to sit on the board of a GOCC? And that is not an imaginary scenario. All you need to do is to examine the résumés of some past appointees.

Regardless of your views about the validity of the removal from office of former SC Chief Justice Renato Corona or the current Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno, the Philippine Judiciary is a near-disaster. For the past two decades, our judicial branch has constantly been criticized by global analysts as being a significant factor that has limited the economic development of the nation.

Since 1990 more than 60 individuals have been members of the Supreme Court and have, therefore, been part of exercising “administrative supervision over all courts and personnel thereof.” Yet it is difficult to show how the Philippine judicial system has significantly improved in the past 28 years. Have the “wrong” people been consistently appointed to the Court, or is there something wrong with the system?

The latest survey measuring the public’s satisfaction with President Duterte’s performance shows that 70 percent of the people are “Satisfied,” 17 percent “Undecided” and 14 percent “Dissatisfied.” The highest levels of dissatisfaction, at 13 percent and 17 percent, respectively, come from the “D” and “E” economic groups. By age, the 18-to-24 year-olds show 20- percent dissatisfaction.

Interestingly, the next age group of 25-34 shows the highest satisfaction at 80 percent. Likewise, those who are college graduates also hold an 80-percent satisfaction. That would seem to indicate that those who are more educated, at the age of developing their careers and probably more “connected” to current events see in Duterte what they want in a president.

Only Fidel V. Ramos, of all the presidents, since held a higher overall net satisfaction rating at this point in their administrations. Duterte’s public personality is sometimes difficult to take, and his actions and policies are subject to great debate. However, as the people believe that the systems that run our government are broken, they think Duterte is the leader needed to fix them.


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Turning Points 2018