Succession planning

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, August 25, 2014


THE 1991 State of the Nation Address (Sona) was highlighted by President Cory Aquino stating clearly and unambiguously that she would step down at the end of her term. We hope the president will emulate his mother at the 2015 Sona.

There is nearly two years before PNoy comes to the end of his term for which he was elected in 2010. These two years can be used by a still reasonably popular president to ensure that the country is in the best state possible by the time his term expires. If he does this, his legacy will be that he was a “good” president who did much for the economy, who strived with some success to ensure that economic growth had inclusivity, who raised the nation’s standing on the international stage, and, most importantly, reduced corruption.

The alternative is to neglect the day-to-day challenges of government and to focus, as he has been doing recently, on aspects which are related to, but not of, government. This would be highly regrettable. What is needed now is for PNoy’s cabinet to work with the Legislative Branch to produce the best possible budget for 2015. What we do not need is endless carping as to how the Supreme Court (SC) decision relating to the unconstitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is adversely affecting the nation.

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For example, Provincial Social Welfare Officer Liane Garcia says the non-release of DAP funds is holding up the implementation of social protection programs designed to reduce poverty. What about the 2014 budget for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)? Were the funds not included there? If not, why not? Are there funds in the 2015 budget? After all 2015 is only four months away. DSWD should be doing the groundwork now so that there is efficient implementation in 2015.

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Interior Secretary Mar Roxas’s idiotic suggestion that PNoy should attempt to run for a second term beggars belief. Roxas says that he made this suggestion as a result of the “clamor of the people supporting Mr. Aquino’s brand of leadership.” There is no such clamor. PNoy’s rating has plummeted from +66 in June to +29 in June 2014. Presidential Spokesman Sonny Coloma talks in terms of the “ebbs and flows” of the ratings. There are no such ebbs and flows. There are only ebbs.

The Liberal Party has a problem. Mar Roxas, the Liberal Party’s presumptive presidential candidate in 2016, is unlikely to win. By suggesting that PNoy should try for a second term, Roxas is not inspiring the voters that he, Roxas, is the strongest possible candidate. Given that what passes for Liberal Party ideology has substantial support from the electorate, the Party should ask itself whether it should find someone else to be its standard bearer.

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PNoy seems to be losing the plot. His task is to run the Executive Branch. He should not worry about the alleged deficiencies of other branches of government. That is not his concern. He needs to be much tougher with his cabinet. For example, there is a serious lack of clarity as to the consequences of implementing the nation’s education policy as embodied in RA 10533. Education Secretary Armin Luistro needs some Thatcheresque or even GMA-style detailed questioning about how implementation will be carried out. Luistro’s patronizing smile would not get very far with GMA and nor should it be with PNoy.

PNoy’s term can still be regarded by history as successful. This depends on the next two years seeing through the effective legislative agenda underpinned by sound management decision-making.

United States President Obama, also stepping down in 2016, does not have the time to consider who his successor will be. PNoy should follow this example. Let others do the lobbying, the speculation, the jockeying for preferment. PNoy should be aloof and above the fray.

After all, he is the President.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 25, 2014.

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