Many aspects of our political, social and cultural way of life need to change if our country is to become globally competitive. Managed change is a more welcome option compared to explosive change. We have to look ahead with open eyes and understand that the Philippines is not at a state of peaceful equilibrium. On the contrary, our country is actually in the midst of change, an ongoing revolution. The 1898, 1986 and 2001 revolutions are just milestones, important ones, but nevertheless just milestones, as the Philippines continues the process of evolving from its existing Western-style political and social model into its own unique versions of population organization. We must not be complacent nor be content to merely watch from the sidelines. Every citizen must play an active role and help contribute, accelerate and manage the changes that will occur. Failure is not an option, unless we want to join the ranks of broken and failed states that are "plunging willfully backward into the embrace of the old familiar, be it the penitentiary of religion, an opiate vision of a lost golden age, or simply the primal fury of the have-not".
WANTED IN 2004
Medium-sized republic with a population of 80 million is looking for a Chief Executive Officer to manage a bureaucracy with an annual budget of 800 billion pesos. Prospective candidates must have a strong political, financial, operational, philosophical and psychological background. A track record in restructuring and reengineering oversized organizations will be an advantage. Must have the ability to analyze problems and look beyond the obvious in the search for root causes. An innovative leader, he or she should always be looking for ways to motivate subordinates and to preempt potential problems before they can occur. Must be a student of human nature, in order to understand why subordinates make mistakes—not in order to rebuke them, but to find ways to change the environment that has led to previous failures. Prospective candidates must be eccentric, fastidious about personal appearances, tireless in the search for and pursuit of excellence, and as demanding of himself/herself as he or she is of others. Every candidate must be rated in terms of his or her moral and financial integrity. Actors and actresses need not apply.
GOVERNANCE, PHILIPPINE STYLE
The essential vision for Government has never changed, it has always remained the same: the delivery of government services—quickly, precisely and efficiently. Government employees, assets and resources on the ground, doing whatever it takes to deliver services and resources precisely, where they are needed, as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
How do we break away from the current, traditional (admittedly inefficient in the Philippine context) Western model of governance, and redefine and adapt our very own version with the end view of improving the delivery of essential government services and protecting the Republic and its citizens from a broad range of enemies? The data for measuring the delivery of these products and services can be very precise. How many passport applications were processed today? How many truckloads of rice were delivered to rolling stores today? How many traffic violators were arrested today? How many sidewalk vendors and jaywalkers were apprehended this week? How many kidnappers and drug pushers listed in the order of battle have been neutralized this month? How many tourists arrivals for the year to date? By any serious measure, most people will agree that state agencies are not delivering their products and dispensing services in an efficient and satisfactory manner.
But why? What is preventing or hampering government employees from doing the work that they were hired to do?
The answer is centralization. The top-down management structures so beloved by professional bureaucrats. Centralization robs the individual of ownership of his job, deprives him of responsibility, and destroys his initiative. Centralization has the effect of turning the people in government into communist workers. They pretend to work and we pretend to pay them. Centralization was a fantasy based on the dream of a totally efficient institution, but this concept shatters against the hard rocks of actual, everyday human personality and behavior. People simply don't operate the way centralization expected and predicted they would.
Every organization is made up of building blocks, and if the organization is running smoothly, these building blocks mesh smoothly together. The way centralization does it is to organize them from the top down, and functionally—that is by function specialty, and by the job done within that function. In government, specialists are gathered together in centralized locations and sent to work on jobs needed. Policemen work together with other policemen and are assigned from headquarters to precincts, substations, etc., prosecutors work with other prosecutors, firemen work with other firemen, engineers work with other engineers, tax collectors with other tax collectors, typists work with other typists, etc.
Under this system all the people who work in an agency or department are alike and interchangeable. The whole mass is rated, and individual success or failure is obscured. The basic rationale for this is "economies of scale": efficiency, cost savings, and elimination of duplication. But if you really observe the way government agencies operate, there is very little evidence or data that will prove these claims.
These departments and agencies "functional fiefdoms" of policemen, prosecutors, tax collectors and so on, are not oriented towards satisfying the needs of the primary client (the citizenry) and of the various subsidiary clients (entrepreneurs and businesses) and functions (tax and revenue collecting) necessary to keep the economy growing and operating smoothly. Rather, these "fiefdoms" are oriented toward satisfying the administrative and procedural needs (sucking up to the boss, waiting for instructions, writing out reports and filling up forms, requisitioning supplies, etc.) of the organization itself. Also, because of the vertical orientation of these fiefdoms, they do not work easily or comfortably with other fiefdoms—as everyone who has experience dealing with government bureaucracy knows very well.
What changes need to be done?
First, start an education campaign, and use hard data to persuade those who believed in centralized systems that it is a failure. Second, set up trial units as models of decentralization, and then compare the performance between the two. Once the hard data proves the superiority of decentralized systems, we can begin to put these systems in place throughout the bureaucracy. Third, reshape the basic building blocks from vertical to horizontal, and break up the "functional fiefdoms."
Every department, agency and bureau of the government has its own culture and traditions, its own sources of pride and ways of doing things, but these differences, in addition to the inevitable competition for resources and status, can easily get in the way of cooperation. The government must be able to project all necessary personnel, assets and resources quickly—at any given problem or crisis, which means that parochialism is an inefficient and antiquated luxury. The new mantra should be "jointness"—every government employee must be able to work together as well and as comfortably with others as with members of their own organizations.
We must strive to implement "jointness" by breaking the hold of individual operating entities of government on their resources.
In the area of law enforcement for example, operational control should be taken away from the Philippine National Police (PNP) hierarchy and transferred to every village and barangay. This means that the PNP hierarchy will be responsible only for organizing, training and equipping police forces. Once the policemen have completed training and are operationally ready, they should be assigned to one of the 42,000 barangays nationwide. Law enforcers should be organized and integrated into community-specific barangay and even smaller village teams, in which tanods, security guards, police, prosecutors and a judge all work together as a team. These law enforcement teams will report to the barangay captain who in turn is answerable to the residents. Each community can set their own goals, devise their own schedules and make their own decisions, all of them aimed at the final product—peace and order, low crime rates, criminals in jail where they belong. Contractual security agencies whose security guards guarantee their tenure only by maintaining a high level of service and professionalism is the most efficient model for law enforcers to follow. Compensation as well as the right to hire and terminate their services at anytime due to loss of confidence will rest with the community, and this must apply to every security guard, tanod, policeman, prosecutor and judge.
While law enforcement teams would surely help other teams out if needed, and the various specialists with other teams can be available to help, their performance will be judged on the peace and order situation in their own barangay or village. At the same time, they must be given the resources they need, including more training and equipment, to make their team perform well. For example, if a police officer is absent, the team leader can "borrow" a police officer from another team. Both team leaders don't have to wait for approval from superiors. The transaction is between both teams. (Decentralization at work)
In the Philippines, the village and barangay are the most efficient forms of population organization after the basic family unit. Each barangay or village has its own "barangay captain or village manager" and councilors or directors that should be elected on an annual basis. That barangay or village is now "his" or "hers" and they will now be responsible for it. It is up to them to make decisions—including mistakes—rather than wait for orders from higher-ups. Just as in the corporate world, the annual election will validate or reject the officials' mandate to manage and govern. The residents in turn, must pay taxes, assessed dues and maintain their "good standing" in order to exercise their right to vote. This is genuine democracy. If the village and barangay can enforce law and order more effectively compared to an overburdened, inefficient and corrupt city bureaucracy, why not allow the barangay or village to police its own borders?
Decentralization will lead to real ownership and empowerment, real teamwork, clear-cut accountability (poor performance will now be easy to track), and a system in which people will be able to operate as humans and not as functions in some machine. Problems will be solved by the people closest to them, to be cut off at the source. The problem solvers are free to both do it right and also to make mistakes. Mistakes will be made—the key is to try to prevent them from recurring, and the best way is to make sure they are self-correcting.
More practically, we must attack the root causes of the government's inefficiency: Close down sick, nonperforming units so there will be enough trained people to make the better units healthy. Kick the local government officials out of their air-conditioned offices, where they are now located under the centralized style of management, and place them out in the field, where they can truly be in charge.
We must ruthlessly root out and destroy procedures and processes designed to maintain control for its own sake. We must dictate goals and standards, then build visible and understandable scorecards that rate what really matters such as truckloads of rice delivered, violators apprehended and criminals caught and in jail. As we slowly moved to decentralized leadership, we should raise the goals and standards ever higher, and each day the men and women who work in government will prove they can exceed our highest expectations.
We also have to make sure these changes are built on a foundation of absolute truth. Lying, shading of the truth, and making excuses are completely unacceptable. To make the point clear throughout the bureaucracy, we have to make a number of highly visible "public executions". Everyone will get the message that there is a new way of doing business that depends on telling the truth, that bad news was acceptable if you had done your best and still failed, and that lying or shading of the truth to look good is far worse than failing.
All of this will restore pride. But even that isn't enough. We must also insist on raising standards of appearance. Bawl out any government official whose office is not clean and painted. If he has to, he should buy his own tools and paint. It isn't just for looks either. They must pay attention to subordinates, move among them and listen to them, learn from all the ranks as they figure out how to do their jobs more efficiently and quickly. We have to pay attention to families too, (family support centers and child care facilities, for instance), so that people can concentrate on their work. Most of all we have to pay attention to discipline. Discipline is fundamental to the good order needed to succeed, and fundamental to pride. Hard tests must be given in all the multitude of areas that are required to carry out the government's missions. There should be no excuses: If you fail, and it is because you need training, then you will get it. If you needed resources, they must be found. If you are overextended, you will be given time to grow. But if you lack the necessary desire, leadership, or integrity to be in the new government, then these people must be given the opportunity to succeed in civilian life.
LIES AND BETRAYALS
Our law enforcement and justice system is in terrible shape. It doesn't take very long for every rookie policeman, lawyer, prosecutor and judge to realize that we are not fighting the war against crime nor dispensing justice in the most efficient manner. The justice system is based on the principle that it is better to let nine guilty criminals go free than to convict one innocent individual. With that principle as the basis, so many restrictions are placed on law enforcers that very little law enforcement is actually achievable. If arrested criminals are allowed to post bail, why bother arresting them in the first place? Inadmissibility and insufficiency of evidence in court is an enduring problem for our law enforcers.
In time policemen will come to realize that it isn't just an efficiency problem; it is actually a stupidity problem. And then they will eventually realize that it is more than that, the existing system is full of lies and betrayals… Policemen, just like most people, are realists. They want to get the job done, and to do it well. It won't take them long to see that under existing conditions, even their best efforts would not get the job done well… If a policeman who is laying his life on the line is told to do a half-baked job, to perform less credibly, even though he might die doing it, then you will have a problem maintaining discipline and loyalty up the chain of command. The rules of engagement make policemen perform tasks that are not credible…and so over time, the laws are no longer be enforced because policemen simply look the other way. Add to this, political patronage, low pay and corruption and the result is that discipline along with pride will fall along the wayside. The good ones will leave and of those that remain, the weak ones will become "hoodlums in uniform".
What our policemen have to do is learn how to become a police force all over again. We have to liberate our law enforcers from antiquated rules of engagement and create an environment where individual initiative counts. Each law enforcement team must have pride of "ownership" of their own barangay or village. Add the awareness that we are in a just crusade against crime, and there will be no stopping our law enforcers. They will have pride, productivity, purpose, and a sense of professional dedication.
Decentralization is the key. Each man and woman will know what is expected and each in turn will place their lives on the line, not only to do their job, but also to exceed our highest expectations. This proposed decentralized system will not be popular with the PNP hierarchy but the cops on the street will love it.
We have to find the best policemen, give them the best equipment and send them to fight criminals and the other enemies of the state with the instructions: "Don't come back until you've won." Believe me, they will figure out a way to win. If we extend this policy up and down the ranks of the Philippine National Police—they will have a solid chance of winning the war against crime. Fighting criminals requires a two-track approach—an active campaign to separate the criminals from the populace both physically and psychologically, coupled with irresistible violence directed against members of criminal gangs and syndicates. The war against crime is a zero-sum game. You cannot bargain or compromise with criminals. You cannot "teach them a lesson". We either win or we lose. And it takes guts to play. Until we are ready to play by their "rules", the criminals will simply laugh at us and keep on winning.
ALTERNATIVE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
No matter how you allocate it, the government's 800 billion peso (USD15 billion) annual budget cannot provide enough resources to uplift the 80 million citizens of this country. The traditional "shotgun" approach, which is portioning out the budget among the different regions nationwide, will never be sufficient to allow the country to attain meaningful, sustainable growth. As we already mentioned earlier, political leaders almost always allocate state funds and resources to insure their continued success at the polls. To say that politicians are not the most efficient investment decision-makers is an understatement. Huge investments for business capital and infrastructure are necessary if the Philippines wants to catch up and compete with the rest of the world. How and where do we source these funds and how do we maximize it?
The old paradigm that the cities are guilty of hogging resources that should have instead been invested on the countryside is no longer true. Countries are increasingly relying on the world's more successful model cities such as Manhattan, Munich, Vancouver, Seoul and Shanghai. Cities have become the new centers of gravity. They have become the ultimate creators of wealth. They concentrate people, power, communications and control, knowledge and capability, rendering all else peripheral.
Compare the above-mentioned boom cities with deteriorating, reservoir cities such as Bombay, Calcutta, Cairo, Johannesburg, Karachi and Manila, where humanity's surplus and discards are accumulating. Many of these reservoir cities are characterized by anarchy, magnified by apathy. The danger is that the apathy of the masses can transform very quickly into violence.
The world investment community increasingly judges a country by the success of its cities and their immediate environs instead of concerning themselves with the entire countryside. In other words, who cares about the rest of Egypt if Cairo itself is calm? We don't have to deal with Indonesia—we deal with Jakarta. India is well on its way to becoming a confederation of city-states. Hong Kong and Singapore continue to set the benchmark for successful city-states. They should be seriously studied and emulated by countries looking to develop their economies. Boom cities will increasingly pay for, support and subsidize nation states. Consider what the most backward communist country, North Korea, is proposing in order to attract investment.
North Korea is attempting to revive its ailing economy by attracting foreign investment and improving ties with Japan and South Korea, among other countries. It desperately needs international help to recover from decades of economic mismanagement. North Korea's government officially set up the Sinuiju administrative region last September and pledged to keep its legal system unchanged for 50 years and allow its administration to issue passports and appoint the chief prosecutor. "The state will allow the region to be turned into an international financial, trade, commercial, industrial, up-to-date science, amusement and tourist center." North Korea will run the area along capitalist lines, with a legal system possibly based on European law, and would include elections to a legislature and administrators and judges hired from foreign countries.
The Philippines should do likewise. Establish new city-states with their own autonomous administrative, legal, financial and legislative systems patterned after Singapore and Hong Kong. The former US military bases in Subic and Clark can serve as the foundation for a new city-state that can attract our share of foreign investments and serve as the center of economic activity for Central Luzon. Cebu City can assume that role for the Visayas and so can Davao City for Mindanao.
A new century requires new, innovative solutions to the problems confronting us. Who will show us what Filipinos are capable of achieving? Who will help create an environment where failure will not be a factor? Who will give us back the pride we have lost and given away in the turmoil created by Western political and social models that have failed to work in our own unique environment?
We must go back to the same two enduring questions asked since the nineteenth century: "What needs to be done?" and "Who will accept responsibility for what needs to be done?" To the first question, this essay offers just a few of the many questions and answers needed. Every individual who dares to call himself or herself a Filipino must contribute and provide their own inputs as well. The answer of all Filipinos to the second question must be "We will!"
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