Noynoy publicly criticizes his own speechwriting staff

In another demonstration of his lack of a deep understanding of the concept of command responsibility, Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino dissed his own speechwriting staff in public. Choosing instead to speak extemporaneously in front of an audience made up of participants in the 10th Student Catholic Action of the Philippines (SCAP) National Leadership Conference in Saint Paul University in Manila, Noynoy spoke of how he did not like the speech that was prepared for him by his staff

[…] hindi ko ho gusto yung ginawa nilang talumpati para sa akin. [“I did not like the speech that they prepared for me”]

… the President explained in Tagalog.

Always quick to mitigate the media ripples caused by Noynoy’s frequent off-the-hip remarks, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda explained that the President was not necessarily unhappy with the performance of his speechwriters and that the President was simply adopting his delivery to the “mood” of the audience and occasion. Lacierda goes further to defend Noynoy’s role as having the final say as far as what he plans to say before an audience.

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“The President is his own speechwriter. At the very end, siya talaga ang nag-fi-finalize ng kanyang speech. Hindi siya unhappy with his speechwriters.”

But of course, though it seems lost in Mr Lacierda that Noynoy was quite categorical in his public disclosure of his dislike for the work of his speechwriting staff.

Distancing one’s self from the work of one’s subordinate is one thing — the mark of a weak manager. Publicly speaking ill of a subordinate is, to say the least, unprofessional. A real manager much more a true leader sees himself as personally responsible for the work of his staff and stands by this work when putting up a public face. A manager or leader who wears in public even the mistakes of one’s staff requires courage and honour. Obviously, Noynoy lacks both, choosing instead to say me-not-responsible for the quality of the work of his own Office staff.

When a General loses a battle, he does not come up to his commanding officer pointing fingers at the artillerymen who failed to move their hardware into position, or the infantry team who failed to secure a bridge, or the weather for failing to cooperate. He simply reports how he failed to accomplish his mission — period. Adam tried to pull a similar stunt when he had to face God and explain why he ate the Forbidden Fruit. “Eve made me do it” simply didn’t fly, and we all know how the first couple’s brief frolic in Paradise ended (suffice to say, we all get to be born stained by humanity’s first gaffe).

It is quite understandable when reprimands are made within the four walls of a manager’s office outside of the public eye. Keeping the interiority of the affairs of a team, well, internal is what builds esprit and camaraderie. A leader who violates the trust built within a team by making the public privy to the internal squabbles of his office creates divisiveness. More importantly, it makes said leader look like a pathetic whiner.

Indeed, this comes at a time when the public had just about forgotten about the October 2010 circus created by Carmen “Mai” Mislang — arguably the most famous Malacañang speechwriter in Philippine history.

Noynoy Aquino and Mai Mislang in more carefree times

Mislang, at the time an “Assistant Secretary” in the bloated Communications Group of Malacañang tweeted “wine sucks” referring to wine served by their Vietnamese Government hosts in a state dinner prepared for Noynoy’s delegation back then.

Noynoy may have unwittingly (assuming he normally possesses wit) undone months of excruciating public relations damage control work. Like the way a long buried childhood memory can resurface at the smallest hint of a familiar smell or a glimpse of a familiar face, or a chord from a hit song of that time, the mere mention of “speechwriter” in the middle of yet another Presidential gaffe could spell trouble for Mislang who had probably only now finished picking up the pieces of her shattered career and public persona.

That’s no problem of course for a man whose only concern is to look good before the Filipino public — often at the expense of the very people who work hard to help him with that very task.

17 Replies to “Noynoy publicly criticizes his own speechwriting staff”

  1. Oh, good grief. This guy has no idea does he? Of course, if he’d had any real-world experience in even being so much as a supervisor, he wouldn’t be making this sort of mistake.

    Simple rule: Back up your erring employee in public, change the subject (or at least don’t downgrade him) in front of his peers, take him in the office, shut the door, and rip the holy hell out of him in private. You make your point, your customers see a coordinated team, your staff sees a leader who has some respect for his people, and your employee hears what he needs to hear without being shamed.

    For Pete’s sake, the biggest thing I was ever in charge of was an auto parts warehouse, and even I know that.

    1. In other words, PNoy loves to grandstand. He wants to look “great” at the expense of other people. Hmmm…he kinda reminds me of someone else who loves doing the same thing at the AP Crowd. 😉

  2. Noynoy Aquino’s Speechwriters cannot delude the public anymore…this is the reason, he is angry at them…He has more problems to attend to like: (1) gasoline prices, increasing, day to day. (2) prices of basic commodities, increasing, day to day. (3) food production, like rice production is going down. Food Riots are coming. (4) OFW servant/slaves coming home in droves…Blame and Diversionary tactics from his Media Yellow Nazi Propagandists is not working. The Realities are staring at him, like Ghosts…He is just immature and irresponsible…he cannot accept blame and responsibilities.

  3. In an era of spin and deceit, we are on his case for being (naively, perhaps) honest?

    I used to write speeches for the CEO of my bank. American CEO’s, British CEO’s, Japanese CEO’s. How I wish that one Japanese CEO had torn up my speech when I intended motivation, and it came across like Tojo whipping up the Kamakazees.

    There is a lot of nuance in a speech. Sometimes writers get it right, sometimes they don’t. In this case they didn’t, the Chief pitched it, and you guys are crying like he just pissed in public or something.

    Believe me, Patton did not always stand up for his troops.

    Maybe you wouldn’t have such apoplexy if you just accepted that the man is indeed inexperienced, little eccentricities like this are a part of his personality, and support YOUR president, like you expect HIM to support HIS staff. Loyalty cuts both ways, UP and DOWN.

    1. @Joe America

      Pareng Joe America, there is one serious flaw in P-Noy’s assessment.

      He forgot to explain what is there in the speech that he disliked. If P-Noy expect to have a paid staff, then he should expect to evaluate them in terms of specifics, not generalities. It’s like saying “You’re bad” without knowing why.

      So he’s not being honest. He’s being whimsical – he thinks he’s honest because he thinks he has the truth, and he thinks he has the truth because he sits on a Presidential chair, eats Presidential food, and makes constant press releases on a President-friendly network.

      1. Cy, you may be right, I don’t really know the details of how he handled it with his staff, or his personal mood at the time. To me it is not such a big issue. Speech writing is hard. Perhaps here in the Philippines, where sensitivities (face) run so high, his staff was mightily embarassed. I know I would not have been, as it is the boss’s prerogative to do with the speech what he wants. He is responsible for what he says, even if I wrote it.

        And my key point was that the critics here feel no allegiance (as in the Pledge of Allegiance that I said every day before class in elementary school) to be loyal to the Philippine President. It is like they want President Aquino to be loyal and protective of staff, but they feel no compunction to protect the integrity of their nation’s presidency (as an office).

    2. Well, guys, regardless of how hard or how easy speechwriting is, the fact remains, Noynoy (or any manager for that matter) should keep his opinions about the quality of the work of his staff within the confines of Malacanang offices. After all, what value is added to his audience in their getting some insight into Noynoy’s opinion about the speeches written by his staff? As Cy said, he was being whimsical (though I prefer to use the term “glib” to describe it).

      Lacierda’s speaking up was basically a long winded expression of “basta” for his boss. It is indicative of Noynoy’s Malacanang’s regard for their constituents — as if they are not worthy of an intelligent explanation.

    3. No, it’s entirely within his purview to approve of the speech or not. Cutting down his own staff in public is not an eccentricity, though. If he wanted to make a point, for instance, to come across like a “regular guy” and connect better with his audience, why not just say, “Hey folks, I wrote this speech myself” without saying why. Or make up some excuse: “Everybody was busy today, so I had to sit down and try to remember how to use the Word program” (cue appreciative chuckles from the audience).

      Or just not say anything.

      I’m not “crying” because he pitched his speech. I’m crying because his dissed his own people, and that’s bad. How would you have felt if that Japanese CEO got up in front of his audience and said, “My speechwriter (that guy, over there sitting in the back — because remember, Noynoy’s speechwriters are not anonymous) did a crappy job, so I’m not giving you that speech.”

      1. I didn’t see how he spoke when he tossed the speech. If he was angry or whimsical makes a big difference, as one intends to attack the writers, the other does not, it simply says “I wanted to say something else”. Most writers get over their high sensitivity earlier “author’s pride”. Most speech writers grant their boss full latitude to pitch or re-write or ad lib. Most can take a joke.

        And I have been the butt of many a joke or insult in public forums – it’s the nature of a Marketing guy’s job – it comes, it goes, it is no big deal.

  4. I don’t understand you people. Here he is being open about his dislike of his particular speech just like he wants to be open about anything and you criticize him for it. Look what previous presidents did to us by hiding everything and standing up for their people even if they are wrong. That was what is called connivance and it is us who were conned and suffered. I’d rather have a president who is open about anything and everything than one who hides everything.

    1. @Dennis

      Makes the two of us man. I totally agree with you. But the thing is, not everything is “fairy tale”. If I have parents that are completely not what I’d expected, I don’t rant and point out their flaws. I adjust and accept them for who they are. What can I do? Mold them the way I like?

      The same here. You can point out all the flaws the president all you want, sky’s the limit, but it’s not going to change a thing in this country. Here’s there already. All you can do is do with what you can with what you have and adjust to your environment.

    2. @Ron: Of course. But then there is still a lesson to be learned here. And hopefully this lesson that we are learning today as we watch Noynoy bumble his way through one state affair to another will be applied the next time Filipinos are faced with the responsibility of choosing their next leader.

      @Dennis, you seem a bit confused between the concepts of covering up incompetence and exercising command responsibility. A speech delivered by the President is his speech, regardless of who wrote it. What Noynoy did was hang a hapless speechwriter out to dry in public which is totally uncalled for and unbecoming of a manager. Then again, what would Noynoy know about managing people?

      1. Hopefully, for me, the next 5 years of his Presidency (if it lasts long, that is) will serve as a valuable lesson for ALL of us when it comes to electing leaders in our country, along with the fact that we will witness the demise of a decaying system that long holds our country hostage ever since the Spanish times.

      2. @Benigno

        Hmm…I don’t know. Guys from the government are really clever. They use the “Halo Effect” on their advantage and Filipinos are prone to aesthetic features because a lot are actually uneducated.

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