Dindo Manhit, President of the Stratbase ADR Institute
Actions speak louder than words, but words that evaluate actions are tools for improvement. As we are way past the political honeymoon stage, the challenges that confront the Duterte presidency in its second year are far more complex and demanding. Under this condition, strategic leadership is the overarching framework through which the challenges can be effectively addressed.
The “very good” performance rating of President Duterte in December 2017 may provide Filipinos a good reference for what’s to come regarding his leadership in 2018. This leadership, however, should be based on a keen perception of policies and practices over the past one and a half years. From this perspective, the following issues are noteworthy:
First is national security. The case of Marawi City should be a once-in-a-blue-moon security glitch for the country, and no more. This experience gives us lessons in national defense and the ability of our armed forces to quell rebellion. By now safeguards should have been put in place to prevent another Marawi or a nationwide insurgency. The President and Commander in Chief is in the position to check and assure the strategic and tactical superiority of our armed forces over any other warring group. We would not want another Marawi.
The second is inflation. Although within the projection of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the increase in the prices of commodities is instructive and needs to be monitored. For the next three months or so, safety mechanisms, price monitoring, and other precautionary measures should be put in place to arrest the increases. Empirically, the political mood of Filipino consumers would be harassed on a daily basis should prices continually rise.
Third, in terms of political development, it should be understood that a shift to federalism is more than a change in the political system. In a federal setup, political structuring is the main goal so that participation and public engagement are promoted. Through this, the power of the entrenched elites could be questioned. Another very important aspect in political development is the institutional component. As there have been many cases of dismissing corrupt government officials, what needs to be instituted is the equal application of anticorruption laws and practices on all officials at all levels.
The fourth thing that needs to be sustained and followed through is budgeting. The current orientation is worthy of continuation as it prioritizes the neglected sectors in society or departments of government. Again, monitoring is imperative to ensure the judicious implementation of the budget. Should the federal initiative push through, another landscape would be available where we can witness public budgeting that involves the people in their respective governments.
Finally, there has been a significant amount of legislative accomplishments for the past one and a half years. The right move could be to consolidate gains and collect the spillovers for more policy and action programs. In particular, this could be done by expanding the implementation of the freedom of information bill and making it applicable to the legislative and judiciary branches of government. Such action will go a long way in promoting a transparent and accountable government.
In a nutshell, this is the year in which strategic leadership based on political astuteness and judicious thinking is warranted. Public witticisms and dauntless pronouncements may for the moment ease the emotions of a beleaguered audience, but the problems created by misplaced reactions would affect the whole country. Moreover, regional and international politics could simply be stirred and unnecessarily agitated.
Less talk, less mistakes. By simply banking on the good policies that have been continued and created, the presidency is in a good position to provide Filipinos with much-needed social services. Through a stable policy environment guided by strategic leadership, the political transition toward a federal setup would likewise be realized.