No holds barred

If there is one thing President Aquino can’t be accused of, it’s an unwillingness to confront questions about issues affecting the Presidency. President Aquino demonstrated this afternoon that he can wade through the surf to clear the air about what’s happened on Aug. 23 and perceived problems in his young presidency. It borders on the reckless, because Presidents shouldn’t really expose themselves to such grilling too much, but in the end he succeeded in communicating his message to the people where his subo rdinates have failed.

This is a sharp contrast to the last nine years during the incumbency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Transparency was placed in the storage room and replaced by opaque windows to hide a lot of transactions from public view. I think this afternoon’s exercise gave vent to the frustrations of millions of Filipinos who want President Aquino to succeed. Whatever his shortcomings, majority of his countrymen consider him the best hope for this nation. If he fails, then our nation will fail. By taking on the questions head-on, he managed to blunt the growing anger, and I think the situation will simmer down to allow his government to bring back focus to what it is doing.

A leader must communicate effectively to succeed. This is the most important lesson that we can draw from this episode. The President saw that the ship of state was drifting off course, and he needed to appear on national TV to stop it from going astray. To do this, President Aquino articulated his personal disgust over the bungled hostage rescue operation, which is the root for the people’s frustration and anger. He made it clear the operation wasn’t anything near desirable. He was misled into believing things were being run properly. And like so many millions who watched the botched operation unfold, he lost his own temper as the blunders came one after another.

Personally, I think it doesn’t change the fact that certain Aquino administration officials miserably failed to do their jobs as the crisis developed into a bloody affair. Instead of these key aides doing all the organizing and coordinating, President Aquino admitted that he even had to make many calls to get things done. A small group carrying the President’s authority could have handled the job effectively and avoided the bloody end. It’s a matter of these key aides knowing what they ought to do in a period of crisis.

The bloody end is a costly way for President Aquino to realize that things are not working well in his immediate circle of officials. It exposed organizational flaws that are so fundamental it is disgusting to think how it could have cropped up in the first place. It betrays arrogance among his key advisers in refusing to let experienced officials contribute to the gargantuan task of rebuilding a tattered economy. And the much talked-about rift between the “Samar” and “Balay” groups is a major reason why all these things are happening. This clash of egos has resulted in deaths.

It’s time the President make everybody understand there is only one ship captain, and that’s him. Factions are normal in any organization. The challenge for the President is to stay on top and make decisions after hearing clashing ideas. He can even harness the quarreling groups’ energies for the good of his nation. The difference is that when he makes a decision, he puts a “period” to the issue. Any behavior that will obstruct the captain’s duties should be considered mutinous, and the guillty party forced to walk off the plank.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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