I’m pretty sure Malacañang knows it, we all know it, and even the voting masses can see through it: that when the Palace uses public money to talk dirty about Mar Roxas’s political rivals, that in fact, it is doing the classic foot-in-mouth.
So when it says the next President must “lead by example,” one cannot help but ask: so what kind of example has this current administration been for all of us the past six years?
If they’ve been leading by example, what is it that we must emulate from them, and what kind of leadership is Roxas inheriting exactly when he says he’s continuing Matuwid Na Daan?
Lead by spin (plus three communications offices!)
The past six years, we have had to deal with governance via spin. That is, we have a sense of what government is doing, but it’s delivered to us like it’s an advertisement.
One of those three communications offices seems to function like an advertising firm filled with copy writers. Bad copy writers, too.
Because when you think about it, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government, and even Fidel Ramos’s, must have had spin doctors in Malacañang, too. That has to be part of some “damage control division” that falls under “communications.” And yet nothing has been so hardsell as the posts that one gets out of the Official Gazette and the Palace’s communications offices – especially on its social media accounts.
When at the height of the President’s veto of the SSS pension for senior citizens, they will bombard the public with infographics about the good the government has done for senior citizens. When in the midst of complaints about the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the unjust taxation of Filipinos who already earn so little, what we get are infographics about how much has been collected via sin taxes and taxes in general.
When even as we all question the fact of savings given the horrid state of social services such as public transport, health services, education, what we get are infographics about how much this government has saved. Oh wow! That much in billions?
Why the hell are you proud of that? Because amounts – huge amounts – are the name of the spin game.
This could so be named: “Lead by numbers.”
Lead by arrogance
If we were to learn from the kind of leadership this Liberal Party government has given us the past six years, then we must all lead by arrogance.
That is, when we are faced with criticism for something we have failed to solve: we pin the blame on someone else, preferably someone we have jailed and who cannot answer back, like the former President. There is nothing more convenient than pinning all the blame on one’s predecessor, never mind that one has been in office for the past five years.
There is a flipside to that coin of course: claim everything that you can of the same President’s achievements. That is, better roads and infrastructure; but also the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program. The latter is of course the centerpiece of this government’s achievements.
But also this kind of leadership refuses to admit its mistakes, and instead wastes public money on spinning what we all know is kapalpakan.
When faced with criticism, they turn upon the critics instead of responding to the subject of the criticism. They can invoke freedom and democracy and EDSA 1986 when convenient, but silence critics the rest of the time.
They say they are the harbingers of freedom because they “let” rallies happen; never mind that they hose down and violently disperse rallyists, and go on security overdrive even for national events like the State of the Nation Address.
They can say with a straight face that there are no political prisoners.
When faced with a man who had just survived the strongest storm to ever make landfall in the world, a man who asks that the President secure the province of Tacloban because people were already taking out their guns, this kind of leader replied: But you did not die, right?
And as the dead lay in the streets of the same province, as the people were walking aimlessly to search for food and water, as the devastation was beyond imagination outside of that room, this Interior Secretary spoke to the mayor of the city and instead of talking about what needed to be done, he turned the conversation to the political rivalry between the Aquinos and Romualdezes, which dictates that they must “go by the book.”
“Go by the book” to save people, to feed people, who had just survived the strongest storm to ever make landfall in the world.
Lead by ka-burgis-an
Insensitive to the daily struggles of the people and the kind of unproductivity that heavy traffic begets, Malacañang’s Roxas had said once: “This is a problem in a sense that arises from prosperity. Because there is money. Because there is economic activity.” (GMA News Online, 13 Aug 2015)
Never mind that the populace is exhausted from the daily commute. Never mind that commuters’ lives are endangered by inefficient and unsafe trains. Never mind that time in traffic is time wasted. For a majority, it is money lost.
Leading by kaburgisan has not only given us these wonderful soundbites, it has also rendered as empty the rhetoric against corruption.
Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda has said: “The fight against corruption needs a leadership that is committed to live by example.” (Manila Bulletin, 1 Feb)
Yet it is this leadership that has turned corruption into such a class-based concern, a concept that they have spun so hard, it has lost all meaning. After all, if corruption is our main crisis as nation, and this leadership is not corrupt, then why has poverty gotten worse? Why are people still dying of hunger, still denied access to health services, still suffering in the midst of privatized social services?
This is this leadership’s burgis slip showing: when it can speak of incorruptibility to be its heart and soul, even when around the Palace – and across nation – poverty and need and hunger reign.
If this is the example that Roxas – or any candidate – will follow, then we’re in deep shit.
Published in The Manila Times, February 4 2016.