IT is encouraging and indisputably right that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is now resolutely moving to remove from his government high officials who have failed to meet the grade for reasons of suspected corruption and abuse of power.
That the firing of officials is taking place after only nine months of Duterte’s accession to the presidency is all to the good. This way. the President and the administration gain the opportunity to make corrections, and learn from the mistakes in appointment and vetting.
So far, the President has dismissed the following from his government:
1. Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, for alleged corruption and lying to the President.
2. Undersecretary Maia Halmen Valdez from the Office of the Cabinet Secretary for usurping the authority for rice importation.
3. National Irrigation Authority Administrator Peter Laviña, for alleged corruption.
They may be only the tip of the iceberg. The President has said that there will be more firings in the coming days and months, because he is determined to clean up his government, before officials grow more horns
When we review the staffing process of the administration, it is evident that this shakeup is only to be expected for the following reasons:
1. The fevered rush to staff the new administration within the span of just a few months;
2. The President’s inexperience in national administration;
3. The narrow base of the President’s relatively young political party, PDP-Laban, whose leadership and membership are quite limited and callow; and
4. The lack of a tested vetting process through which nominees or candidates for positions could be investigated and questioned by competent agencies and individuals regarding their capabilities and their personal integrity.
Under the circumstances, mistakes of recruitment were bound to happen. Then, add to these the powerful factor of patronage, and the criterion of loyalty to the President.
Patronage is simply the urge of a victorious campaign to reward people for their work or contribution to political victory. Patronage rarely finds the best people for the available jobs; often it produces wrong or misguided appointments.
Private corporations normally meet their staffing requirements through a well-developed system of headhunting and recruiting executives for their management.
The system of recruitment for a presidential administration has been described disparagingly as, “BOGSAT”: a bunch of guys sitting around a table saying, “Whom do you know?” Bogsat is not an effective approach to a talent hunt.
The Duterte administration can improve its batting average significantly if it remembers that staffing a government is essentially a talent hunt. It is not a search for mediocrities.
The administration will also learn if it reviews carefully the reasons why these fired Duterte executives were ineffective.
It should also factor into the review the possibility that ambitious people may have undermined the fired officials. It is significant that the firing of Sueno was evidently the doing of three undersecretaries at the DILG.
A review is important because other prospective appointments should be up for evaluation soon, when the Duterte government will already be one year old.
There will be a rush of politicians who will be eager for appointments, after the one-year ban on the appointment of 2016 election candidates passes.
After a year’s experience, President Duterte needs a thorough and effective vetting process more than ever.