Upon my return from an Australian postgraduate scholarship in 2010, I immediately reported to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations (CMO) of the Philippine Army, then headed by Colonel Daniel Lucero (+), to take over the operations branch.
I was supposed to join the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans to replace Colonel (then Major) Rommel Cordova, who was at the time spearheading an initiative to craft an Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR). This was kickstarted in April 2010 in a three-day working session with the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) in Tagaytay. Here, I was given a rare chance to participate in a trailblazing event, along with dozens of handpicked personnel representing a cross section of the organization.
Life at the headquarters was never the same after our time with ISA in Tagaytay. The ATR technical working group had to hit the ground running, and I still remember the birthing pains. Action officers like me were suddenly caught in a never-ending string of follow-through conferences, workshops and “writeshops.” Our office also immediately recognized the value of crafting and operationalizing our strategy map and scorecard, and so we spent countless hours debating on our mandate, searching for our reason for being as an office, and finally finding our place within the huge effort to transform the Philippine Army.
In marketing our intended reform, we had to take turns visiting subordinate units to facilitate countless advocacy and capacity-building activities. Along the way, we encountered a lot of “change monsters” in all shapes and sizes. While some of them never got the hang of the ATR, a good number eventually converted and became its biggest fans and champions.
By the end of 2012, we were already reporting to the Army leadership gains from one full year of implementing our governance roadmap and scorecard. By 2013, one of our major projects, the CMO Management Information System, became operational. What started out as a personal advocacy to make the lives of tactical officers easier became a proposition to completely scrap the traditional way of submitting printed accomplishment reports periodically, in favor of a web-based data gathering tool. Today, this has drastically changed the way CMO planners collate, share, and use data, and improved planning and decision-making through-put times.
By 2014, our office was also able to generate a baseline net trust rating, net satisfaction rating and nation-building contribution index for the Army. This is a classic example of how a team, with enough heart and mind, can go from designing strategy to executing it.
Six years down the road, the usual whys have now turned into hows, and talking about transformation has become the new normal. This, in itself, is transformation.
The program’s most enduring impact on me, however, occurred in 2013 when ISA’s founder and chairman emeritus, Dr. Jess Estanislao, introduced us to the concept of personal governance in one of ISA’s master classes. It was then that I started reflecting on my personal circumstances vis-a-vis the Army’s core values of “honor, patriotism, and duty,” and the Philippine Military Academy’s motto, “Courage. Integrity. Loyalty.”
This was an eye-opener. As I started crafting my own personal core values, mission, vision, and governance scorecard, the past, present, and future became clearer. I was reminded of this line in the Cadet’s Prayer, “Let the light of thy divine wisdom direct us to a firm resolve to live up at all times to the creeds of our institution and teach us never to fail to measure up to the ideals of the profession we have chosen through life to follow.” Soon enough, I had to face these hard questions: “Was I able to measure up to my Alma Mater’s ideals? Do I still have a place in a transforming Army?”
Governance at the institutional and personal levels significantly aided me in charting the course of my life’s “second half.” After having helped set up basic governance mechanisms for the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2014, I decided to finally push through with my plan to retire from the service. But of course, even now at the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) where I work, I continue to draw inspiration from the governance journeys of the Army and the AFP.
This is the challenge of transformation: for the institution to prosper, we have to rise above personal motives, desires, and ambitions. Clearly, there are things more important and bigger than ourselves.
I remember what some of my mistahs (PMA classmates) shared with me as they reflected on the 2013 “Oakwood Incident:” “When we went to Oakwood, we wanted to change the country and the AFP. It turns out we only needed to change ourselves.”
Ruel Rombaoa is the concurrent head of the Development Bank of the Philippines Institute and Acting Bank Chief Security Officer. He has also served as head of DBP’s Knowledge Management Center. He continues to advocate for governance reforms as an Associate of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA). To learn more about his work with the group, visit isacenter.org.