This June 10, 2022 file photo shows President-elect Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. speaking during the Award for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding (APPCU) awarding ceremony in Makati City. PHOTO BY BENEDICT ABAYGAR JR.
This June 10, 2022 file photo shows President-elect Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. speaking during the Award for Promoting Philippines-China Understanding (APPCU) awarding ceremony in Makati City. PHOTO BY BENEDICT ABAYGAR JR.

First word

THIS early, a full week before he takes his oath and his term officially begins, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is discovering the difference between campaigning and governing.

After winning an election, a new president and his team must change gears from campaigning and shift to the much different task of governing.

What implications do the elections have for the president? Do they provide him with a mandate to govern? Do they contribute to his capacity to get things done? Does the president's electoral coalition easily translate into his governing coalition?

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In BBM's case, it is now asked why during the transition process he has made the unusual decision to temporarily take the post of agriculture secretary himself, concurrently with his surpassing tasks of chief executive and commander in chief.

The decision underscores the high importance he attaches to agriculture as the single biggest sector of the economy (two-thirds of the total labor force and almost 40 percent of GDP), and the plight of the poor. Almost 70 percent of the country's poor are based in the rural sector and depend directly on agriculture-based activities for their source of livelihood.

Personalized electoral process

In his authoritative study of the politics of presidential elections, The Road to the White House (New York,1981), political scientist Stephen J. Wayne underscored the personalization of the presidential electoral process. He observed that presidential candidates in presidential systems are more on their own, and are less dependent on their political parties. They create their own organizations, mount their own campaigns, and set their own campaign plans.

However, they pay a price for this independence. The personalization of the presidential electoral process has serious implications for governing. It makes it more difficult. A president's partisan appeal becomes less effective, and fractionalizes the basis of his support.

The weakening of party ties carries over to the governing process, with adverse consequences for the president. It creates a fertile environment for the growth of interest group pressures.

This group struggle enlarges the arena of policymaking and contributes to the multiplicity of forces that converge on most presidential decisions.

3 maxims for a president to follow

Professor Wayne identified three maxims that every president ought to follow in his effort to convert campaign promises into performance, and to fulfill his mandate to govern.

  1. He must define his own priorities rather than have them defined for him.
  2. He must build his own coalitions rather than depend solely or even mostly on partisan support.
  3. He must take an assertive public posture rather than let his words and actions speak for themselves.

Campaigning vs governing

Campaigning is not the same as governing; people well suited to one are not necessarily good at the other. While loyalty cannot be neglected, it is to the president's best interest to have competent administration.

While on the campaign trail, the candidate presents his vision on the major issues in the election, and outlines his program of government.

In governing, the task turns to the process of getting changes done and executing the effective takeover of the government.

The word "govern" is derived from a Greek word that is related to steering or piloting a ship. A compass is invaluable in making decisions about how to steer or guide a ship, but it is no substitute for making the actual day-to-day decisions that will guide the course of the ship of state.

The issue is govt effectiveness

In a vivid explanation of the idea of effectiveness, the thinker and teacher Edward de Bono says:

"Without effectiveness there is nothing. The greatest dreams in the world stay as dreams if there is no effectiveness."

What is effectiveness?

"Effectiveness is setting out to do something and doing it. It is as simple as that."

De Bono wrote these words in the book, Handbook for the Positive Revolution, which he wrote for Brazil to assist its government in its bid for national transformation.

Effectiveness may be the missing link in the poor record of administration in the country since 1986. It is the crying need of the nation today.

As scandals have proliferated over the pork barrel and smuggling, government in our country has been in great disrepute and distrusted by the citizenry.

Public officials, elective and appointive, are uniformly suspected of raiding the national treasury.

The low public regard is mirrored by a decline of talent in government service. As we have had presidents with no real capability and skills for the presidency, so people of talent and with expertise have shied away from public service, leaving the field to the mediocre and easily corruptible.

Without respect and trust in government, there can be no change for the better.

According to a highly respected Harvard professor of management, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, building a positive case for government is a key part of the solution for making government more effective. She writes:

"The most important factor is leadership... To restore respect for government, leaders need to argue the positive case — that government carries out meaningful and beneficial functions, that public service can be a high calling, and that government services can be [and should be] provided with impartial professionalism...

"As long as anti-government rhetoric goes unchallenged and voices of respect are silent, we will not get good government."

I have a theory that it wouldn't be so problematic if some of our presidents were not so arrogant, vindictive and divisive during their presidencies. The inability to admit mistakes combined with arrogance and vindictiveness to create a toxic situation for our society.

Let us hope that with a new administration, we can restore the situation to sanity and balance.

Government effectiveness requires professionalism and competence.

Good government is based on facts, and can never be born from mere propaganda.

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