Tip for Leadership

Address delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN as guest honor and speaker during the Induction of the 2010 Board of Governors of the Management Association of the Philippines held on January 26, 2010 at the Rigodon Ballroom of The Peninsula Manila.

I thank your outgoing president, Mr. Joey A. Bermudez, for inviting me to be your Keynote Speaker and Inducting Officer during the Induction of the 2010 MAP Board of Governors. This occasion gives me the opportunity to reunite with the most important management group in the country. Before I joined the Supreme Court in 1995, I was an active MAP member, and had the honor of being elected to the Board of Governors from 1990 to 1994.

May I also congratulate the new leaders of the Management Association of the Philippines, whom I have just inducted. Many of them are my friends, namely Companero Eusebio “Ebot” V. Tan, president; Peter L. Wallace, vice president; Judith Duavit Vasquez (my fellow director in the GMA7 Network), treasurer; Medel “Ding” T. Nera, secretary; and the following governors, Elizabeth “Beth” H. Lee, Gregorio “Greg” S. Navarro, Felino “Jun” A. Palafox Jr., Lydia P. Sarmiento, and Mark Watkinson.

Integrity, Not Just Honesty

Mr. Bermudez asked me to speak on the MAP theme of “Principled Leadership in Challenging Times.” Instead of presenting principles of leadership in long prose, permit me to underscore three easy to remember core values that underlie the basic principles that I believe are essential during these challenging times. Let me begin by recalling a stirring homily delivered a year ago by a well-known archbishop.

He said, “In the Old Testament, there are Ten Commandments, but in the New, our Lord Jesus Christ summarized them to two: love thy God and love thy neighbor. And how does one love thy neighbor?”

Citing Scriptures (Matthew 25), now retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz proclaimed the Christian answer: we show love when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoners. But the outspoken prelate went beyond the Gospel and asked: Shall we just feed the hungry but not punish the greedy who deprived them of food? Shall we just provide clothing without chasing the robbers who stole the clothes? Shall we just visit the prisoners without bringing to justice the tyrants who jailed them?

These are the same longings I found in the 2008 MAP Annual Report that President Bermudez sent me as an enclosure to his letter of invitation. On page 5 was a summation of the MAP Statement of Good Governance. It lamented “the frequency of corruption cases and scandals that have been growing in scope and intensity, to wit: the Joc Joc Bolante fertilizer scam; the General Garcia case; the Jose Pidal scandal; the Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard, the North and South Rail projects; the Hello Garci tape; the reported shameless distribution of cash gifts in Malacanang Palace; the questionable procurement of DepEd textbooks, DND helicopters and BOC x-ray machines; the Comelec Mega-Pacific computer deal; and now the scandalously overpriced NBN ZTE deal.”

The MAP Statement added, “If corruption cases happened under our watch in our corporations, what would we do? As business leaders and managers, we would immediately order an impartial and thorough investigation, fire all those involved, and offer to resign for having failed in our duty to protect our company’s assets and reputation. Are we to tolerate a lesser standard for those who manage the affairs of government? Should the ethics of governance be less for government executives? Should not the same culture of compliance, transparency and accountability be embraced by our leaders in government? If there are no differences at all in the yardstick by which government and private managers are measured, should not the leaders under whose watch all these shameless scandals occur offer to resign now?”

The courageous questions raised by Archbishop Cruz and the MAP Good Governance Statement are the same queries asked by most people in different ways. But they all long for the same answer, for principled leaders who personify and live by the norms and values needed for sound and effective governance.

Three Kinds of Government Officials

Relevant to these questions, I can say that there are three kinds of government officials. The first are those who arrogate absolute power to themselves, plunder the treasury, and use their public offices to amass ill-gotten wealth. We abhor them and consign them to the darkest pits of history.

The second are those who serve under abusive regimes but who keep themselves personally pure, discharge their functions efficiently, and refuse to join the corrupt in raiding the public treasury. While these few good men and women can be described as honest public servants who literally follow Scriptures cited by Archbishop Cruz, they however do nothing to stamp out the evil around them, content as they are with distancing themselves from the evil conspiracy.

Honesty is a virtue taught in grade school. I am not critical of those who sincerely exemplify it. But beyond honesty, the country needs during these challenging times the third type of public officials – men and women of integrity, who will not merely refuse to tell a falsehood, but who possess the moral courage to punish the greedy, chase the robbers, and prosecute the tyrants.

These challenging times call for patriotic men and women who not only keep themselves clean and pure but who work fervently – at the risk of their own safety, health, earthly possessions and careers – to safeguard liberty, to denounce the plunderers, to vindicate the poor and to make truth and justice prevail. In short, these challenging times require integrity of the highest degree, integrity that does not compromise with evil, integrity that underlies all canons of professional ethics and integrity that backstops the Ethical Standards Law for public officers.

Trust in a Democracy

Let me now discuss the second value that I believe we need during these challenging times – trust. Many of us are old enough to recall that in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Philippines was the envy of most countries in our region. Certainly, our economy was more progressive and our people more productive than many of our neighbors. The exchange rate was two pesos to one dollar. We exported sugar, coconuts and rice. We employed Chinese amahs from Hong Kong to cook for us and to care for our children.

Now, fifty years later, our country is the backwater of Asia. The exchange rate has sunk more than 20 times to almost fifty pesos to one dollar. We no longer export prime agricultural products; instead, we import them now. Worse, we have incurred an ever-increasing debt with no plausible idea of how we – or even our grandchildren – can ever repay. We no longer employ Chinese amahs; instead, our people race for work as housemaids and construction workers in Hong Kong, America, Europe and the Middle East.

In desperation, many have proposed that – to recover from these doldrums and achieve fast economic growth – we should abandon our liberal democracy and human rights advocacies and follow the more authoritarian regimes of our neighbors like Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam. They covetously argue that if Singapore can do it, so can our country.

With due respect, may I point out that the Philippines is not Singapore. I believe that authoritarianism of whatever form will not work in our country. Our people live in a different political, social and cultural context. During the martial law years, authoritarian rule was proven to be incapable of producing meaningful long-term economic progress.

Even more important, our people value their freedoms very dearly and will not exchange them for food. Indeed, Filipinos may endure occasional hunger, but they will not tolerate injustice and indignity for long. Just because authoritarianism succeeded in bringing economic progress to our neighbors does not mean it will do the same for us.

Our only option is to make do with what we have, under our peculiar facts and circumstances. And so, you may want to ask, will democracy ever work in our country? Will our people ever follow the rule of law? Are we ready to embrace the discipline required by freedom? I say Yes! Most certainly, Yes!

As proof, let us look at the Filipinos abroad. They strictly follow the law. They stop at red lights even in deserted street corners. They honor their obligations. They pay their taxes willingly. They respect the rights of others. They are industrious and productive. In democratic societies like the United States and Canada, our people flourish, and earn more than the average American or Canadian.

Indeed, we do have a pattern for our government and our economy, the United States and the European Union, which are still some of the most envied in the world. Their economic growth is attributable to consistent, stable, transparent and accountable governance, all of which are possible only when there is continuing trust between the governed and the governors.

In short, our system of democracy, rule of law and free enterprise is not defective. It is our leaders who are. The remedy then is to change our leaders, not our system; to elect leaders whom our people trust completely, not to sabotage their elections or to prevent free and honest choices.

It is not easy to lead a democracy. True, the majority prevails. But the minority must be heard before decisions are taken. Due process must be observed. Public opinion must be heeded. Constitutional rights must remain inviolable. When human rights are transgressed, a majority of one prevails over the entire government apparatus. Many times, democracy is inefficient and slow. But there is no better substitute, no better governmental system acceptable to our people.

In a democracy, the essence of good governance is the trust of the people. Once trust is lost, conflict, stagnation and degeneration ensue. This is true in every democratic organization, public or private, big or small. When constituents no longer trust their leaders, goals become impossible dreams.

Even in relationships like marriage and family, once trust is lost, trouble begins. When a wife no longer trusts her husband, or when the children no longer trust their parents, the family breaks. By the same token when the people no longer trust their president, governance becomes extremely difficult.

And yes, trust in the new president begins with his credible election. That is why May 10, 2010 is critical to our political, social and economic progress. On the forthcoming election depends the very survival of our democracy and the rule of law. Let us elect leaders we can absolutely trust, first and foremost.

Probity – not mere intellectuality

The third principle or value of effective governance is probity. It does not mean mere intellectuality or academic intelligence. Neither does it refer to practicality; nor to superior knowledge. Webster defines it as “uncompromising adherence to the highest principles or ideals.” I agree, except that I would add to this definition the ability to discern various alternatives and to select the best in a given set of circumstances and relationships. As I always say, probity requires us to do the right thing in the right way at the right time and for the right reasons. Process, timing and motive are as important as substance.

An example is the move to amend our Constitution. I think almost everyone agrees that our 1987 Constitution is not perfect. So, there is hardly any debate as to the need to change some parts of it. Essentially then, Charter change or Cha-cha is the right thing. Just because it is the right thing does not mean that the Constitution should be revised immediately, via any method and for any dubious reason.

Totally devoid of probity, our government leaders tried to ram down the right thing but via the wrong method; that is, via the people’s initiative by inventing signatures to show an alleged clamor from the people; an exercise described by our Supreme Court (in Lambino vs Comelec, Oct. 25, 2006) as a “grand deception,” or via the constituent assembly by forcing a joint, rather than a separate, vote by Congress. They tried to bulldoze it at the wrong time, when there are more urgent problems needing attention; and for the wrong reason, to extend indefinitely the reign of the most unpopular president in the history of our country.

A modicum of probity would have shamed our leaders from pursuing an obviously odious proposal via the wrong way, at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons.

To recapitulate, three values (or underlying principles) are indispensible to win the future: integrity, trust and probity. To help retain them more easily in our minds, I rearranged them and coined a three-letter key word, TIP – trust, integrity and probity. This is my TIP on how to meet the challenges of these times, my TIP on how to win the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I end let me answer a question asked by someone who learned that I was going to induct today the new governors and officers of the MAP: Why did the MAP elect the managing partner of ACCRA as its new president? Since when have practising lawyers become great managers?

I cannot speak for MAP but I believe that leadership and management are essential in all professions and organizations. Lawyers must organize their case records and large law firms, like ACCRA, must run their nationwide operations and worldwide affiliates, manage their resources and people to serve their clients effectively and produce maximum results at the least cost.

By the same token, judges must track their caseloads and chief justices must reach out, computerize and manage the judiciary nationwide. Priests must organize their parishes; bishops, their dioceses; and popes, the universal church. So too, must physicians track their patients’ continuing well being, not just their illnesses. They need to put together various specializations and run medical centers efficiently. In all these, everywhere and all the time, management principles, techniques and strategies are essential.

Even our Lord Jesus Christ used leadership principles in teaching his disciples how to spread the gospel effectively. After the Last Supper, our Lord took off his outer garments, got a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then, He poured some water in a basin and began washing their feet.

The apostles remonstrated and Peter said, “Master, you will never wash my feet.” But unknown to the disciples, the Lord was teaching them the virtues of humility and of watching over one another lest they fall into sin. So, He declared, “If I, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow. So, as I have done for you, you should also do.” Our Lord led by example. At other times, He used parables to drive home His teachings. At still other times, He showed indignation by driving away the chattering vendors who disgraced the Temple of His Father.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are many ways to lead: by delivering motivational speeches and homilies (not unlike what you have asked me to do today), by sporting an iron fist, by buying loyalties, by dispensing patronage, or by belonging to a dynasty.

It helps to be a great orator and a financial wizard. Patting backs and rewarding good work have their uses. Charisma, media exposure, good looks, genes, science, passion, opportunity and greed have propelled many people to center stage but have failed to produce the desired results. Many times, they have resulted in corruption, malgovernance and violation of human rights.

Undoubtedly, our Lord had a lot of TIP. He enjoyed the complete trust of his disciples, exemplified integrity of the highest degree and demonstrated deep probity. But to move his followers to their martyrdom, he led by the example of His life and death. Committing to and adhering to TIP values is an essential beginning in propelling a worthy cause in any organization. However, leading by example in showing TIP is the best, if not the only, way to long term and effective leadership during challenging times.

Maraming salamat po.


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