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Is Leadership in Philippine Government a Myth?

Is leadership a myth in Philippine government?

This question popped up into my mind today as I think of the recent crisis in the Philippine government last week that has brought untold repercussions in  public governance and the Filipinos in general. 

The crisis was the result of the standoff between the two co-equal and independent branches of government – the Executive Department and the Supreme Court.

It happened when the country’s former President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Department of Justice for her to travel abroad to seek medical treatment.

Arroyo could not go abroad because of the pending “WatchList order” by the Department of Justice for her, even though at that time, no criminal cases were filed against her in court.

President Benigno Aquino, through his alter ego Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima, appeared to have defied the TRO issued by the Supreme Court, on the flimsy excuse that her department has not yet received the written order, though everybody knew about it, as it was broadcast in all the mass media.

Later, de Lima changed her tune, saying that the government would be filing a motion for reconsideration on the TRO. In truth, the government had been defying the Supreme Court order, and did everything to ensure that Arroyo could not leave the country.

Then the government’s Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Jesse Robredo, another alter ego of the President, said he was asking the legal experts so that in case of conflicting orders from the Supreme Court and the Secretary of Justice, he would know whose orders should be obeyed.

Of course, it is elementary that the order of the Supreme Court interpreting the law, takes precedence over other orders, and that it must be obeyed. That is the basic principle in a democratic and republican state. In fact, any diligent second year law student know this principle.

Unfortunately, it seemed that Secretaries de Lima and Robredo, under President Aquino, were setting a bad example to the citizens and creating dangerous precedents in not obeying court orders even from the Supreme Court.

This incident has led me to ask the oft-repeated question: Is Leadership a myth?

A country’s development (or the company’s success) is dependent on the success of its leader. On the other hand, the success of the leader depends on the good, competent, experienced followers and subordinates who constitute his management team.

Thus, a country’s success – economic development, good peace and order, vibrant investment climate, employment opportunities, improvement in the quality of life of the people, depends on firm and effective leadership and astute management of its resources – human, land, capital, entrepreneurship, and sound public governance.

Therefore, leadership is NOT a myth. It is important in governing a country like the Philippines.

However, in the case of President Aquino, without good, experienced, competent, and committed cabinet secretaries and without the people who follow him, leadership cannot be effective.

For peace, development, and progress cannot proceed without the rule of law, or if the rule of law is not followed.

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