The tipping point

Published April 10, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

J. Art D. Brion (RET.)
J. Art D. Brion (RET.)

By J. Art D. Brion (RET.)

 

I am sure that many of our readers have met the term The Tipping Point, the title of a book authored in 2000 by Malcolm Gladwell under the subtitle How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The tipping point I refer to in this article runs along the same lines as Gladwell’s – the critical point beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place.

In the context of this article, I believe that developments are now taking place in our governance, collectively indicating the certainty of direction and surefootedness that our leadership has found to push our country to progress. We are now witnessing a tipping point.

I trace the roots of what I see today to the President’s first major effort – his war against illegal drugs. We were almost a “narco state” when he took over the reins of government; illegal drugs were everywhere and could already threaten the government’s and our society’s stability.

Early successes came, only to sputter as fatalities mounted and as claims of lopsided implementation reverberated: the police only caught or killed the poorer users; they did not touch the drug lords and their influential coddlers.

This perception found new strength early this year when the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed the case against the alleged No. 1 drug lord and his cohorts, despite open admissions of culpability in past congressional investigations.

The President reportedly hit the roof when he learned of this development and reportedly said that the DOJ secretary’s head must roll. In no time, he “accepted” the resignation of the Secretary who had by then already earned his share of controversy from other incidents.

The dismissal was nothing new in the present administration as other senior officials had fallen before, among them: A DILG secretary; the vice president as cabinet member; a DICT Secretary; a Dangerous Drugs Board chairman; an Energy Regulatory Commission chairman; an agency administrator politically close to the President; and several undersecretaries, mostly for corruption.

Nor was the bare fact of dismissal the bright ray of hope that observers saw in the DOJ secretary’s sacking. Meager hopes turned to high when the President appointed an old Malacañang hand, Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, to be the new DOJ Secretary, at the same time that he appointed Police Director  Oscar Albayalde as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) despite expectations that the former PNP chief would stay on for another year. Another bright light was the appointment of Gen. Carlito Galvez as the next AFP Chief of staff. Significantly, even former DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, a consistent presidential critic, characterized these appointees to be “as good as they can get.”

In the regular course of governance, appointments do not usually arouse excitement; appointments are regularly made when incumbents retire, are dismissed or as they move on. What distinguished the President’s recent appointments was his deviation from his usual field of choice for senior positions; he moved past his old and familiar circle of political supporters and associates from the past.

The new appointees were not from San Beda (the President’s alma mater) and were not active political supporters, unlike many of his initial appointees. DOJ Secretary Guevarra was not only an Atenean but was even a carry over from former President Aquino’s Malacañang team. Director Albayalde, on the other hand, displaced an old hand who had the President’s trust and confidence from long years of association. General  Carlito Galvez, for his part, was the commander in the recent battle for Marawi, who brought with him war and peace negotiations experiences in Mindanao.

Before these recent appointees came, there was also the appointment of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, a former AFP chief of staff and roving ambassador to the Middle East on OFW affairs. Like the first three, he is also a newcomer to the Cabinet, is not from Mindanao, and is from outside the President’s old circle, He recently gained public notice as DENR Secretary when he recommended the total closure of Boracay tourism for 6 months to allow unimpeded rehabilitation efforts. Despite resistance from business and local interests, the President heeded his environmental team.

The closure was arguably a harsh move and was certainly a departure from the President’s previous action in the mining sector. But it was a decisive move. The President thereby signaled the primacy of environmental concerns and the rule of law over politics and its solutions of compromise and equivocation.

Thus, around the President now are new but seasoned and reliable hands who have earned plaudits even from the political opposition. The President’s eyes now also roam far, wide and beyond the mayoralty/Mindanao vistas he had long gazed at. Merits, reliability and integrity are obviously major factors, while politics has assumed a lesser role.

Of equal significance as a development is the re-opening of the peace negotiations with the New People’s Army after a break up characterized by bitterness and repeated disappointments. Even the military, it seemed, did not fully agree with the re-opening because of the NPA’s high demands.

To his credit, the President prioritized the possibility of peace over anything else, and now has at his side a supportive AFP Chief of Staff. His approach treads the same line he has taken in the Muslim problem: peace, not politics, should predominate because Filipino lives are at stake and because the nation cannot move forward without internal harmony.

Of course, these developments are merely the new and rosy ones that do not at all remove, resolve or overshadow the existing problems that still loudly call for solutions.

The drug problem has miles to go before the administration can declare victory. The recent developments though have shown us the firmness and decisiveness needed. To step up the initial successes, we must now continue to plod on and to tackle every obstacle in the way, whether internal or external.

Corruption still lurks in the shadows; the President still needs to stress to all that under his watch, the time for reckoning for past misdeeds always come, even for the most prominent among us. The President’s recent actions on corruption clearly show us the way.

Our descent to poverty has been years in the making and no administration perhaps can eradicate it in less than a generation. Victory over drugs and corruption, however, could be the best starting signals the administration can offer the nation in its fight against massive poverty.

In sum, we must now recognize the recent developments and the President’s responses for what they are – significant starting markers towards the progress we have long been seeking. Together, they combine as the tipping point we should take advantage of – the confluence of able leadership, firm will, and sure directions our people can follow.

 

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