Presidential advice

Published September 20, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Erik Espina
Erik Espina

I recall one vignette my father (former Cebu governor, secretary of public works, transportation and communication, and senator Rene Espina) would relate regarding cabinet meetings with then President Ferdinand Marcos. When an issue would be raised or was on the agenda, the standard response was, “Mr. President have you decided on this matter?” “Is this still open for discussion?” When the president answered it was still open for debate, immediately many of the president’s cabinet would be throwing in their opinions, their points of view on the business at hand.

Given that Marcos was himself an intellectual, he chose his official family based on intelligence, experience, ability, as well as political loyalty. He enjoyed the exchanges and the discourse of ideas thrown into the arena to craft a workable policy. Based on the exchanges, and when the president either finally decided or called for everyone to sleep over it, that’s when the matter was finally determined and concluded.

The process of debate and exchange was a positive step before any pronouncement was made by the president. There was also the necessary process of all cabinet members coordinating on the various issues, particularly with the Office of the Press Secretary, in order there would only be one, unified message. In short, reading from the same page.

One feature of an intelligent leader is he is aware that he does not have all the answers, nor the expertise for all pending problems. Competent and reliable advice and where to get it is crucial. Marcos was known to summon experts on certain fields he was unfamiliar with. For one or two hours, the President would be initiating and posing an expert with queries. It was what my father would describe as “computer down-loading.” After such exercise, Marcos would be proficient on the subject.