In bold headlines, President RodrIgo Roa Duterte has declared he is fully responsible for rising prices. It’s about time. The signs were there long before – increasing world commodity prices, higher excise taxes on fuel and other necessities, heightened uncertainty in investments due to expected changes in the incentive system, dwindling stock of rice and other commodities in government warehouses – and yet there seemed no sense of urgency on the part of government to tackle the problems. The President did not seem to be on top of the situation. There seemed to be no coordinated, integrated plan of action. Yet that is the responsibility of the President, to solve the problems.
He should begin by having a through understanding of this complex relationship between prices and other elements in the global and domestic economy. As President, he has access to the best brains in the academe, business and industry as well as international research agencies. But he needs the patience and the discipline to appreciate the context of these problems.
He also has his Cabinet to rely on, especially when it represents the wide diversity of the human resources in the archipelago. The vetting process was so important for Philippine presidents, especially those that had a narrow field of experience and network. President Cory Aquino had a nomination and selection group that screened potential appointees and gave recommendations to her. Despite his extensive experience in government, President Fidel V. Ramos had a group that scouted for talent, drawing in expertise, some of which he did not know personally. President Joseph Estrada had a team where UP public administration guru Dr. Raul de Guzman figured prominently to come up with what Dr. Bernie Villegas described as “one of the best cabinet,”
All these experts should be given the latitude to discuss and debate the issues within defined parameters and deadlines to arrive at recommendations. Both Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos used the Cabinet cluster approach. President Ramos added the “bibingka” (fire on top and fire at the bottom so recommendations were well cooked); guided the various groups with his mentoring which made those who worked with him better in attitude, knowledge and skills.
The President should allow the resource persons to take even positions contrary to his. I remember having an argument with President Erap on an issue related to tariffs. In the end he struck to his position. However when subsequent events proved him wrong, he went back to my position. From there on I earned his trust and he would go my way. President Erap listened and learned.
In the end though, it’s the President’s choice. I remember when Sec. Jose Concepcion and I were debating with Secretaries Solita Monsod and Jaime Ongpin on the mandatory allocation of bank funds to small and medium enterprises. President Cory sided with us but made clear it should only be until the end of her term.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte should realize, its not just rising prices. The President as CEO is responsible for managing the affairs of the Executive Department, collaborating with the legislative branch and respecting the independence of the judiciary. Adhering to the spirit and letter of the Constitution he should ensure justice, fairness and avoid letting his personal animosity to color his decisions and actions.
While he has his personal advocacies, he should not allow these to distract his attention from the other pressing problems of the country. While he may not be able to personally attend to these issues, he should at the same time have a mechanism to arrive at a systematic approach which, after considering all points of view, will arrive at the best solution for the Filipino people.
And that is taking FULL responsibility for running the country.