Principles in gov’t rightsizing

Published August 15, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

By Alex B. Brillantes, Jr. and Karl Emmanuel V. Ruiz

President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. (Photo by Noel Pabalate / MANILA BULLETIN)

The first State of the Nation address of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. included several references to the imperatives of governance reform, specifically the need to rightsize the bureaucracy. This would be enabled by the proposed National Government Reorganization Plan (NGRP). While this was not surprising –it was expected –considering that all presidents since President Quezon in the 30s up to President Duterte in 2016— included the imperative to reform government top in their agenda. All reform interventions underscored the fundamental principles of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.

It was therefore not surprising that Ferdinand Marcos Jr – like his predecessors – underscored the need to reform the government through a rightsizing process. Earlier on, Marcos Jr issued EO 1 reorganizing the office of the President. In his SONA, Marcos, Jr. pointed out the urgency of putting the house in order “by rightsizing the government to enhance its institutional capacity to perform its mandate and provide better services while ensuring optimal use of resources.”

Indeed, while the goals of reforming organizations, including the government, are noble, the idea of reforming institutions – in this case, referred to as “rightsizing” –is not new. They are all premised on the fundamental management principles of efficiency, economy, and effectiveness (known as the classic 3Es on management). The National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) at the University of the Philippines Diliman has been conducting studies on the reorganization of governance over the decades.

Over the years, based on our studies and interactions with many academics and practitioners in public administration at the local, national and global levels, we have concluded that it is equally important – and relevant – to include the principles of equity and ethics, and accountability in any public sector reform intervention.

Equity has two dimensions: one is a preference for the poor and the vulnerable, and the other is an effort to reform governance. Ethics means knowing what is right from wrong. Finally, accountability (pananagutan) is about an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility – and when called for, the consequences –for such actions.

Equity has two major dimensions. Former President Ramon Magsaysay once said in the late 50s, “those who have less in life should have more in law.” The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (also the Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs) emphasizes reaching the poorest and most vulnerable. The Philippine government has adopted a 25-year long-term vision to end poverty in the country by 2040 (Ambisyon Natin 2040). It is within this context that public sector reforms and reorganizations should be aligned to the principle of equity, more specifically in terms of addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable.

The other dimension of equity in public sector reform concerns the next generation, inter-generational equity. Rightsizing efforts are not only for the present but should consider the long-term effects of such interventions. Rightsizing efforts should not only have long-term perspectives but also should be sustainable. This, therefore, may be framed within the broader context of inter-generational equity.

Finally, public sector reforms must always be founded on the non-negotiable principles of ethics and accountability. Needless to say, graft and corruption continue to be one of the biggest and long-running challenges confronting the Philippines. All administrations have decried corruption. Despite the many reorganization interventions of all administrations, corruption remains a reality. Thus ethics and accountability MUST be among the principles EMBEDDED in designing and implementing public sector reforms and rightsizing strategies.

After Marcos. Sr. imposed martial law, the very first decree he signed was PD 1, implementing the Integrated Reorganization Plan (IRP), which restructured the bureaucracy “to promote simplicity, economy, and efficiency in the government.” This was to be implemented by the Presidential Commission on Reorganization (PCR), which was created in 1970. It was chaired by the brilliant technocrat Armand V. Fabella.

President Marcos Jr might lift a page from his father’s reorganization strategies by creating a Presidential Commission on Rightsizing that would shepherd the proposed NGRP. It would effectively steer, orchestrate and integrate various rightsizing efforts emanating from all government sectors in accordance with the fundamental and time-honored principles of economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Nevertheless, as experience has shown, these are not enough. These have to be further reinforced upon the fundamental principles of equity, ethics, and accountability. Indeed, governance reform efforts – including rightsizing the bureaucracy – have to be founded upon the five-Es and an A principles: economy, efficiency, effectiveness, equity and ethics, and accountability.

  • Dr. Brillantes ([email protected]) is a professor and former dean of the National College of Public Administration of the University of the Philippines and Secretary General of the Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration (EROPA).
  • Karl Emmanuel Ruiz is a librarian at the UPNCPAG, and part-time researcher at the EROPA.