Thursday, February 24, 2011

Should The Sandigan Be Investigated? : Senate Inquiry Feb 24

I was late in turning on the tv set to watch the day’s inquiry into the AFP corruption by the Senate and was only able to see the part where Senator Jinggoy was interviewing former Ombudsman Marcelo followed by subsequent questions and interviews of others actively involved in the corruption case. In his usual brusque manner it appeared that he was badgering rather than interviewing the former Ombudsman. It appeared as if Senator Jinggoy’s questioning were all leading towards making Marcelo admit to have mishandled the initial filing of the case which now has been turned over to Merceditas Gutierrez, the new ombudsman. It has now turned into controversy because the weakness of the case (as claimed by the prosecutors) resulted into the unfortunate plea bargain of Gen. Garcia as recommended by the current Ombudsman and her prosecution team.  

The plea bargain entered into by the defendant altered the charge from plunder into indirect bribery. By pleading guilty to the lesser crime of bribery and the restitution of a portion of the alleged loot the defendant is bound to be meted an easy penalty and cannot be arraigned further for plunder because of the legal principle of double jeopardy. The general gives back about 130 million pesos and gets to keep the balance of 700 million pesos plundered loot. Who says crime does not pay?

Former ombudsman Marcelo was adept at answering the questions, thereby, parrying whatever insinuations of inefficiency and negligence the questions wanted to prove. There was a tense moment when Marcelo cited the case of Erap’s plunder case as an example of the legal procedures followed. Visibly irked by the reference to his father’s case, Jinggoy remarked that they cannot refer to the Erap plunder case since his father has already been cleared. Marcelo stood his ground and with emphasis said that Erap was convicted in the plunder case against him. The presidential pardon given by Gloria Arroyo did not erase the guilt and conviction of Erap. The intervention of the Chairman of the Senate committee eased the tension by putting the questioning at rest with the proviso to return to it once tempers have abated. Senator Jinggoy continued his interview but it was with less intensity and in a while was dissipated by discussions of other issues.

It was Manong Johnny Enrile’s turn to question and he confronted the Special Prosecutor Wendell Sulit with the apparent slowness of her group to act on a much earlier request by the senators to withdraw the plea bargain since the Sandigan has not approved it yet. Together with Sen. Franklin Drilon, Manong Johnny could not emphasize enough the seriousness of the issue and made a plea to Ms. Sulit to stop dragging their feet on the matter. It was already three weeks since the plea was made. Pressured for a commitment by a visibly irritated Senate panel the Special Prosecutor could not hedge any further said that it will be done in a week’s time.

Sen. Enrile then proceeded to question the prosecutors Balmeo and Capistrano on why the prosecution did not object to the Sandigan court’s allowing the plea bargain to prosper and the ensuing granting of bail. Manong Johnny chided the prosecution by accusing them to what was tantamount to stupidity by not knowing the consequences of their allowing the Sandigan court to progress the case into something that is prejudicial to the people. He accused the prosecutors of ineptness and of gross negligence which could cause a double jeopardy situation in which case the defendants may be meted a light penalty and would be free to enjoy a substantial portion of the looted money.

A few questions come to mind;
1. Why is Jinggoy so eager to nail the former Ombudsman Marcelo into admitting fault in the filing of a weak case? If he is successful in doing so would this help cleanse the mishandling by the current prosecution team? This will probably throw a monkey wrench into the progress of the inquiry since the prosecution team will be given another opportunity to prove their non-complicity into what seems to be a well concerted scheme to defraud the  people of their money entrusted with the AFP. Is Jinggoy after discrediting former ombudsman Marcelo for the role he played during his father’s plunder case? He seems to have the tendency to make use of the investigations as an opportunity to get at their family’s detractors.

2. From the statements coming from the members of the prosecution team they seem to be pointing at the Sandigan Bayan courts (a Judge Sandoval was mentioned) as the villains in this sordid affair and that the prosecution was negligent in protecting the people’s interest by allowing the courts to impose their will in this case (what is their will?). Is the Sandigan court a judicial body that we should be protected from? Manong Johnny implies this when he said that the prosecution was given the run around by the Sandigan; that is why he accuses the prosecution of reneging and of being negligent of their sworn duty.

3. Shouldn’t the Senate subpoena the Sandigan judges who handled the case? There seems to be wrongdoing in that he may have duped the prosecutors into allowing the plea bargain to a situation where an inevitable “laglag” of the case will ensue.

Now the redolence wafts wide, an ill wind that blows no good. The dragging in of the Sandigan Bayan into the controversy will add fuel to the issues against an already beleaguered judiciary and could lead into a crisis that would further erode the peoples’ trust in the justice system.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Corruption In the AFP: A Can Of Worms

Retired Colonel George Rabusa, former budget officer of the AFP, has been presented by Jinggoy Estrada as witness to the anomalies committed in the AFP with regards to the disbursements of monies to retiring and incoming Chiefs of Staff. Col. Rabusa is a boon to the efforts of the Senate to delve deep into the alleged corruption in the military establishment. Revelations coming from a person who was in the midst of all the alleged claims of anomalous cash transfers could furnish valuable information to aid the lawmakers in their legislative functions.
There were a few who speculated that the former budget officer of the Armed Forces was brought into the inquiry by Jinggoy Estrada as a way of getting at his father’s, the former President Erap, detractors and political foes. Regardless of the colonel’s motives, his testimony is deemed pivotal in the Senate probe.

Col. Rabusa, who confessed to have profited from the corruption in the military said that he has lost all that he had amassed during his time as an assistant the AFP Comptroller from failed businesses and in an expensive lost mayoralty bid in his home province. He says that he is now without much resource and that he suffers from the effects of a stroke, the signs of which are apparent from his demeanour. He said that unlike before, those who have received the fraudulent monies from him have been unresponsive to his pleas for assistance now that he needed them most.
Col. Rabusa, in his sworn statements detailed his participation in the unlawful transfer of cash to outgoing and incoming chiefs of staff as what is popularly known now as “pabaon” and “pasalubong”. Other cash recipients other than the retiring Chiefs of Staff were also mentioned.
His participation in the transactions was in the performance of his position as a budget officer who directly reported the AFP’s Comptroller and did per the instruction of the Comptroller to produce the purported monies and in some cases did the physical preparation (bundling, packaging of the cash sometimes with the help of his subordinates in the office) of the money to be given to the named recipients. Col. Rabusa admitted to have profited from his role as some of the recipients of the cash tended to be generous to him upon delivery of the money. He did not say whether he himself dipped his fingers into the PCDA honeypot.
His admission of having profited from the illegal transactions made him a “whistle blower” and earned him the right to be protected by the witness protection program. Rabusa, in his statements, provided the pry that opened the lid of a can of worms which now cast shadows on the integrity not only of the AFP but others such as the justice system (trial courts, Sandigan Bayan, the Ombudsman), the government audit system, the involved banking institutions and some members of the lawmaking houses who purportedly were part of the action. The extension of this to other offices and officers in government is not far-fetched once linkages are exposed in the course of the investigation. Senator Trillanes’ innuendoes hint at the culpability of the then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
As could be expected, there is no physical evidence and proof that the transfer of the monies from the AFP’s budget office were ever made to the generals and the congressman ever took place. Understandably, anomalous deals are without records (paper, electronic, etc.) in acknowledgement. Col. Rabusa, in his claims would point the Comptrollers (Ligot and Garcia) as the ones who ordered him to source the cash. Col. Rabusa revealed that the source of money would come from a nebulous account called Provision for Command Directed Activities (PCDA), a sort of catchall account that is fed by the budgets coming from other units of the AFP and possibly other diversions coming from external donor sources.
Through the revelations of Col. Rabusa we now know of the system in the AFP that fostered the corruption in the military establishment. There is incontrovertible evidence that corruption existed(s) in the AFP and that the lawmakers can enact laws to plug the legal gaps and other weaknesses in the system that make the corruption possible. However, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that would link any of the Chiefs of Staff and other named recipients of this shameless largesse except from the statements of Col. Rabusa. He claims that he sourced and prepared the monies and gave them to the comptroller (Ligot and Garcia). There were times that he admitted to, that at the order of the Comptroller, he brought the money himself to the recipients. In his statement involving ex congressman Pichay, he said that at the behest of the comptroller he prepared P500,000.00 in three tranches to be turned over to Pichay when he comes around. What proof do those statements have that the alleged recipients actually received their cash packages? All the generals and the congressman deny Rabusa’s allegations. Who are we to believe? Is it possible that Rabusa himself or perhaps the Comptrollers (Ligot and Garcia) pocketed portions or most of it into what Senator Cayetano referred to as “bukol”.
Thus far, Rabusa’s statements have been fodder to malignments and demeaning tirades coming from the thuggish behaviour of some lawmakers which are causing distemper to the guests of the inquiry who suddenly found themselves being pilloried in a telecasted coverage. They are still presumed innocent and should not have been subjected to the scathing, harsh and cruel run of the gauntlet that destroys human dignity and leaves an indelible stain on everyone in the guests’ family. Circumspection is expected from the holders of high positions in our government. Punkish behaviour cannot be condoned and that the more senior and civilized members of the honourable houses should counsel and chastise those members who do not know any better.

The only way the government can run after the true scoundrels is through cases of unexplained wealth where there are paper trails and other documentary evidences of ill gotten wealth and other wrong doings. We seem to be getting good headway with some the forfeiture and unexplained wealth suits filed against some of the suspects. For sure government should exert effort in recovering the loot taken from its coffers. It should go beyond prevailing sentiment and should dispense with emotional courtesies. The people’s money should be traced and recovered. There are legal blocks and manipulations that have slowed down the wheels of justice; plea bargain agreements, pending Sandigan rulings and other legal stalls. With the high key exposure of the cases our people are well apprised of the proceedings. People would insist on nothing else but the bringing to justice all the erring personalities and the recovery of the plundered people’s money.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

P'noy and Heroic Leadership

During a fellowship lunch with former classmates I happened to mention to a friend a leadership book that I recently read which could be a source of inspiration to P’noy. At the moment, he seems to be beleaguered by all sorts of distractions and inadvertent events in civil, judicial, political and military sectors which inhibit the progress of his initiatives; the campaign against corruption in government included.

Conversations during our fellowship meetings tend to be sporadic as incessant interruptions occur out of exuberance from all of us. Since we couldn’t get an intelligible exchange going he just asked me to provide him a synopsis and post it in our group e-mail mentioning, as an aside, to have something different from the light banter and the occasional off colour postings that we have been accustomed to in an all-male group e-mail. I thought I should accede to the request as a sort of making up for the sometimes outrageous e-mail contributions I have made in the name of humour.

The foregoing is what I wrote.

In Search of a Leadership Style

I start with the presumption that P’noy is struggling at the helm of the ship of state. I base my speculation from harsh assessments from the worst of his critics who never even gave him the benefit of a honeymoon by holding off their tirades and brickbats during his early stages on the job. Perhaps he has been a victim of unfortunate luck since too many crises greeted him shortly after assuming his role as President of the republic.

Nevertheless, the crisis management style he and his team exhibited to address the problems arising from the critical events lacked the finesse of seasoned managers and gave the impression that the government is being run by a bunch of inept and inexperienced amateurs.One of the observations made is that he has assembled for himself a light weight cabinet composed of people close to him and his family who by themselves came up with a set of criteria based on subjective perceptions of uprightness as well as their closeness to the members of the family.

It seemed that competence, though sought, took a back seat to personal assessments of trustworthiness and moral uprightness the perceptions of which may have been based mostly on friendship. It would have been ideal if those chosen had some experience and a track record of competence or even just a strong potential, by virtue of good educational credentials and excellent achievements in other fields were management skills were exhibited. It is an ironic truth that the best and the brightest; those who can really serve competently are not attracted because the financial rewards in the Aquino administration, to their minds, are not commensurate to their abilities. In the current culture in the bureaucracy, plum posts are expected to allow for some graft which would augment an otherwise measly salary. P’noy’s crusade will not allow corruption no matter how petty. When you pay peanuts you end up with monkeys.

While I am critical of the current state of affairs I share P’noy’s optimism that a government devoid of graft and corruption is possible and that he should persevere with this goal. This heroic desire is noble and lofty, true to the Ignatian spirit. Now, he has to look for and enjoin men who are as stout-hearted as he is, men with generosity to work for little rewards and to be indifferent to the pain and loneliness of just crusades. This is a daunting task requiring utmost patience and good discernment. But he has to hurry; the forces that oppose him seem to be well organized and have been successful thus far in their efforts to thwart P’noy’s initiatives. So much has to be started and done soon.

The question that comes up is what kind of governance style should P’noy adopt to pursue his mission. Books on management styles fill up shelves of libraries and book stores, each one of them promising a sure fire approach towards successful management of companies or of governments and principalities. Oft mentioned is Nicolo Machiavelli’s book The Prince, then there is The Art of War by Sun Tzu, management books that focus on the leadership style of Attila the Hun and others, some of which verge into the inane and the ludicrous. Most of these approaches consider deceit, underhanded tactics and assassination as acceptable strategies for gaining or using influence. I would think that none of these would be civilized and moral enough for P’noy to consider patterning his way of governance. I posed the question once about P’noy’s having the inclination and gumption to take on a Machiavellian response to the problem of corruption. As a Christian, he has been taught that in the face of ravenous wolves he should have the wisdom of serpents but be harmless as doves. His mother advocated this with her reconciliation and justice line as opposed to indignation and retribution against those who abused. As we now know, this belief seems hard put to provide solutions because it does not finish the job and does not deliver the “coup de grace” against the enemy. As recent history shows the robber barons are still very much with us because they were not eradicated when we had a chance to.

What then has the guy to do? Is there a style of leadership that would fit the aspirations of P’noy and the prevailing situation?

Heroic Leadership

Chris Lowney, a former JP Morgan managing director in finance and investment banking and former Jesuit novice suggests yet another leadership style which executives can learn from. Now in a book, it is a unique guide for leaders of all sorts of organizations, drawn from the experiences of one of the world’s most successful organizations, the Jesuit order. Lowney offers leadership lessons from the Jesuits, the renowned religious order whose originality and expertise have been admired for over 450 years.

Another management “how to” book perhaps, but, with a difference because it is not expressed as a formula, a list of “things to do”, nor is it a centralized leadership style revolving around a charismatic figure. It could be looked at as a way of life, a way of doing things – in Jesuit parlance “...our way of proceeding”. Curiously, it takes off from the Ratio Studiorum and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises,the spiritual boot camp which every Jesuit novice has to undergo in his formation.

Modern executives can learn a lot from a sixteenth century priest who led a ten man band (referred to as the "company") to form an enterprise whose success covers not only five centuries but also spans the globe. St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the world’s largest religious order now composed of 21,000 professionals operating in 2000 institutions and hundreds of companies.
Just to show how visionary the Jesuit organization has been, modern management concepts such as the statement of purpose in vision and mission statements (consider "...the whole world will be our house"), the harnessing of multifunctional teams (matrix organizations), managing globally (across borders), the circulation of “best practice in satellite organizations and the commitment to continuous improvement of product and services were already being practiced with success.
Thus far, it continues to influence, through the alumni of its educational institutions, the significant events that had profound effects on recent history. The book makes mention of its illustrious roster of former students which include Fidel Castro, Francois Mitterand, Antonin Scalia, Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi. It’s a (my) relief that Bush and Obama are not included in the motley group.

In the book, he touches on a bit of Jesuit history; the intrepidness of the early Jesuits who trekked the Asian expanse through deserts and steppes, gaining influence in the courts of emperors and powerful rulers of the time. These factoids may be of little interest to the general reading public but should pique the interest of those who have been influenced by the Jesuits one way or the other.

Rather than attempt my own abridgement (omissions or additions on it might dilute its saliency) of the four principles that characterize the Ignatian leadership style allow me to lift from Lowney’s own words:

Four Guiding Principles Forming an Integrated Way of Living, a “Way of Proceeding”:
1. Self-awareness: “To overcome oneself and to order one’s life”[3]
Leaders thrive by understanding who they are and what they value, by becoming aware of unhealthy blind spots or weaknesses that can derail them, and by cultivating the habit of continuous self-reflection and learning.
When Nelson Mandela was liberated after 25 years of imprisonment by apartheid regimes, he made this confession: “My greatest enemy was not those who put or kept me in prison. It was myself. I was afraid to be who I am.” “Overcoming oneself,” “self-acceptance,” and “being at home with oneself” are expressions referring to a journey within that seeks a healthy command of self. Only the person who knows what she wants can pursue it energetically and inspire others to do so. A good leader knows what she wants in life, how to get it, and what weaknesses or paralyzing mindsets can trip her up. Leadership begins with self-leadership.
Key virtue: humility (accepting the truth about oneself through regular practice of self-reflection like the daily awareness examen)
2. Ingenuity: “The whole world will become our house”
Leaders make themselves and others comfortable in a changing world. They eagerly explore new ideas, approaches, and cultures rather than shrink defensively from what lurks around life’s next corner. Anchored by nonnegotiable principles and values, they cultivate the “indifference” that allows them to adapt confidently.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola described the ideal Jesuit as “living with one foot raised” – always ready to respond to emerging opportunities. A leader must be vigilant about and set aside ingrained habits, prejudices, cultural biases and the “we’ve always done it this way” attitude – baggage that blocks effective, adaptive responses. He or she stands by core beliefs and values that are nonnegotiable. Knowing what’s negotiable and what isn’t, the leader can adapt or accommodate confidently. In short, he or she becomes “indifferent” – free from attachments to places, possessions, ways of doing things in order to move, change, or adapt to engage opportunities.
Key virtue: indifference or interior freedom
3. Love: “With greater love than fear”
Leaders face the world with a confident, healthy sense of themselves as endowed with talent, dignity, and the potential to lead. They find these attributes in others and passionately commit to honouring and unlocking the potential they find in themselves and in others. They create environments bound and energized by loyalty, affection, and mutual support – places marked by “greater love than fear.”
Research has shown that individuals perform best when they are respected, valued, trusted by someone who genuinely cares for their well-being. Ignatius used to say “Refuse no talent, nor any man of quality.” Do we treat people well because we need them to do things for us, or do we empower them to develop their gifts, regardless? Do we strive to make people want to work and make a difference rather than just making them work? This love-driven leadership involves:
the vision to see each person’s talents, potentials, and dignity
the creativity, passion, and commitment to unlock those potentials
the resulting loyalty and mutual support that energize and unite teams
In short, love-driven leadership involves a way of seeing potentials and the commitment to empower others toward realization of that vision.
Key virtue: love (that empowers, unifies, edifies)
4. Heroism: “Eliciting great desires”
Leaders imagine an inspiring future and strive to shape it rather than passively watching the future happen around them. They extract gold from opportunities at hand rather than waiting for golden opportunity to be handed to them.
Eleanor Roosevelt said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
One will not achieve the dream one cannot imagine. This involves the Ignatian ideal of the “magis” (A.M.D.G. – “for the greater glory of God” lies in a total surrender to God). At times this means envisioning and imagining heroic objectives. At other times, it entails the Theresian ideal of “doing an ordinary act with great love.” It may involve doing more; or it may mean doing less. This always involves compassion toward others in understanding of weaknesses, but aiming high nevertheless.
Key virtue: cultivate imagination (wonder like a child; dream like a visionary; think outside the box)

P’noy can easily relate to this style of leadership as he has had sufficient grounding on Jesuit education and would be familiar with the Ignatian discipline and their unique way of doing things.
Heroic leadership would require his good judgment in selecting the people that would make up his cabinet and his ability to persuade them to adopt this “way of life” ...a way of proceeding.
P’noy must examine himself thoroughly; do an honest appraisal of his strengths and weaknesses, review his values, his world views and see how cohesive and consistent they are with what he believes in. He must constantly find ways, innovative ways of addressing the problems confronting him with a mind that is attuned to the evolving situations in an ever changing ingenuity coming from one whose feet are firmly rooted on realities and not from the distant reclusion of an ivory tower. All these to done with a loving hand, working with “greater love rather than fear” that foster respect and trust within the company and with a sincere attitude towards ameliorating his constituents’ lot. And most importantly, show a heroic stance to energize himself and his company of stout hearted men by aiming for ambitious goals unmindful of the warnings, dissuasions and vehement opposition that may be thrown in his path.
Heroic leadership is not one of leading but one of encouragement of an innate desire to do amazing things for the betterment of people’s lives, the world at large and the recognition that these are being done as a magis for His greater glory. It is the rousing of an internal leadership trait from men of good will and they, as a company of leaders create and transform our sordid existence into a better world as meant in the divine plan.
Sounds like pie in the sky, but, it must really go down to this and if P’noy considers taking this tact he will need all the support and the prayers from all of us, but then, this is what Heroic Leadership is all about.