The governance logic of Noynoy

In 2009, a Php40B overprice could have been used for 40,000-classroom shortage. If only greed could be contained
—what held true then still does now

In 2011, New York, then President Aquino awaiting his turn to speak at the launch of Open Government Partnership (Contributed photo)

I wrote this a decade ago, and unearthed it when I was reminiscing how it was working for Sir (President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III). I wrote this close to midnight after Sir met us, after the budget deliberations in the Senate. It was one of those rare occasions when he “mentored” us, his staff.

From his work in the Senate to the presidential campaign of 2010, and up to the end of his presidency in 2016, he had always been consistent in his governance— look at the connection of the details and see the big picture, then zoom in on how it affects the Filipino.

Even before “Kayo ang Boss ko” became the presidential campaign slogan, it was already a principle inscribed in his very core. I hope this piece will provide insights and inspiration to those serving the true interest of the people.

(PS. This was more than a decade ago, and I know I could have written it better today. Please be kind to the 23-year-old me.)

Very few people have the opportunity to be given a private talk by a person of renowned stature. In some cases you have to pay P3,000 just to listen to the former British Prime Minister talk about what he did in office even when such material is readily available on the net.

Today I was privy to the talk of my Boss. Having been forewarned of the meeting, I thought it would be a sermon on our performance and our need to shape up and do better. However, what he said was even better—“Give it your 110% because what little thing you do contributes to the whole campaign… we all have a stake in this.”

Then he proceeded to talk about the C5 project, what’s wrong with the (GMA) administration, the budget spending, etc., most of which I already know. But then he talked about the NBN-ZTE deal where an overprice of P40 billion for the project was revealed. Then he asked one of us to compute how much it would cost to build classrooms to cover the 20,000 to 40,000 shortage. It amounted to P20 billion.

Had government officials exercised restraint in their greed, we would have built those 40,000 classrooms and students wouldn’t have to undergo quadruple shifting (not a typo, we do QUADRUPLE shifting) and DepEd would not have to resort to lumping subjects (e.g. Science is taught in the same period as English)—just to maximize the resources available.

In my yearend evaluation report, he noted that I needed to see how the small details fit into the bigger picture. And this was what he was talking about. I was the one who provided him the materials he used to construct his logic, but I am the very same person who failed to connect the dots.

I have provided him research on school shifting and subject clustering but I didn’t look beyond that to see that it was not simply bureaucratic inefficiency caused by lack of funding—it was corruption leading to lack of funding which eventually led to poor bureaucratic performance, and ultimately led to the deprivation of QUALITY education for our public school students.

We have been preoccupied with our hatred of corrupt politicians—so that we have forgotten those left disenfranchised by the very act we condemn

It is easy to say we are in this state because of “corruption.” But many of us have divorced the act itself from the ill effects of the act on the affected. We would focus more on the “corruptor” and, fueled by our hatred, would rip the offender limb by limb.

This does not solve the problem at all. Because we have been preoccupied with our hatred of corrupt politicians—starting hate pages on FB and twitting about them furiously, to the point of engaging in e-group word war—so that we have forgotten those left disenfranchised by the very act we condemn.

That is what the good governance of Boss reminds us of. We should not simply punish the wrong-doers but more importantly, we should attend to the needs of the deprived because of the government’s inability to serve them.

In his talk with us he focused on how much of the overprice of the NBN-ZTE project could have been used to build schools; he just didn’t harp about corrupt politicians—that is his good governance policy!

Many a time, I have sifted through transcripts of his speeches, and, as instructed, I have compartmentalized it according to issue so that we could have an inventory of his policy pronouncements. And often he makes his case to his audience.

He talks about how the fertilizer fund scam contributed to the poor harvest of our farmers. He talks about how the improper use of the Calamity Fund deprived us of resources come Ondoy and Pepeng (natural calamnities). He talks about erroneous textbooks contributing to the degradation of our public school education system. He talks about a lot of things that would have been seen simply as negative campaign against the current (GMA) administration.

But here is where his critics have gotten him all wrong, because the case he made to the people is the very logic of his Good Governance policy:

All our governance objectives are noble and in the service of the Filipino people. It becomes harmful when it is distorted and made to serve oneself. Therefore, to make this country better you don’t need grandiose platforms, all you have to do is to do your job, and do it well, rightly, and in accordance with the principled objective.

That was why when he told us a while ago to give it our 110%, he wanted us to follow the same logic of governance; do your job, give it your best, and don’t do anything wrong because we are in government and what little things you do affects the people.

I am reminded of what happened earlier. Ten senators absented themselves from the Senate hearing, allegedly to kill the deliberations on the C5 Road project. The little things we do, like absenting ourselves from the last day of session, may not mean a lot to those senators, but to the sectors of society whose bills shall be passed today, it means they would have to wait until after the elections before their concerns are heard by the legislature.

The little things we do in government, like writing a memo, proposing amendments to the law, correcting the clerical error in the budget of QUEDANCOR, increasing the budget of the Commission on Human Rights… the little things that we do have national consequences.

Many a time I have been asked, if I wasn’t working for Noynoy would I still vote for him for President. The automatic answer I give them is a yes—and full of conviction. And when asked to explain why, I tell them, “because I know how he works!”

He is mindful of the outcome of the little things we do in government. He is mindful of the people who will be affected by the little things we do in government. And most importantly, he has pledged to do the right thing, so that all the little things that we do would benefit the people we intend to serve.

In light of the dismaying survey results, we become anxious, depressed, and disappointed. Yes, me too. But, in his 20-minute talk, our principal reminded us not to let it get to you. It only means that we have to work harder, we have to give it our 110%.

And considering that our biggest contender is remiss in his duties as a senator and is not mindful of how his seemingly innocuous deed of inserting funding twice for the same project would divert funds from more socially relevant projects, I’d work extra hard to prevent him from taking the Presidency, where he might do more damage to the people.

The survey may say we’re a tie, but all it means to me is that they’ve finally caught up even when we’ve already given them a three-year headstart. It is our pledge that we will generate jobs, that we will improve basic education, that we will provide accessible health care, and that we will reform the judicial system. We can’t be disheartened now. The (Senate) session might be over but the campaign’s just begun. Doing the little things that we do to help our country, it’s GAME ON!


About author


The author worked as legislative staff of Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III in the Senate. He joined President Aquino at Malacañang as a policy staff and aide until the end of his presidency in 2016. He is now a freelance consultant for various institutions on policy matters.

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