Most of us knew it was just a matter of time. As predicted in my previous blog, President Noynoy Aquino’s high popularity rating at the beginning of his term only had one way to go and that was down. What I never expected was for P.Noy’s fall from grace to be as quick and catastrophic as this one, and to be witnessed by the rest of the international community.
Less than a hundred days after being sworn to office, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang called the Aquino government a disappointment after the recent tragic Mendoza hostage drama in the heart of Manila. No amount of damage control after the fact can undo the damage done or even just to pacify the frustration felt by the Chinese official and the rest of the Chinese community. P.Noy’s image has been tainted and he is now seen as an incompetent leader by the rest of the world no thanks to himself, his own staff and the media empire owned and operated by his family and friends.
As they say, first impressions last and as far as first impressions go for P.Noy, his inaction during and apparent insensitivity after the tragic event were a total PR disaster here and abroad. And as they say, the first cut is the deepest and as far as first cuts go for P.Noy, it cut to the bone — the core of his leadership skills. Time might heal the wounds but there will always be a scar to remind people about it. I can quote all the cliché’s applicable to P.Noy in this situation but it still won’t save P.Noy’s reputation. He is on his own big time.
Even attempts by his minions in the survey firm Social Weather Station (SWS) to publish an “improved lives” rating seems so lame. One can only wonder why a two-month old survey conducted prior to P.Noy’s presidential proclamation would be published right after the Mendoza hostage tragedy. It just goes to show how everyone around P.Noy has bad taste, particularly when they say “Four in 10 Filipinos are optimistic that their lives will improve in the first year of the Aquino administration.” When will SWS get it right?!? It would help if they asked the right people and conducted it at the right time. And it would have been a cheaper and more accurate exercise if they just counted all the hate messages on P.Noy’s Facebook account on line.
After the smoke has cleared, it seems likely that any promises of a “thorough investigation” of the incident will mean very little as far as preventing the same thing from happening again. As of this writing, there is one report of Justice undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar announcing that, “two government agencies have started investigating Monday’s bloody hostage crisis. ” To quote:
“The parallel investigation is being conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
And another one that…
“A top-level government panel will look into the “institutional problems ” of the police and other state agencies which could have led to the tragic conclusion to Monday’s hostage-taking incident, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.
The justice official said Robredo will head the committee, with De Lima as vice chair and Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, National Bureau of Investigation Director Magtanggol Gatdula and PNP-Internal Affairs Service chief Director Ifor Magbanua as members.
Salazar said the committee’s recommendations will be the blueprint in crafting guidelines which the PNP and other concerned state agencies will follow in dealing with hostage-taking incidents.
The output of the inquiry may also be used as guideline for the media in their reportage of similar news events, he said.
“We intend to have guidelines which should be provided for both the media and the police… so we can handle (hostage crisis) and avoid the results which we saw two nights ago,” Salazar said, adding:
“The partnership of the media and the government is crucial in any incidents like this one.”
The above investigation is separate from what the Philippine National Police will be conducting which they say will carry out the “criminal, administrative, and human rights aspects of the investigation”.
Whew!!! If you ask me, and to borrow another saying: too many cooks spoil the broth. All these “investigations” will be just wasted effort because none of the activities mentioned above is geared towards rehabilitating the culture of hopelessness that bore down on the late Rolando Mendoza after allegedly being unfairly dismissed from the police force.
It is in fact, none other than P.Noy himself who contributed to the environment of distrust when he dismissed people without due process. This was initially evident when he wanted to dismiss Chief Justice Corona and the many other public servants who he keeps referring to as former President Gloria Arroyo’s “midnight appointees.”
Who cries for people like Rolando Mendoza anyway? Hardly anyone feels sorry for the deceased hostage taker. People think he was a lunatic for initiating the events that snowballed into the disaster that reduced our country to a global laughingstock. But I say that he was a desperate man who was driven to doing something extremely deadly or fatalistic just to get some attention. I am not excusing him but he was obviously not in his right mind. He was in a fragile state. Anyone could have easily experienced the frustration he went through and slipped into lunacy once pushed over the brink of sanity. It was indeed a dog day the whole day for a highly distressed man who felt he had nothing to lose.
The truth is, with all this “heads will roll” grandstanding being thrown around lately (to be exact, four officers were already suspended pending investigation), I have a feeling there are many Philippine police officers who are experiencing low morale at the moment. Most of the fingers are pointed at them when, to be fair to them, it is also the role of the government to allocate funds for their training and to ensure that they are highly motivated and committed to their duties to protect and serve the citizens. Someone’s got to protect them too.
As the head of state, P.Noy needs to overcome a culture of distrust and get employees to share information first and foremost. Let’s not entirely look down on the entire police force for botching the rescue operation. Responsibility for recognizing the average police officer’s need for more training falls on someone higher up in their ranks including the commander-in-chief.
P.Noy as the leader should take a revolutionary step: take issues to public servants like the police force for resolution. Focus groups at various levels of the organization can be formed to answer such questions as: What’s wrong with communications at the company level? The department level? Team level? Upward/downward? Peer to peer? More importantly, he should use a systemic approach to develop solutions to the problems that have been identified. These are just small initiatives that any one with experience in a blue chip company or anyone with a strong political background can handle. Sadly, P.Noy does not have both so it is going to take more than 100 days for him to shape up and exhibit true leadership.
Many of us knew deep inside that it was just a matter of time before a crisis like this revealed the true extent of our public servants’ incompetence not to mention that of P.Noy Aquino. I’m sure I could speak for everyone in saying that none of us wanted something like this to happen.