Excellence of Execution

By in
29 comments

Allow me to be a bit cynical.

I think it was Montesquieu who formulated and clarified the idea of “separation of powers.”  Basically, you have three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.  The doctrine of separation of powers ensures that all branches of government cooperate with each other without one impinging or curtailing the responsibilities of another.  As a bastardization, here’s how checks-and-balances would work:

  • Executive: enforces and upholds the laws of the land.
  • Legislative: makes the laws of the land.
  • Judiciary: determines the scope and jurisdiction of the laws of the land.

Don’t get me wrong, platforms and such are great and high-minded, but I sometimes think we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves and our expectations – and the ought-to-be, for that matter – when we stress it.

A platform is relevant when:

  • The platform is the defining factor that provides a clear distinction between political groups running for government positions.
  • The political system acts in such a way that all the members of a particular party are voted into elected positions without the benefit of opposition against any part or portion of the platform.

The first, you’ll find in mature democracy: something you’ll not find in the Philippines.  The second, you’ll find in dictatorships and fascism: something that is abhorred by Filipinos.

Since platforms are what we expect of Presidentiables – and many of us do take up the patient, admirable, and unenviable task of analyzing and dissecting them – we go back to the checks-and-balances.  The task of a President is to enforce, uphold, and execute the laws of the land: not to make them, and not to determine the scope and jurisdiction of these laws.  No amount of campaign promises by an elected President would be made possible or evident because all the actions and decisions of the Executive are checked and balanced by the Legislature and the Judiciary, and that the Executive is held accountable not to a set of promises, but to the public good.

For a platform or a set of campaign promises to work (and be truly relevant in an election), we have to go to a “Vote Straight, Vote Wisely” perspective and practice we’re used to in school elections: to vote where the slightest, most minuscule possibility of opposition to a set of campaign promises would not even exist.  The business of the President is to uphold the law – the “platform” being the laws of the land and the Philippine Constitution – and to execute it within the powers of the Executive.  “How” is answered not by campaign promises, but by the law.  “How” is not answered by platforms, but by the synergy of the branches of government to address a promise or premise in the Constitution, where all platforms are based anyway.  “How” is not answered by publications of agenda, but by popular sentiment and more importantly, the public good.

Platforms are great material for PR, promotions, and campaigns.  Everyone has one.  Yet when it all comes down to it, the application of the actual platform is not the be-all-end-all of a political choice.  In the end, the best President for the Philippines is someone who can execute and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land.  The President is not a legislator, and he or she is not an adjudicator.  The President is an executor.  So far, our past Presidents have failed to deliver on that.

At the end of the day, after decades of Presidencies that have tried to subvert the law and undermine the Constitution, what we truly need is a President who can stand up to it and uphold it.  Not because platforms are irrelevant – they are very useful – but because a President is supposed to execute, uphold, and defend the law.  To expect any more is to impinge upon the responsibilities of the other branches of government, and to expect any less is to condemn the country.

The best campaign promise for a Presidentiable is all encapsulated in the statements and articles of the Philippine Constitution.  I guess not yet, at least here, when platforms turn into a do-or-die political requirement.

That’s what we need from a President.  As the motto of Bret Hart would put it, excellence of execution.

29 comments on “Excellence of Execution”

  1. Reply

    Dude, platforms need to be stressed because they happen to be the key aspect (among many other aspects) of Pinoy-style elections that is glaringly weak in the electorate’s regard for their role as participants in a democracy.

    The obvious question one would ask of a candidate bidding for the 2010 presidency (at least for those of us who are inclined to think that way) would be:

    How do you envision the Philippines of 2016 after you conclude your tour of duty as chief executive of the land?

    That to-be vision then becomes the set up for the next question:

    How do you plan to take us there?

    And perhaps for an electorate that is cluey enough:

    How can we help?

    What is the document that will articulate a comprehensive response to the above questions?

    You guessed it.

    What you cited the following as “answers” to the “How?” question:

    – “not by campaign promises, but by the law”;
    – “not a[…] by platforms, but by the synergy of the branches of government”; and,
    – “not answered by publications of agenda, but by popular sentiment and […] the public good”

    I beg to differ Marck.

    What you cited above are constraints and considerations that are factored into the execution plan.

    Consider a goal of getting, say, from Quezon City to Makati to meet up with friends

    How to get there is answered by:

    (1) Your choice of transport (public or car) and route to take
    (2) Your ability to finalise agreements with your friends on where and when to meet.
    (3) Your ability to prepare for the trip (clothes, grooming, and money)
    (4) Your ability to set aside the time for both the preparation and the trip.

    But to implement the above plan (and how much of it you can realise), you have to consider these constraints:

    – the time of day/night
    – the volume of traffic given the above time
    – the temperature given the above time and the traffic expected (which impacts your planned attire and grooming, presumably)
    – how much money you’ve raised for the day’s activity with your friends
    – the kind of stuff that particular set of friends you are meeting are into.

    See the analogy? For the most part you described the environment — the politics, the governance structure/framework, and the public sentiment — within which the chief executive needs to perform.

    Those are considerations to take into account in one’s plan.

    And such a plan currently DOES NOT EXIST in today’s National Political “Debate”. In fact it hasn’t for the last two decades.

    1. Reply

      benign0:

      1. The plan is already there (Constitution, legislation, general appropriations).

      2. The plan is not followed and not implemented.

      With all due respect, there’s your platform: the laws of the land and the Constitution, taken collectively, is the “document” you demand from the presidentiables. How to best implement this is part of the functions and the systems of Government. You’re taking an assumption where it’s all fair to disregard the limitations imposed upon the planning.

      A platform is not the business of someone who executes. I say, direct the “platform plez (TM)” question to the legislative, not to the people running for President. I’m sure that extremely simplistic articulation of things would be understood from a project-management perspective. For the most part, if you do not consider the framework by which the project for 2016 must flow through, is the plan (god I hate this word) do-able?

      As the executive, the job and the business of the President is to execute: not to legislate, not to adjudicate. If you prefer to select your President on the basis of a Miss Universe question in a school election-slash-community beauty pageant, that is all up to you. If such a plan does not exist, in my view, all the planning is done without a framework.

      For me, the task is to elect the best executive based on qualifications, track record, competence, public sentiment, which may not necessarily be the person with the best Binibining Pilipinas answer-slash-platform, which is basically what you’re looking for. If what you want from a platform is summarized in a Ryan Seacrest question, by all means. Nobody will judge you for that.

  2. Reply

    marocharim,

    i don’t think the kind of questions we ought to ask our candidates regarding their “plan” can be likened to a ryan seacrest question on american idol. maybe, some people are only able to come up with questions with such a low depth (such as those that start with “if you were a…”) but it would be wrong to think that that is the standard.

    you’d probably agree that some candidates do actually have a plan/platform it is just that they keep it to themselves. as responsible voters we should ask them about it if only to know where we’re headed if they are to take the lead.

    • IdeasMan
    • December 3, 2009
    Reply

    Marocharim,

    A Constitution is not a plan. It’s a set of limits and constraints. It basically lays out what can and cannot be done. The Constitution acts as “boundaries.” But it does not say what needs to be done.

    You can liken a Constitution to the city road system and the road rules. It lays out how the roads go and how they’re connected. If you drive, you should be ON THE ROAD (not on sidewalks, and not crashing into walls and buildings).

    The road system, especially in complex grid networks, has so many combinations of how to get from point A to point B and a driver’s plan lays that out. The road system LIMITS the drivers ability to just go on the straightest path towards his destination, because he has to stay on the road and avoid crashing into buildings or driving on the sidewalks.

    Now that’s where the platform comes in: It’s the plan of where to go and how to get there.

    A Chief Executive, thus, does not just do what a clueless driver does which is to NOT HAVE A PLAN and just “follow the road system” to wherever it leads. (What happens when you have a forked road? Left or Right?) You have many options, so where do you go, which option do you take?

    See why it’s important to distinguish the LIMITS/CONSTRAINTS versus the PLAN?

    Constitution: Limits/Constraints/Boundaries
    Platform: Plan (where’s the destination, how to get there)

    Dude, you got it wrong on that one. Wrong assumptions lead to the wrong conclusion.

    Back to the drawing board! 😉

  3. Reply

    “For me, the task is to elect the best executive based on qualifications, track record, competence, public sentiment, which may not necessarily be the person with the best Binibining Pilipinas answer-slash-platform, which is basically what you’re looking for. If what you want from a platform is summarized in a Ryan Seacrest question, by all means.”

    public sentiment? why should a voter’s choice depend on public sentiment? are you saying that if 9 out 10 people say that an incompetent politician who just happens to be very popular should be president you’d also go for that candidate? i seriously hope that’s not what you meant.

    binibining pilipinas answer? you seem to be mistaking those of us who are looking for real platforms for those who don’t know the difference between a motherhood statement of a promise and a real plan-of-action.

    i’m sure you’d agree there’s a big difference between questions such as “how exactly will you put a stop to corruption?” or “how exactly will you spur economic development?” and “if you were a superhero who would you be batman, superman or spiderman?” can you honestly say the first two questions will elicit binibining pilipinas answers? what about the third?

    efforts to shift the national debate to issues and platforms is a step towards making sure the nation will mature sooner than later. why stop evolution?

    1. Reply

      Guys, guys,

      Chill! You’re getting so worked up over a blog entry. Relax.

  4. Reply

    i’m relaxed. just asking.

  5. Reply

    Marck, here is my response:

    The Constitution is the philosophical infrastructure upon which administrative and governance operations are applied and, for that matter, where the general character of our society generally takes its cue from. The Chief Executive’s campaign platform (or that of his party to which his pitch should be consistent with) is the plan to guide his leadership over governance operations over the course of his term. Presumably these operations are geared not just to (Role A) maintaining the minimum functional requirements of government (those things you cite — consistency with the Constitution, compliance to “legislation” (read The Law), and subjection to general appropriations) but also to (Role B) move the society forward towards a set of development goals.

    The earlier (Role A) is a no-brainer and need not be debatable subjects in a mature campaign to begin with. They should for the most part be enshrined in the very DNA of the society we fancy to be “democratic”. Making “upholding the Constitution” or “complying with The Law” or “observing the Budget” one’s campaign pitches is no different from the moronism of ordering the Police to “solve the crime” whenever a crime occurs.

    The latter (Role B) implies the existence of a plan or roadmap to take us from an A-state to a B-state. The candidate should describe the envisioned State of the Nation at various milestones in his term (the most important of these will be at the end — the B-State — of his term). This plan is first pitched to the public during his campaign and then updated over the course of his term subject to changing conditions that are unforeseen at the time of the formulation of said plan.

    The effort to achieve the goals of this plan (every plan has them) involves the following components:

    (1) work at achieving these goals within the framework of existing laws (consistent with the no-brainer Role A); and,

    (2) identify impediments/challenges to achieving these goals that lie within the framework of existing laws and propose changes in legislation to mitigate these identified impediments and challenges.

    The Chief Executive does Component 1 almost exclusively. He can do some of Component 2 and will more likely work with legislators to achieve part of it.

    But I built upon it to develop a more comprehensive response which I posted as an article here.

    • IdeasMan
    • December 3, 2009
    Reply

    Well, Marocharim, your blog entry has the potential to mislead a huge chunk of the supposedly thinking population into thinking and doing the wrong thing. That chunk of supposedly “thinking” Filipinos (middle class and upperclass types) who end up thinking wrong will then come up with wrong advocacies (similar to the Black & White group’s middle class “thinking” people doing stupid things), thereby wrongly influencing the rest of the population to think wrongly as well.

    That’s the potential that a blog post has on Philippine society. That also is why bloggers need to be responsible.

    No sleight of hand like what you did when you said that the Constitution is a plan. That’s just plain wrong.

    Now if some campaign volunteers of some no-platform candidates for instance, read your ideas about “no need for Platforms because the Constitution is a plan”, they’d exploit that falsehood as an excuse or justification for not having a platform. They tell it to their boss (the presidential candidate) and then he’d use that on TV.

    Is that fair?

    Obviously not. And that’s because it’s based on a false premise: “The Constitution is a plan.”

    Again, it’s important that you be discerning enough to realize that any logical or factual mistakes you make as a blogger have the potential to ruin a society.

    No more sleight of hand again, ok?

    1. Reply

      I’m referring to Presidents/Presidentiables. Since the President’s job is to execute and not to legislate, we shouldn’t be gleaning and obsessing over platforms – which are legislated – and instead focus on the ability of a President to execute a plan: to be the driver of the car, so to speak.

      Now while I agree with you that the political system should evolve to accommodate your fantastic ideas, my personal expectation is that this is something we should demand from the legislative, by which the platform will transform to legislation anyhow. To expect a legislative platform from someone in the executive is a no-no and a boo-boo.

      Anyway, if I made a mistake in your view that has the potential to ruin society, and as much as I like destruction, I am sorry. Very, very sorry. Yet, IdeasMan, I said:

      Platforms are great material for PR, promotions, and campaigns. Everyone has one. Yet when it all comes down to it, the application of the actual platform is not the be-all-end-all of a political choice. In the end, the best President for the Philippines is someone who can execute and uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land. The President is not a legislator, and he or she is not an adjudicator. The President is an executor. So far, our past Presidents have failed to deliver on that.

      Fair enough, in my view, to articulate my views on what platforms are. So in order for me to take the path of least destruction, I’ll stick with lyrics translations and inane discussions about tetra-paks, and leave all these politics to people like you who seem to enjoy it more than I do.

    • Arbet
    • December 3, 2009
    Reply

    Wow, Maro. Imagine that. Your blog post “have the potential to ruin a society.”

    Oh. My. Gosh. Maro. All those candidates for the presidency has nothing on you. NOTHING. AT. ALL.

    You have my vote. Because with a single blog post, you can “ruin a society.”

    No need to reply, BetterPhilippines, IdeasMan, and Benign-zero. I don’t chat with people with multiple personality disorders.

  6. Reply

    wait a minute.

    “To expect a legislative platform from someone in the executive is a no-no and a boo-boo.”

    no one said anything about this except you. besides, you’re assuming that platforms can contain nothing but legislative proposals. that’s a booboo.

    “fantastic ideas” i don’t know about that. btw how’s the thousand cranes project going?

    1. Reply

      betterphilippines:

      you know if i make enough cranes and dip them in gunpowder i can make a bomb that will spell destruction for an entire society…

      sorry, distracted. 🙂

    • IdeasMan
    • December 3, 2009
    Reply

    The legislature isn’t the one that makes the PLAN. It’s the one that makes the RULES.

    Again, you’re confusing the two: rules versus plan.

    In a game of chess, you have the basic rules:

    1. white starts the game
    2. pawns go forward only (diagonal when killing an opponent’s piece), and can move only one step when on the opponent’s territory, but turn into queens when they reach the other side
    3. rooks can move far but only front/back, left/right
    4. bishops can move far but only diagonally
    5. queens are a combination of rooks and bishops.
    6. knights travel only in an l-shape
    7. kings are weak – one square per move, but can go all directions; whoever loses his king (or gets it cornered) loses the game
    8. etc…

    Those are the rules, similar to a Constitution. The inventors of Chess (the Persians) came up with the rules. The legislature comes up with the rules.

    But if you’re the chessplayer, you have a gameplan. A Strategy. You have priorities you set. Your game may be based on taking out as many pawns first as possible or may involve using knights to kill off as many opponents pieces initially.

    The President (or presidential candidate) is the chessplayer. The chessplayer doesn’t make the rules for chess, BUT HE NEEDS TO HAVE A PLAN on how to play it in order to defeat his opponent.

    That’s the platform.

    • IdeasMan
    • December 3, 2009
    Reply

    God, another idiot showed up. Name: ARBET.

  7. Reply

    marocharim,

    yeah that could work. make sure to take video or pics and post it on http://thereifixedit.com/ with the title “there i fixed filipino society.” that’ll be fun 🙂

  8. Reply

    Indeed, attention span issues you exhibit. You don’t go put up a serious topic, get some issues about it called out by your commentors, and then reduce yourself to patawa comebacks, man. Seriously.

  9. Reply

    arbet,

    do be a heckler.

    1. Reply

      okay. here goes:

      1. i think platforms are useful for campaigns and pr.
      2. once you have the platform (if indeed you have a very coherent one), the challenge is to execute it. platforms, by themselves, do not make sense if they’re not implemented properly.
      3. i think platforms should always be bound by constraints.
      4. if the platform is not legislated, the platform is not put into effect.
      5. the question of platform is not something we should throw at presidential candidates since they execute what is legislated. the question of platform, or agenda or what, should be thrown to the legislative.

      therefore what we look for in a Presidentiable is not the ability to create the platform, but to execute the law.

    • IdeasMan
    • December 3, 2009
    Reply

    Again, you’re showing that you really don’t get it.

    A Platform is a Plan.

    The legislature does not make plans, they makes laws (which are RULES). That’s why they’re called a legislature: The root “legis” is one noun case in Latin from the base-word “Lex” meaning “LAW.” It’s about making RULES, not making plans.

    The legislature does not make plans nor does it make any agenda/platform. And Platforms are NOT legislated because THEY ARE NOT LAWS!

    Sheesh. Back to the drawing board, Marocharim. Read up before you blog away.

    Originally, I thought you were doing sleight-of-hand. As in you were making excuses for why platforms were not important.

    Well, you’re actually showing here that you just totally don’t know that platforms and laws ARE DIFFERENT. Your problem is not about being devious in using sleight-of-hand, it’s that you’re just totally clueless.

    In other words, you’re confused because you lack information. Now please, spare the world. Read up and research first BEFORE you blog away.

    No more ignorance, ok?

  10. Reply

    1. yes they are. but they’re also useful as a plan for steering the country to a goal. would you prefer a leader who doesn’t tell you anything about his plans?

    2. of course any plan will not make sense if they’re not implemented properly.

    3. that goes without saying unless the aspirant is a true-blue nuisance candidate.

    4. do we really need to legislate a plan? the candidate could say i will push for the removal of protectionist provisions in the constitution. while actually removing the said provisions would require legislative action, the effort of actively pushing congress to take that step would not require legislation, would it?

    5. it does not follow. see number 4.

    we’re not looking for the ability to create the platform. as candidates that should already be a given. what we’re looking for is their platform.

    1. Reply

      Okay.

  11. Reply

    Marocharim,

    I just want to clarify you on these notions of yours:

    “therefore what we look for in a Presidentiable is not the ability to create the platform, but to execute the law.”

    “the President’s job is to execute and not to legislate”

    This is simply false and this probably stems from some problem with what “executive powers” mean as it occurs in the Philippine constitution.

    Executive power is not the same as execute — which is the root word.

    The President’s job, above everything else, is to set a direction for everybody to follow.

    The President is the highest leader of the land and what a leader generally does is to set the direction for everyone to follow.

    If all that a President is supposed to do is to execute the law, then what you’d have is merely an administrator of some kind who has no power at all to actually LEAD.

    By applying your notion, a situation would arise wherein all that the President really does is to follow whatever Congress legislates (by Congress I mean the Senate and the Lower House).

    Moreover, the President would also be barred from submitting a legislative agenda or a list of priority legislation. The President can actually submit a draft of a bill which he or she deems to be necessary in order to carry out whatever needs to be done for the country.

    Anyway, as a candidate, those running for President expresses this direction in the form of a platform.

    As an elected President, this direction is expressed in the State of the Nation Address and more importantly, through a proposed budget which becomes the basis of the GAA or General Appropriations Act — which, by the way is a law.

    “Section 22. The President shall submit to the Congress, within thirty days from the opening of every regular session as the basis of the general appropriations bill, a budget of expenditures and sources of financing, including receipts from existing and proposed revenue measures.”

    To prove further that the President is not limited to just executing laws, you have to consider that the President has the power to issue executive orders and other such instruments which have the power of laws. In a way, this is how the President creates laws.

    That cleared, hopefully, I think you have a bit of a point about platforms being PR tools. Because, as it is made and presented by some candidates, some platforms contain more platitudes than “specific plans on how to achieve a overarching objective”.

    Noynoy Aquino’s so called platform is an arche-type of this, there are no clearly stated deliverables or plans to accomplish these deliverables.

    Deliverables, in my lexicon, would mean:

    — Ask and convince our foreign creditors for a moratorium on debt servicing

    — Eliminate warlords all over the country by increasing the budget for Police and Military

    — increase spending for education in order to eliminate inadequacies in teachers, classrooms, etcetera in 1 year.

    — scrap E-Vat

    1. Reply

      Thank you for the clarifications, guys.

      Thanks for making me know a little bit more about how important platforms are. For the moment, I’m more than willing to admit I am wrong and I operate on (in retrospect) grounds rooted too much on the theoretical without considering the practical, which is something that you guys have explained fully that I don’t think a rejoinder to this entry is necessary. I made a very serious mistake.

    2. Reply

      Although yeah, I checked it again: I do solemnly swear, that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. So help me God.

    • IdeasMan
    • December 4, 2009
    Reply

    “preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws” doesn’t mean that the Constitution is “THE PLAN” that the President follows.

    Instead, the Constitution lays out the laws that define the limits and boundaries of what he (as well as everyone else in the country) is allowed and not allowed to do.

    By “preserve and defend its Constitution”, it means that the President does not seek to disregard it.

    Think of how Chess Players play the game of chess. They are all expected TO FOLLOW THE RULES OF CHESS, not invent any new rules in the middle of their games.

    Still, each Chess Player has a unique style of playing chess, and may have a different game plan according to who their opponents are… (If they know they have opponents who like to use particular pieces like knights, they might have a different game plan that will counter that strategy)

    The strategies or “game plans” may be different. But the RULES of chess are always the same.

    As for a President, a President who feels that the global economic trends require that the Philippines move in a particular direction, might decide that certain older laws need to be changed and superseded by newer laws more relevant to the newer global situation. It is because of this that amendments to the Constitution may be necessary.

    Still, laws/rules are different from plans/platforms. And that’s why Platforms are necessary even if there already is a Constitution.

  12. Reply

    Marocharim,

    You should look at the annotated version of the Constitution, there’s a good one at National Bookstore that describes the powers of the President more fully.

    The President doesn’t just execute law, he or she also causes laws to be made — although the President isn’t really involved in the legislative process. That’s why he or she usually has a legislative agenda and there is also a LEDAC.

    This is why, also, we usually see news articles with the President asking for the passage of one law or another.

    So… Hmmm…

    • kris
    • December 4, 2009
    Reply

    buti na lang pumasok si Pinoy Buzz 🙂

    • GabbyD
    • December 7, 2009
    Reply

    ” The task of a President is to enforce, uphold, and execute the laws of the land: not to make them, and not to determine the scope and jurisdiction of these laws.”

    the president executes policy consistent with the contitution, which need not have new legislation. if it does, its expected to work with the legislature to effect said policy.

    so definitely, a platform, or plans, are necessary for the president.

    right?

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