* – First in a series of posts about the Presidentiables
Many of us are familiar with the Autobiography of Manuel B. Villar: born poor, sold fish in the market, and climbed up his way from the slums to the Senate. It’s an autobiography not written in books, but in TV commercials and PR material. If there’s any candidate hell-bent on seeking the Presidency, it is Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga; a man who built his sheer political presence based on gutting and scaling fish on a 30-second commercial spot.
A few months back, when I was invited to a chit-chat with the man, he emphasized his stand: leadership by management. All the cinderblock-lifting and shrimp-vending on TV ad spots does not disguise the fact that he’s a successful businessman, a wealthy tycoon, and a leading figure in Philippine politics. Yet despite all that, Manny Villar leaves – and has left – behind a trail of distrust and corruption.
Manny Villar is the consummate manager. For all that has been said about him as a traditional politician or a populist in the suits of big business, Manny Villar is simply one thing to my mind: a manager.
Villar, in my mind, sees leadership as management. The skills that made him a billionaire are not political; rather, they are managerial skills honed in making business happen from his offices and boardrooms. The managerial mindset, in a nutshell, is to get things done. Not necessarily to get things done right, but to get them on the course, get them moving, and keep them moving.
Managerial skill is the driving force of goals like wealth and progress, which Villar has touted and toted along with his Presidential campaign, and perhaps leading up to the elections. Without a management strategy, we get nowhere near our goals. Perhaps the issues that marred his reputation – C5, the Erap impeachment trials, Wowowee – have a lot to do with his management: keep your eyes on a goal, set a course, and keep things moving. At all costs, at that: and for a billionaire, the notion of cost can make you wonder. It can either impress you or disgust you.
The manager is willing to make compromises for the sake of the goal, contrasting everything in terms of black and white. Everything in the course of the goal is an obstacle that is either negotiated, or eliminated. To my mind, for the many compromises and issues that have surrounded Manny Villar, it’s textbook management that keeps him going. In other words: the Presidency, at all costs. Things are done and goals are accomplished not because they are done right, but because they are done, period. Consummate management: the willingness to compromise for returns of investment.
If anything, Villar appeals to the desire of the common man to succeed in life and reach dreams of wealth: sipag at tiyaga that borders on kapit sa patalim. Villar will not run out of pitch and accent to emphasize that his success came from the desire to succeed. That he is the right man for the job. That he has the credentials, the track record, and everything else in between, selling himself to the electorate in the same way he did seafood, sand and gravel, land, and mall space. Then again, managers are never appointed: they rise up the ranks.
Should Villar win the Presidency in May 2010, Malacañang becomes the boardroom, and every single Filipino becomes an employee in Villar’s project to progress. Still, it bothers me to think that Villar treats the Presidency as his job promotion. Whatever a Villar Presidency would be is something I will leave upon him should he do so.
Until then, I will be watching.