Trillanes caper bares pitfalls of leadership
INSIGHTS: As followup to our Postscript on the Enrile-Trillanes clash In the Senate last week, we are sharing below insights from a piece titled “Responsible Leadership” by Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino, dean of the Graduate School of Law of San Beda College. He wrote:
“The sad exchange between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Antonio Trillanes on the floor of the Senate may have been entertaining to the votaries of high drama — but it was to me a sad commentary on a confused and confusing national leadership.
“I know for a fact that if any of the senators owes the Senate President gratitude and loyalty, it is Senator Trillanes. When he was under detention, it was Senator Enrile who pressed very strenuously for his release so that he could participate in the sessions of the Senate. But the regrettable face-off between the two erstwhile friends highlighted the ills of leadership today.
“Senator Trillanes was strongly opposed, it seems, to the creation of the proposed province of Camarines Nuevo because he thought he saw behind it the hand of former president, now congresswoman, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”
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INGRATITUDE: “There is an eerie reminder here of George Orwell’s popular satire – ‘Animal Farm’ — where the animals that had taken over control of the farm from its human owners foisted on the entire animal community the mantra: ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’!
“To be politically favored today, one must echo the maxim: ‘CGMA bad; anything anti-CGMA, good.’ She may be facing a barrage of cases now, but whether she is guilty or not is a matter best left to judicial determination in proceedings that are not only fair but that must also be perceived to be fair.
“But why should everything even remotely connected with or supported by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo be anathema?
“In the first place, one does not have to be familiar with subtleties of high-level economics to understand that if we reap the benefits of infrastructure development as well as foreign investments today, the groundwork could not have been laid only yesterday.
“In the very least refusing to give credit to whom it is due is ingratitude, and a good leader always acknowledges indebtedness to the past, because that is one way he constantly reminds himself to be circumspect as he lays down the groundwork for the future.
“But the real downside to this intractably derogatory characterization is that by attempting to wipe the slate clean, it denies leadership the benefits of institutional memory and of being able to build on the real gains of the past.”
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CONFUSED: “What also became clear from the acrimonious exchange was that aside from the negotiations that our government was engaged in through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the national leadership apparently conscripted Senator Trillanes — or at least accepted his offer — to conduct what are called ‘backchannel negotiations’ with the Chinese, and did not want the public or the official channel to know about the backdoor deal.
“Again, the trouble should be obvious — and has become obvious. When you use the front and back doors, be sure that those who pass through them do not bump into each other, and be sure that the message passed through the front door is the same message you get past the back door.
“Otherwise, you do not only confound the other party. You confuse yourself.”
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CULTIC FIGURE: “Responsible leadership rejects personality cults, and the responsible leader never makes of himself a cultic figure. A cult does not welcome rational exchange. It solicits adulation. It thrives on flattery. Perception is orientated by one’s cultic allegiance.
“A responsible leader will never project himself as the messianic solution to complex social problems.
“This is closely related to my thesis that while a responsible leader will endeavor to live honesty, act uprightly and conduct himself responsibly, he will not make of his own righteousness an ideology nor of his prejudices and personal inclinations, the dogmas of his cult.”
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APHORISMS: “I am aware that for many post-modernism is a fad. I have more respect for the movement than to treat it dismissively in the same way.
“One of its movements is ‘erasure’. One writes and then crosses out what one has written. It plays, but the play is deadly serious in that it is serious about not taking oneself seriously.
“For this self-same reason, ‘erasure’ takes tongue-in-cheek the aphorisms that are intoned with unction. Aphorisms are very attractive, which is why most of history’s dictators foisted aphorisms on captivated and mesmerized mobs.
“The trouble with aphorisms is that they are too simple and simplistic when proposed as answers to complex problems. A responsible leader proposes answers, advances analyses, and initiates change. There is no such thing as ‘the master word’, the ‘secret formula’.”
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STUPIDITY: “In fact, because the ‘final solution’ is more ominous than it is promising, the responsible leader must always be prepared to erase his own solutions, analyses and initiatives, realizing all the time that all that we can have are tentative, provisional, fallible solutions that we should take seriously, pursue earnestly, but ever hold out for scrutiny, review, criticism, revision and possible overthrow.
“Knowledge, Karl Popper insists, consists in the constant overthrow of theories and their replacement by better ones. To insist that one’s answers and solutions are the only right and righteous ones is not only hubris. It is plain stupidity!
“Equally important to my mind is the earnestness by which a responsible leader broadens the basis of consensus, allows decision-making on the highest levels to be permeated by the will-formation that takes place throughout society.”