Dr. Jose V. Abueva
Philippine Daily Inquirer
25th, 2011 & Friday, July 8th, 2011
studies show that leadership is a key component of education quality, but there are many kinds of leadership as there are
leaders. Dr. Jose V. Abueva, the esteemed educator, shares his views on the subject.)
President Aquino should uphold the honor and example of our heroes and martyrs, including
his revered parents and over a hundred others memorialized in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, for resisting the tyranny and corruption
of Ferdinand Marcos and his authoritarian regime. Their message to our incumbent President is to be a “transforming
leader,” not merely a “transactional one.”
James MacGregor Burns describes “transforming leaders” as those who –
with their purpose, vision and example – do much more than just bargain with fellow leaders and followers and “purposely
achieve substantial and real change in the direction of ‘higher values’.” I’d say that these would
include our lofty constitutional ideals of democracy, justice, good governance, the rule of law, truth, love, human rights,
public accountability, and the common good.
Notable examples include Ramon Magsaysay, Emmanuel Pelaez, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. and
Corazon Aquino, Jose W. Diokno, Raul Manglapus, Francisco Soc Rodrigo, Jovito R. Salonga, and Jessie Robredo.
On the other hand, “transactional leaders” use their power and patronage
to gain the support and loyalty of their followers, and little more.
Ferdinand Marcos was – and remains – our most notorious “transactional
leader.” In 1965, Marcos vowed: “This nation can be great again.” Set against this vision of national
progress and effective leadership, he virtually admitted his own failure by 1972 – the third year of his second term
– when he proclaimed martial law purportedly “to protect the Republic of the Philippines and our democracy”
that were “imperiled by the danger of a violent overthrow, insurrection and rebellion” and “criminality
and lawlessness…[and] anarchy that had paralyzed the functions of the national and local governments.”
As unraveled by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the schemes
and techniques of presidential plunder by Marcos are mind-boggling. They include creating monopolies in vital industries and
placing them in the control of his cronies; awarding huge behest loans to favored individuals; outright takeover of public
or private enterprises for a minimal payment; direct raiding of the public treasury and government financial institutions;
issuance of presidential decrees to enable his cronies to amass wealth for their joint benefit; skimming of foreign aid and
other forms of assistance; and depositing money with the use of pseudonyms and numbered accounts in domestic and foreign banks
to conceal its real ownership.
Through martial law, Marcos effectively extended his presidency indeterminately under
the 1973 Constitution tailored for his self-aggrandizement. As revealed in Jovito R. Salonga’s memoir, Marcos needed
to destroy the democratic institutions of constitutional governance and the rule of law established for the public welfare
and the common good – Congress, the judiciary, the free press and media, and the citizens’ political rights and
civil liberties—in order to indulge his unbridled dual passion for unlimited power and wealth. The state of the nation
that he depicted merely rationalized his inner motives and overt actions.
Lord Acton is often quoted for his famous dictum: “Power corrupts, and absolute
power corrupts absolutely.” He saw corruption as the consequence of the unbridled exercise of power. But that is not
always the case.
It appears that Marcos’ corrupt nature preceded his acquisition of absolute
power and apparently motivated him into seeking it. This political cynicism makes some politicians assume that everyone has
a price, and a person’s loyalty or acquiescence can be bought at that price.
Therefore, with enough wealth, you could gain power and indefinitely enlarge and perpetuate
it. You could then use such power to force the people’s submission and obedience to your will, with some degree of trade-off
and incentives. You can also try to keep them ignorant of the real condition of the nation and the government, or fool them
with lies and propaganda. Never mind morality, the human spirit, and social conscience.
The cumulative outcome and the costs of the Marcos dictatorship that added over 13
years to his seven years as a constitutional president are incalculable. However egregious, his plunder of the nation’s
wealth is only one of the costly consequences of his evil rule. During his two decades in power the Philippines fell far behind
several neighboring countries in East Asia in the pursuit of development, and became “the basket case” in the
region. Democracy was destroyed, the economy was in ruins, and the culture of corruption, violence and cynicism aggravated.
The Philippines was arguably better off than our neighbors in East and Southeast Asia
as we emerged from the devastation of World War II and centuries of colonialism. Our rampant corruption and bad governance,
and social and economic backwardness today have been brought about mainly by leaders whose drive for power and wealth make
them mostly self-serving in office, instead of being loyal public servants and moral leaders as well.
E. Marcos—the transactional leader —betrayed our country. This is manifest historical truth. And yet, his
family wants him to be buried as a national hero in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Marcos, we were a garrison state with war zones where human rights were regularly violated by the combatants from both sides.
In addition to the suffering and misery of so many, the nation lost priceless years, ultimately its scarcest, most irretrievable
resource. The hopes for the future of innumerable young men and women were crushed forever. The careers of some of the finest
political leaders were aborted, while a number of unworthy politicians flourished, as well as minions of the dictator and
unrepentant officials and loyalists in the post-Edsa era.
be told, some of the difficulties and compromises in the drawn-out efforts to recover the Marcos ill-gotten wealth reflect
the ambivalence, contradictions and corruption of self-serving transactional leaders in resolving transcendent issues of public
morality and illicit private gain.
public discernment and virtue in these aspects that would epitomize the community’s high-minded sense of right and wrong,
the Filipino nation and government cannot command honor, self-respect and credibility among its own citizens, much less in
the international community. For this, Filipino leaders are much more to blame than the citizens, for it is the challenge
and responsibility of leaders to lead and uplift the people toward a national vision of “a just and humane society”
and a vibrant and effective democracy.
of Filipino political leadership is one of the best explanations for the country’s persistent problems of poverty, injustice,
ineffective governance and corruption—and its continuing underdevelopment when compared to other countries since the
able to choose better leaders and improve our government, our people must be empowered by their education, their improved
practical skills and earning capacity, and their political participation. We all have to learn from our experience; from study
and reflection on our recent history and national development; from the teaching and guidance of our religious and lay leaders;
and by our involvement in the work of various organizations in business and civil society. We should also learn from the example
of the leaders in the more advanced and progressive nations.
governance in a democracy requires the involvement and enlightened participation of all citizens inspired and challenged by
the vision, idealism and morality of transforming leaders. We sorely need such leaders to free our people from continuing
poverty, corruption, violence, injustice, bad governance, and flawed institutions begging to be reformed. We must develop
such transforming leaders from the local communities upwards to gradually replace the many self-serving members of our ruling
class or political elite who perpetuate our dysfunctional presidential government, centralized unitary system and political
parties at the people’s expense.
as Filipinos, and especially their highest leaders, avoid resolving those issues in favor of basic moral principles, the national
interest and the common good—and get away with it—no clear national standards of right and wrong can be established
and consistently enforced, much less prevail. This is evident in regard to the issues of loyalty to the nation and collaboration
with the enemy, whether Filipino or foreign; graft and corruption vs. honesty and integrity in public office; the inviolability
of human rights and their violation and abuse by officials and functionaries; public accountability and the impunity of corrupt
government officials; civilian supremacy over the military; mutual accommodation and protection among members of the political
elite; and so on.
commendable in itself, President Aquino’s passion for restoring morality and rationality in the conduct of public service,
known as “ang daang matuwid,” is not enough. He can do much more as a transforming leader in his remaining five
years, a very short time actually.
and in our experience these past 24 years, our presidential system of government, centralized governance and party system
under the 1987 Constitution have failed us terribly. These have blocked progress toward our constitutional vision
of building “a just and humane society” and an effective government and democracy “under the rule of law
and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace…”
Aquino should lend his invaluable support to overdue Charter change proposals that did not have a chance under the Arroyo
presidency. In this way the President will greatly enhance the Cory Constitution of 1987 for the benefit of our people now
and in the future. Along with “daang matuwid,” reforming and revitalizing our system of democratic governance
can be the President’s greatest and enduring legacy as a “transforming leader.” He will fulfill our
urgent need for structural and institutional change in addition to curbing corruption.
as we began this commentary, by respectfully urging President Aquino to be a “transforming leader” like
Ramon Magsaysay, Emmanuel Pelaez, Raul Manglapus, Jose Diokno, Jovito Salonga, Fidel Ramos, Antonio Meloto and—most
especially—his revered parents.
V. Abueva is the president of Kalayaan College and UP Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public Administration, a
trustee of the Eggie Apostol Foundation, and a former president of the University of the Philippines.