Thursday, September 20, 2012

To be unshackled is to soar

The human spirit is meant to soar but first it must be set free. Indeed the mission taken on by President Aquino to rid us of corruption seems to be moving forward with the appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Her relative youth, on top of her expertise and demonstrated skills, is equated to dynamism that is critical to realize the goal of reforming the judiciary, and for the Philippines to be synonymous to the rule of law. Of course, her unblemished record of integrity must be at the core of why she was the president's choice. But as in any mission, barriers are bound to sprout and thus the demand for dynamism.

Ex-CJ Panganiban, who knows the job first hand, summarized for us why CJ Sereno was a great choice. And the writer, coming from the private sector, has understood the imperative of hiring the right person for the right job. For example, in their efforts to benchmark best global practices, progressive enterprises would take note that the British civil service hiring system is respected the world over.

And the way CJ Sereno describes her new job gives us comfort that she would not let barriers stand in the way of reform. And she speaks to transparency while setting the highest standards for the judiciary. We cannot afford to set low standards and the British hiring system is a good model to think about. What to us may be a high-enough standard must always be tested against global yardsticks if we are to raise ourselves up as a nation. We are not simply the 'little brown brother' – we must find our place in the sun.

We cannot keep to our comfort zone and long-standing yardsticks. Or to be satisfied with simply being hopeful. For example, we need greater dynamism to fix basic problems like power and flood control. Likewise, we need dynamism to get the road maps of agribusiness and manufacturing executed – i.e., plans are meaningless until they are executed and that they in fact deliver the desired outcomes.

We have to keep fighting the urge of "pwede na yan" or "mababaw ang kaligayahan.” In other words, good enough is never good enough! We may have a standard of living that is to die for but then again, it simply confirms that ours is a two sub-set economy. And for a proud people that ought to be a shame, not a source of pride – especially given our Christian heritage.

Supposedly pro-poor advocates see the new CJ as pro the wealthy (i.e., the Cojuangcos) because of her opinion (re the basis of its valuation) on the Luisita Supreme Court decision. We keep forgetting what we learned from our forbears about "puno't dulo" – which in modern lingo translates to "connecting the dots" and "starting with the end in view." Without going into the merits of the case, Philippine land reform is a failure precisely because we took the hurdle of "sustainable economic undertaking" for granted. An undertaking may sound charitable but it does not serve the purpose if it is not sustainable. Populist instincts may gain political points and, unfortunately, explain why our politics remains patronizing – thus guaranteeing the cycle of poverty.

Indeed, Juan de la Cruz must learn more and be committed to dynamism. The 21st century is about technology and innovation, for instance. And it presupposes overcoming the bias for and to be unquestioning about the status quo. How the new CJ gets the judiciary team on board will be her first test – especially given our assumptions of tradition and hierarchy? And if we add our instinct to personalize, the challenge for CJ Sereno gets magnified!

Hiring the right person for the right job simply means that – but to Juan de la Cruz that's a curve ball? Until we learn to operate outside the box, we shall be held hostage by the status quo. It's time we set the human spirit free . . . and let it soar.

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