OPINION: Trust and Confidence

Edmund Tayao

Posted at Nov 25 2019 01:08 PM

In politics, everything is about trust and confidence. Anyone and everyone who is into politics, directly or indirectly, knows that is fundamental. You have to be careful but it does not mean it is only the opponent who is or can be bad and therefore make you a saint. If you can accuse one to be capable of doing things in bad faith, never act as if you are a saint and therefore are not capable of doing things in bad faith. This is one thing that should be avoided at all costs lest it backfires on you, which will just be a matter of time and make you a demagogue.

Politics is a slippery slope. It is about power and control and it’s but expected to lure anyone into it, and those who already exercise power and control would often want to continue to have it. This is why it is important to have rules. Wanting to have and exercise power and control is not in itself bad, especially if it is used for the good of everyone. The rules or even standards are important because it is the one element that allows trust and confidence.

Exercising power and control becomes bad when one becomes intoxicated with it and starts making bad judgment. There are those, of course, who, no matter what they do, in fact, even given the most purest of intentions, are simply incompetent to judiciously use power in the first place. Control is always part of power as the latter is precisely for the fundamental purpose of achieving the former. If, in the process, power is no longer about control, or that it starts to control the one who is suppose to wield it and therefore have control of it, it ceases to be power and turns into a disaster.

So, power is power depending on how it is used. It is a means and not an end, again precisely it is supposed to bring about control. It takes so much responsibility therefore to be able to use it and sustain its potency. It requires competence and as such, requires not only knowledge but more so, discretion. The purpose of power is defeated if used wrongly, and by wrongly means not only abuse but also equally not knowing how to use it. The question now is how, and this is what we are to understand in this article.

When the President ran for office, he declared that in six months, the problem of drug abuse would be gone. Perhaps, the better term that could have been used is “contained”. Drug abuse is just like graft and corruption or even poverty; it is one thing to contain or alleviate it, and it is entirely another to eradicate it. Without doubt, the President knows the difference in all these terms, which is the reason why he is so much into addressing the problem of drug abuse. It is because he encountered it and addressed it, rather adequately at that, during the long time that he was mayor of the largest city in the country, Davao.

As soon as he took national office, however, he realized it couldn’t be done away with as he had done it—in just 6 months—in his city. All the tricks he effectively used before, he put to good use, especially even with his top “go-to man” at the helm of the national police the soonest he got to Malacañang.

After some time, the President declared he needed at least two years more to put an end to illegal drugs. The administration calibrated and recalibrated its program and policy against it. To a certain extent, it cannot be denied that it is working, but not towards eradication but more in terms of containment, especially in terms of supply and consumption. If this is not the case, the President’s popularity should have been significantly eroded by now. It is his priority issue after all. Still, he went on and admitted that he and his administration have not been successful.

Of course, as we have already settled in the foregoing, there will always be opposing views as this is the nature of politics. Whether by design or necessity, the President turned to the Vice President, who is, needless to say, a leader of the opposition. There was so much posturing and needless analysis as to why she was suddenly being appointed as co-chair of the interagency committee on anti-illegal drugs, and that she had to be careful. This cannot be disputed, as again, anyone should be careful in politics. Politics is always a two-way street. The one who initiates something does not always end up benefitting but instead gets hurt by it. The subject of the initiative should be careful but the one who initiates should as much be careful. 

In politics, there are rules, this we already know at the outset. Whether one recognizes these rules or not is not something that effectively gets rid of it. The same goes with any organization, that’s precisely why it is called an organization. Without rules, it will not be an organization. And so it did not make sense when the news suddenly raised the issue of whether the VP as co-chair of the committee should or should not be a cabinet position. The nature of the committee is clear, it is a policy-making body. Regardless of whether one is chair, co-chair, or just a member, one is part of the “policy-making” process that the body engages in.

Policymaking requires “information”, facts and figures needed to be the basis of any policy and/or action that the committee will come up with. It goes without saying that as co-chair of the committee, the VP has access to information. Why would there be a need to tell the public that information, whatever it was, was asked? It is in the nature of the job to have information. It is not just any information, however, as it is a critical security issue. Even if one has the information, he or she is not supposed to declare that he or she has it. Anyone whose work is in national security would know as a basic rule that possession of any security information should not be declared readily in public.

It would make sense if she was already doing the job as co-chair but was being prevented to precisely because she was not allowed to have any and all of the information needed for the council to function. The fact that she was appointed, it only means she had the clearance as the other members to have the information needed to perform the mandate of policymaking. Declaring publicly that she had this information, regardless of the kind of information, was a different question entirely.

This can only be the problem why the President did not appreciate the work of the VP. She could have buckled up and performed first before making pronouncements. This could have made a whole lot of difference, as it would show if she was indeed prevented from doing the job assigned to her. Trust and confidence was immediately raised without reflecting first if she herself had these, not necessarily with the President, but with the members of the committee she was supposed to be working with.

Criticizing is all good, but she was already part of the organization. Whether the President, by design, wanted to silence her, it was, in fact an opportunity to know more about the administration and its work against illegal drugs. As a critic, it was expected that she would only show and express lack of trust and confidence on those engaged in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the President, particularly the police. As soon as she was already a part of the campaign, on the other hand, she could have shown immediately that she could give the police the benefit of the doubt.

The President could not have trusted the VP for all the good reasons. Any President would not and could not readily trust the opposition. But the appointment was an opportunity. It would have been an advantage to know more about how the campaign works and contribute to its success than to immediately show that one cannot be a team player. After all, it is not just about politics or who gets to have the better public support in the process. It is as much, in fact, even more important that the campaign succeeds, as it will be good for everyone. And if it does succeed, the credit would have been more with the VP, as her inclusion would have been seen as making the big difference. This credit would, no doubt, have been more than what the public would have afforded the President.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.