Saturday, December 20, 2008


PA 327: Comparative Development Administration, Second Semester 2008-2009
Dean Alex Brillantes Jr., PhD

Submitted by: Sofronio “Toti” Dulay, DPA Student

Diagnostic Essay – Due 17 November 2008

Read the article of Farazmand (on development administration) and Grindle (on good enough governance) and present your own analysis of the state of development (underdevelopment) and governance in the Philippines today. You may of course locate your discussion within the context of global developments today.

The Philippines Today and Some Prescription to Make It a Better Country

A lot of Filipinos are wondering….what happened to the Philippines? We used to be next to Japan in the early 50’s, now we are far behind. There are a lot of positive things about our country and our people. We have a superior culture, westernized: English speaking, Roman Catholics, with western surnames and practices all the western cultural rituals – Christmas, Halloween, New Year, Valentine, etc. We are good looking (mixture of western, Malays and Chinese bloods), well educated and cultured…yet, we seem to be not getting anywhere as a nation.

Before we continue to self inflict further, let me point out that if the countries all over the world are people, Philippines is a middle class guy, so, we should not feel bad about what we are now that much. In fact, we should take this fact as a way to make us feel good and must have self confidence as a people to pursue progress and development as a nation. Always remember that a middle class guy, with proper planning determination, can do better than a rich guy….

Conceptual Basis

Let me start analyzing where we went wrong by talking about basic concepts, like development and underdevelopment. “Activities of modern nation states in promoting their development fall under the four categories previously listed: producing an economic surplus, promoting social and cultural integration, governance and education. For purposes of explanation, they are discussed separately. However, their usefulness to the state for national development comes only through their interaction. All four are so intertwined and interdependent that to select one as preeminent, as economists, business and government have done with producing an economic surplus is to distort understanding of the process.”[1] This definition views national development as a process. Take note that the definition mentions four main clusters. We can say that the lack or a weakness on any of these clusters can be viewed as the opposite – underdevelopment. The definition is advocating for a balance approach, meaning, a development process in all four fronts.

Governance on the other hand is complex. In fact, different organizations have different definition of governance, as shown in the article of Grindle. “Though governance is now virtually a synonym for public administration, much of the literature putatively about “governance” does not even bother to define the term, apparently on the assumption that it is understood naturally and intuitively” [2] But I think it would be clearer if we pick up one definition from among the several definitions presented by Grindle. UNDP defined governance as the “the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country's affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences”[3] It also defines good governance as “participatory, transparent…accountable….effective and equitable….promotes the rule of law…. ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in society and that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in decision-making over the allocation of development resources”[4] Said other way, good governance is adding democratic and management ideals to the process of governance.

One thing interesting about the article of Grindle is the concept of “good enough governance”, which if you take it in a laymen’s term is governance that is not the ideal but is doable enough given the circumstances, so, therefore, is good enough. This seems to be aligning with Herbert Simon’s concept of “satisficing versus optimizing” in decision making. “A particular important difference between the rational and the bounded rational decision making is this: the rational manager continues to review solution until he or she finds the optimal choice, while in contrast, managers in practice often “satisfice.” To satisfies means that managers in practice tend to be concerned with just discovering and selecting satisfactory alternatives, and only in exceptional cases with finding optimal alternatives. This is not to say that managers don’t try to be rational; it is simply recognizing the fact that in practice, their practice to be rational will be limited or “bounded” by the sort of decision – making barriers.”[5]. Simply put, decide based on the available data, according to your best effort.

Good enough governance, conceptually, is close to satisficing. Do not wait for the ideal circumstances because it may not come and time is of the essence. Rather, concentrate on what activities and programs that can be done given the prevailing circumstances. “The good governance agenda, largely defined by the international development community but often fervently embraced by domestic reformers, is unrealistically long and growing longer over time. Among the governance reforms that “must be done” to encourage development and reduce poverty, there is little guidance about what’s essential and what’s not, what should come first and what should follow, what can be achieved in the short term and what can only be achieved over the longer term, what is feasible and what is not. If more attention is given to sorting out these kinds of issues, the end point of the good governance imperative might be recast as “good enough governance,” that is, a condition of minimally acceptable government performance and civil society engagement that does not significantly hinder economic and political development and that permits poverty reduction initiatives to go forward.”[6]

The Philippine Situation

The Philippines, if we will based on Table 2: Characteristics of Regimes and their Capacities, belongs to the personal rule type of political system characterized by rule through personalities and personal connections. We have political parties, but these parties are the empty shells of presidential candidates who used them in their presidential run. Institutional “stability is highly dependent on personal control of power. Rules of the game emphasize power of elites and personal connections to elites; there is conflict over who controls the state. Organizational capacity of the state is low. Organizations respond to the personal and shifting priorities of powerful elites. Degree of the state legitimacy is low. There is often significant contention over who has the right to wield power; power is used for personal wealth creation. Types of policies in place are unstable; a major objective is to enrich those in power; few basic public services are provided.”[7]
Although, the Philippines can also be considered minimally institutionalized states, in other words, it seems to flip flop between personal rule type to minimally institutionalized states type of political system.
Based on the concept of good enough governance, the Philippines, by virtue of its existing types of political systems are not capable to do “higher” governance characteristics like ensuring equality/fairness in justice and access to services, open government decision making/ implementation process, responsiveness to input from organized groups/citizen participation, and; full accountability for its decisions and their consequences. At its current political system, our government can only fulfill “lower “ level governance like enduring of personal safety, basic conflict resolution system, widespread agreement on basic rules of the game for political succession, government being able to carry administrative tasks, and ;being able to ensure basic services to most of the population.


It is noted that in the typology of political systems that characterizes the regimes and their capacities, political party plays a very dominant role. It is worthy at this point to determine what the political system of the country was when it was number two to Japan: two party systems and partly financed by the state. That system was closest to the present political system of the strongest and richest nation of the world today, the USA. The system was destroyed by Marcos and our political leaderships up to now, are not able to restore it. As I am writing now, our political leaders, and even academicians, are not aware or concerned of the fact that it’s the best system and it should be restored. Because they don’t recognize this fact, they don’t feel the urgency to restore it. If they don’t feel the urgency, nobody feels the urgency and nobody cares. Even this finding of mine could be subject to ridicule and lots of second opinions by people who are academically and verbally eloquent but conceptually “dull”. In Tagalog, they can be described as “edukadong pulpol” or “duminanting bobo”, meaning they can debate eloquently against this finding (or against any topics for that matter) 100 times, cite so many readings, hackneyed and anecdotal opinions with full of forms, but they are actually and basically “dull” for not to being able to get the fact that is staring at them: we were two - party system (the system of the strongest and richest nation on earth and therefore, benchmarking – wise, in basic management term, it is sound) when we were number two to Japan and that system need to be restored. It is as simple as this. The very reason why up to now the system that gave us glory is not yet restored after so many years is the proliferation of the “edukadong pulpol” or “duminanting bobo” in the media, academe, the church, and the national leadership. Kung baga sa basketball, ang tawag sa kanila ay “bano”: magaling pomorma pero di maka shoot. Kung baga sa billiard, sila yung mga player na ang galing pomorma pero mahihina sa planketa. Debaters and talkers are endemic in this country so we cannot seem to appreciate the phenomenon of a doer like Bayani Fernando, as if doing, in an ironic twist, is a sign of dullness. As in a Russian proverb: “it’s the child who works who gets the spanking”. These “edukadong pulpol” or “”duminanting bobo” are so many that make one think that they are indeed endemically enslaving the Philippine society to mediocrity. Today there are different versions of bills in the Congress that talks about electoral reforms and they are not moving for so many years now. They serve as monkey’s wrench to each other. They gridlock each other. All of them are saying so many things that they are bound to have differences in one way or another, and therefore, it will take them forever to reconcile these differences, especially the fact that they do not have a sense of urgency….they can not move on. The solution is to have a bill that will provide government allowance to the watchers of the two leading political parties/ coalitions in the immediately preceding national elections, and the two party system and partial government support to political parties would had been de facto restored without fanfare. Avoid so many other provisions because it will just invite disagreements. The tactics seems to be: teach the monkey one trick at a time for the Philippine society to escape from the slavery of these “duminanting bobo” or “edukadong pulpol”, lots of them are indeed highly educated and well placed. Some of them are in U.P. I know a few of them.


[2] The Public Administration Theory Primer. H.George Frederickson and Kevin B. Smith. P.209
[3] Good Enough Governance Revisited. Grindle, Merilee, February 2005. p.14
[4] ibid
[5] Management: Leading People and Organization in the 21st Century. Desslert, Gary. 1998. p.121
[6] Good Enough Governance: Poverty Reduction and Reform in Developing Countries. Grindle, Merilee, p.526
[7] Good Enough Governance Revisited. Grindle, Merilee, February 2005. p.16

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