Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A Dropout for President? Why not?

Why is a college education and civil service eligibility required for appointment to most government offices and none is required of a President or of other elective positions?

The question is usually a loaded one. Most of the time the person asking means, "Hey, I got this MBM or PhD from [fill in the name of a university here]. I am better equipped to be Mayor, Governor or President than this guy." No answer would suffice for such a self-professed know-it-all..

Sometimes, though, this is asked in utter sincerity. And an honest-to-goodness answer is needed. This is my humble contribution.

A minimum educational qualification is needed for positions in the civil service. And more stringent qualifications are usually required for placement in the private sector. But why is there is no educational requirement for elective positions.? Actually the answer is simple.

These are elective positions and it is the people who decide whom they like to place in these positions in government. It is their will that is followed. And this will, as embodied in the Constitution, only requires that the President is a natural born Filipino, of a certain age, and a few more qualification. That's it.

Wouldn't this result in inefficient governance when leadership is chosen without looking at someone's educational qualification?

This is the gist of the misunderstanding. People, including those who style themselves as highly educated, confuse leadership with managerial prowess. They equate governance with academic credentials.

I still remember the spirited discussions in management classes dwelling on this leader vs. manager topic. The fundamental idea one derives from this dichotomy is that a leader shows where an organization ought to be going while a manager determines how to get there in a most efficient manner.

Any organization is a microcosm of a nation at large. Consider a private firm that is publicly listed. The stockholders elect the board of directors. The board chooses the top officers of the company. Generally there are no educational qualifications imposed on the directors. Stockholders are not concerned about impressive titles of those desiring to be directors. They entrust the firm to people who, in their estimation, can bring them good return on their investment.

But positions in the firm that are obtained through appointments are a different matter. Here is where a PhD or an MBA maybe paramount. These are the people who need to know how to achieve the goal of the company.

But the CEO or the COO does not need any letters after his or her name or title before it. His only qualification is to define a vision for the organization. It's up to his managers to capture that vision.

In a nation, the citizens are the stockholders. The country is where they have invested all they have: their present and their future. No one should limit their choice of who they think best understand their longings, their aspirations. The framers of the 1935 Constitution included the greatest minds of the country at the time. The 1987 Constitution was the product of men like CJ Davide and Prof. Bernas and Sec. Ople (a drop-out, by the way) who could not be faulted for intellectual mediocrity.

They all understood that no sector of society (meaning those who overestimated their educational superiority) should curtail the very basic right of a person -- the right to carve their destiny and corollarily to choose from among themselves one they saw fit to lead themselves to that destiny; one who can turn their aspiration into a national vision. This basic right also means they can replace that leader if he or she betrays their trust whether through electoral process or people power.

All these wrangling about educational qualification of a leader is just a reflection of the nightmares of our failed elites with all their postgraduate titles from pedigreed universities. The bangungot ng bayan is a concept of their own creation; their karma personified.