Solidarity in the time of COVID-19 -- MS Supplement

A question of leadership

"I served in the military and police for over 35 years and I do not know of a mañanita tradition."


The mañanita during the birthday of PMaj Gen Debold Sinas is the kind of misstep that can erase months of hard and commendable police work.

This is in spite of a few untoward incidents and complaints of police misconduct. I do not know what was in the mind of the officer or officers who suggested and planned the birthday celebration for the National Capital Region Police Chief when there is a pandemic and a lockdown. Do they not have enough brains to have thought of the repercussions of what they were going to do?

To top it all, photos taken during the party were posted on the Facebook page of the NCRPO. If it was PMaj Gen Debold Sinas himself who initiated it, then it tells us about the kind of officer and leader he is. Is serenading the boss really a tradition in the police or military? I served in the military and police for over 35 years and I do not know of a mañanita tradition. Yes, there were cases when serenading happened but was not an automatic part of the occasion. The eating is more the norm of almost all birthday celebrations – not the serenading. A mañanita usually depends on the Commander whether he likes it. Besides, the practice has become rare in recent years.

What happened was a monumental lapse in judgment. When your unit is responsible for enforcing regulations, the last thing that you do is to violate the very regulation you are enforcing --- and then publicize it for everyone to know. The National Capital Region Police Office is a frontline unit of the Philippine National Police because of its location. The NCRPO, more than any other police unit, must be the shining example of good police work. Any mistake, no matter how trivial, is sometimes magnified especially during this time when the formal and social media are aggressively watching every move that the government is doing, ready to punch as soon as an error is committed. The Commander must therefore have the aptitude to discern when and when not to do something and be able to set a good example.

We have to remember that leadership styles are never static. They also change with time. A leader, to be effective, must be able to adjust with the changing times. If he gets stuck in a time warp, it can end disastrously for him and his unit. An elderly graduate from the same school as PMaj Gen Sinas has asked the good General to step down. I will not go that far because I understand the situation he is in. He must, however, realize by now that his effectivity as the chief enforcer of COVID-19 government policies in the NCR is over – even if the President told him to remain in his post.

What happened has not only severely tarnished his leadership credibility but also that of his unit. I sincerely hope that he makes the right decision to salvage his service reputation. Yes, he was given a lifeline, but I believe this will do him more harm than good in the long run. The lifeline also basically renders the charges against him meaningless. Those still in the service must bear in mind that no one is indispensable or more important than the institution. Furthermore, no one is irreplaceable.

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Many senior government officials in the IATF are former high-ranking military officers and therefore understand very well the importance of keeping a plan as simple as possible. There is a military saying that goes ''only simple plans win wars." Complicated plans do not.

The prepared IATF transition plan may look simple on paper but can become complicated when it reaches the ground for implementation. The chaos we are seeing on the streets, resulting in kilometric queues of vehicles because of the checkpoints, cannot be sustained for long. The police must realize by now that checking everyone and every vehicle is inefficient. Sooner or later both the police who are enforcing and the people waiting for hours will wilt under the very hot sun. It is much more efficient to do random enforcement like checking every tenth or fifteenth motor vehicle, bicycle or pedestrian. This way, it will speed up all movements faster. Sure, there will be a few who will get away but by and large, the mission will still be accomplished.

The police could also check randomly any vehicle or pedestrian on any street for violators. Checking does not have to be done only at checkpoints. Another issue is the IATF allowing people to go to work but seem to have forgotten that transportation is needed to move these people. Now, the government wants that business owners should provide transportation and housing for these workers. The vast majority of businesses however, are small with less than ten employees and cannot afford to provide shuttle services or housing.

Perhaps, a partial opening of public transport is in order, as some are suggesting.

There are parts of the transition plan that are difficult to implement. All coordinating instructions must be very clear to Local Government Units as well as enforcement elements to avoid confusion and for the sake of uniformity of enforcement. Admittedly, any plan of this magnitude needs a much longer time to prepare. Some snafus are therefore bound to happen although they should not, especially in predictable areas. With all the hard work done, the IATF should constantly review the plan and be prepared to adjust to every changing situation. The public expects more from the IATF.

Topics: Florencio Fianza , National Capital Region Police Office , NCRPO , PMaj Gen Debold Sinas , Enhanced Community Quarantine , ECQ , coronaivirus disease 2019 , COVID-19
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