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The virtue of teamsmanship

Anyone who worked with a team or played in an orchestra appreciates the importance of each part being in harmony with the whole. There is value in synchronicity and beauty in harmony.

Anyone who coached a team or conducted an orchestra understands there can be no compromise on the matter of teamsmanship. The whole cannot be sacrificed for the part. The success of the team cannot be sacrificed to oblige an errant player.


The Cabinet is a team. It is an orchestral assembly respecting individual talent, but putting primacy on collective efficacy. President Duterte is conducting this assembly of talent. He has a program of government to deliver to our people. A different drummer could waylay the entire program of government.

More than a team or an orchestra, the Cabinet relies on trust to be effective. Each member of the Cabinet is officially an alter ego of the President. None can be dissonant or disloyal and expect to be an alter ego of the leader. That will never work. The Cabinet is not a social club. It is an executive team that should be committed to the program of government.

Vice President Leni Robredo should have grasped this nature of the Cabinet. Or perhaps she grasped it too late, when her continued attendance in the top-level meeting had already become untenable.

She should at least have known that there was resistance to her recruitment to a Cabinet post. She was, after all, of an entirely different political stripe. During Cabinet meetings, she could inhibit free and open discussion on crucial issues.

Recall that debate over “executive privilege” we all had some time back. This was the privilege former president Gloria Arroyo claimed when the Senate wanted a Cabinet member to make public what was discussed in meetings with the president of the Republic. If the mantle of “executive privilege” is somehow torn, this would have a chilling effect on the free but confidential discussion of sensitive matters taken up at the Cabinet level. Arroyo won that debate and sealed it with an executive order requiring senior officials to seek the president’s permission before appearance in a legislative hearing.

Heads of state have special requirements for confidentiality. Without those, discussions of national issues at the highest level will be stilted and constrained. That can never be good for the national interest.

To be sure, the personal relationship between Rodrigo Duterte and Leni Robredo remains cordial. But that is only as far as the personalities are concerned. As public officials, there are other, more overpowering considerations. Personal friendship should yield to the demands of statecraft.

Leni Robredo may, as she declared, be committed to President Duterte’s leadership. But she has taken public positions on enough burning issues contradictory to positions the President took. She maintained political association with groups believed to be actively undermining the President’s leadership. Not a few in the Cabinet are uncomfortable when she is present while grave matters of state are dissected.

To maintain the openness as well as confidentiality of inter-Cabinet deliberations, the President needed to dissuade the Vice President from further attending these top-level meetings. This is the vital distinction between asking her to refrain from attending Cabinet sessions and asking her to resign. Probably, Robredo imagined no distinction, and she resigned from her appointment. The President accepted the resignation “with a heavy heart.”

The resignation and its acceptance might appear to be a serious fork in the political road. Indeed, many have tended to over-read things into the event. But as far as the President is concerned, this is all about the value of synchronicity and the beauty of harmony. The team must work with full confidence and the orchestra must play without a hitch.

There is nothing more and nothing less.

tnrs
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