MS 30th Anniversary XXX

2 underperforming agriculture heads

Management theory suggests that the first step to be taken in dealing with an underperforming institution run by an underperforming executive officer is to remove the underperforming CEO and replace him with someone who displays potential for superior performance. It does not suggest that the best way to deal with the problem is to split it into two.

Yet that s exactly what PNoy Aquino did in 2013 to deal with an underperforming Cabinet member running an underperforming department. The underperforming department was the Department of Agriculture.

PNoy stood management theory on its head not by removing the clearly underperforming Secretary of Agriculture, Proceso Alcala, but by splitting the Department of Agriculture into two and appointing a second Secretary of Agriculture. As co-head of the DA, he appointed former Senator Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan. There was no precedent for a Cabinet department being restructured by Presidential fiat.

Filipinos were shocked and filled with frustration. There were two reasons for this.

The first reason has always been stated. It has to do with good management practice. A management problem, whether in the public sector or otherwise, is not solved by skirting the issue of bad leadership. Splitting underperforming institution--a Cabinet department, in this case--simply created two problems where previously there was only one. And installing a second CEO raises the possibility that there will now be not one but two underperforming CEOs.

The second reason for the shock and frustration experienced by the citizenry was the fact that the agricultural sector produces the nation’s food and fiber and, thus, should be regarded by the government in an objective, non-political way. There are clear indications that the non-removal of Alcala and the appointment of Pangilinan were politically motivated decisions. Both men are members of the ruling Liberal Party and, not incidentally, close friends of President Aquino.

True, the President of the Philippines, in choosing the members of his official family, should look first to his political party, but appointment to the secretaryship of Agriculture need not be done on a partisan basis. Indeed, it should not. Ideally, the position should go to an individual with a managerial and/or technical background. Arturo R. Tanco and Dr. Dioscoro Umali are cases in point.

I want to be as fair to Secretary Pangilinan as I can, but I cannot see where he has made a significant difference to the performances of the Philippine Coconut Authority, National Food Authority, Sugar Regulatory Administration and other components of the erstwhile DA that were assigned to him by PNoy’s Executive Order. My assessment is that the agencies in the Pangilinan part of the DA are being run today as mediocrely as they were during Secretary of Alcala’s watch. I have yet to hear Pangilinan say anything memorable regarding issues crucial to the key agricultural industries allotted to him under the DA restructuring.

Of course, Alcala, at his end, continues to go along his merry, underperforming way. Rice imports--recurrently done under questionable circumstances--smuggling and corruption continue to characterize the operations of Alcala’s part of the DA.

P-Noy’s intrusion into the realm of management theory has been--as it was expected to be--an abject failure. The mindless splitting of the Department of Agriculture should be corrected at the earliest possible time. But that is a forlorn expectation, considering that the 2016 election is rapidly approaching and politicians Alcala and Pangilinan will before long be resigning their positions in order to be able to go back to the hustings.


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