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Introduction

Welcome to Running A Bureaucracy: A Guidebook for Local Government Unit Administrators, Public Managers, and Elected Officials in the Philippines.

Being an LGU administrator or public manager is one of the most challenging professions, as I have learned in almost two decades of being a provincial administrator. Well, no one said it would be easy.

But let me borrow former U.S. Presidential staff and respected Harvard University Professor Dan Fenn’s comprehensive description of our calling. It sums up the demands of the job in the public management sector that many of you, with whom I would like to share this book, probably hold. It will be a good start for our journey together.

Dr. Fenn (2008) describes the public manager’s work as “...building trust in our relations with the public, our colleagues, other parts of the government, our staffs and the press; adjusting to change; being change agents; doing the technical parts of our work well and effectively; working with a variety of bosses of varying abilities; finding new methods of public participation; being sensitive to our responsibility to the system itself, to its meaning and purpose as well as to its letter; and making sure that we… turn over to our successors a government even sturdier than it was when it was entrusted to us—that’s the job description. And nobody promised us a walk in the park when we signed on.”

Running A Bureaucracy is my response to the growing demand for more relevant literature on Philippine public administration (PA) and the various disciplines that have grown out of the study and practice of what PA practitioners today call “New Public Management” or NPM. This is a term I have adopted from some of the foremost public administration scientists and academicians, both local and foreign, who endeavor to provide much needed scholarly literature on a most important front in any bureaucracy—the public management sector.

Why is there a sustained demand for new literature and knowledge in the public management sector? Why the focus on public managers?

The late Peter F. Drucker (2007), father of modern management, called managers “the most expensive resource in most businesses.” Either in government or in the private sector, an enterprise “needs managers to ensure cooperation, synchronization, and communication,” he wrote. Otherwise, “things go out of control… plans fail to turn into action; or worse, different parts of the plan get going at different speeds, different times, and with different objectives and goals.”

Drucker argued that managers are crucial because they perform two significant tasks in organizations: one, “creating a true whole that is larger than the sum of its parts, a productive entity that turns out more than the sum of the resources put into it”; and two, “harmonizing in every decision and action the requirements of the immediate and long-range future.”

Public administration and management is the focal center of this book. I have been the provincial administrator of Bulacan for the past 17 years. I worked with two of the most highly acclaimed post-People Power provincial governors in the country: Roberto M. Pagdanganan and Josefina Mendoza-Dela Cruz. As this book goes to press, I am serving in the same position under the administration of Governor Joselito R. Mendoza.

In developing this book, I took conscious effort to draw from a wide range of materials: relevant readings, published works, local public management practices, and real-life experiences in the workplace—my own and those of other managers in public office. I hope this approach establishes Running A Bureaucracy as an essential handbook on roles, functions, and processes for public managers, as well as a compilation of the discipline’s best practices and new paradigms of thinking and being.

Next in the list of curiosities: Is Running A Bureaucracy a primer on political management?

In the real world of Philippine local governments, administrators and other government managers are often “invited” to participate in partisan political work and management. This book is not about politics and political management, although the subject is certainly useful and interesting. Perhaps a future book will sufficiently deal with its intricacies. But Running A Bureaucracy can also be useful to elected officials who are public managers in their own right and who must face the daily grind of making the bureaucracy work better for their constituents.

Imprinted on every page of this book are the skills, discipline, and inspiration instilled in me by the academic environment at the U.P. School of Economics, the U.P. Open University, the University of Regina Carmeli, the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University, USA, and the Bulacan State University Graduate School of Public Administration, where I had the honor of teaching.

This book carries a wealth of learning, both formal and experiential, in the emerging disciplines of new public management in the country. Public management circles and good governance institutions like the Center for Local and Regional Governance of the University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance, the Galing Pook Foundation, the Local Government Academy of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the former Associates for Rural Development-Governance for Local Development (ARD-GOLD) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Synergeia Foundation, Inc., the Local Government Development Foundation (LOGODEF), the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP), and the Provincial Administrators’ League of the Philippines (PALP) provided resources of knowledge and experience.

Running A Bureaucracy also reflects the personal penchant for leadership and development literature that continues to direct my life and my career. Through this book, I share the best lessons in life from all the books I have read in the last two decades of my life. Chapters are interspersed with visual breaks of quotations, poems, and verses that influenced some of the most crucial life decisions I have made. I believe fully in the messages they impart and I have used many of them in my public speeches.

Can excellence in public administration and management be taught? Can excellence be accelerated with the proper tools and be guided by established leadership and management principles and workplace practices?

This book is my message and my theoretical precept: Philippine local administrators and other public managers, like their counterparts from across the continents, are helping government break new ground as they redefine local governance and its role in nation-building. It is high time for serious and sustained initiatives to professionalize the ranks of public managers and establish a policy and workplace environment that promotes the highest standards of excellence in public service echoed by the pledge of career service executives: to be a leader, visionary, advocate, and innovator; to infuse a sense of urgency and ethics in actions and decisions as imbibed in the tenets of “good governance”; to introduce and establish a culture of service in keeping with the true meaning of “service to the people”, and; to promote and encourage consultation and participation…and uphold at all times an integrity-based leadership, aware that the success of any organization, including the government, revolves around its people, whom it is duty-bound to protect and to nurture.(CSC 2006)

For these same reasons, I have emphasized the part of Dr. Fenn’s description of the public manager’s work that defines the purpose of our journey—that at the end of this book, I would have strengthened your desire to participate more actively in helping our government reach greater heights of efficiency and excellence.