Toward an Effective Presidency; President as Manager

Article excerpt


(Editor's note: Dr. Isabelo T. Crisostomo, Ph.D. Public Administration, is a journalist, presidential biographer and former president of the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines). He is at work on his fourth presidential book, The Power and the Glory: Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Her Presidency. His books include political biographies of Presidents Ferdinand E. Marcos (1973), Corazon C. Aquino (1986), Fidel V. Ramos (1990), and Joseph Estrada (1999).

IN modern organizations, managers are involved in planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting and budgeting. It is essentially the same in government. The President upon taking office sets his plan or vision, organizes his staff to help him implement it, and directs, coordinates and renders reports on how the vision is being given flesh. In government, however, professional management never quite developed the status of a separate discipline, as author Robert B. Reich has observed in his book The Next American Frontier. Thus, the modern President is usually compelled to recruit managers or heads of the executive departments and offices from the private sector, mainly the universities and the business world.

The concept of the President as manager is not new or a scholar's whimsy but grounded in the Constitution, which grants the President awesome powers and duties.

Executive power

The President's duties as manager begin with his role as Chief Executive, as decreed in the Constitution. Article VII, Section 1, provides that "executive power shall be vested in the President of the Philippines." It is his duty to "preserve and defend" the Constitution, "execute the laws," "do justice to every man," and "consecrate" himself to the service of the nation.

The President shall nominate and with the consent of the Commission on Appointments appoint the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, or officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers. He shall have control of all executive departments, bureaus, and offices.

In addition, the President shall be the commander-in-chief of all Armed Forces of the Philippines and may call out such armed forces if necessary to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, the President may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law for a period not exceeding sixty days.

The President shall grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, remit fines and forfeitures after conviction by final judgment, except in cases of impeachment, grant amnesty, contract or guarantee foreign loans on behalf of the government and enter into a treaty or international agreement with the concurrence of the Senate. He shall prepare and submit the budget to Congress as the basis of the general appropriations bill covering the expenditures for the operation and projects of the government, address Congress at the opening of its regular session and appear before it at any other time.

Apart from these awesome powers, the President has delegated powers especially in times of war and emergencies.

Presidential management problems

A modern President like Macapagal Arroyo must constantly wrestle with problems more complex than those encountered by corporate managers.

The first of these problems, as presidential scholar Stephen Hess asserts, is the prodigious growth of the presidency as an institution, specifically in terms of sheer size of the President's staff - the people working in the President's office (presidential assistants, advisers or consultants).

A second problem is the increasing influence of these presidential staff members, with a corresponding decline in Cabinet influence, whereby the ability of Cabinet officers to control their own departments is diminished and the lines of authority are blurred. …