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Teams over superstars

There is a lesson to be learned from the defeats of highly-touted World Cup teams which relied on football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

For many many years, the whole world went gaga over the superstars of the soccer world, to the point that they were even given a choice or a “no-objection” role in members of the team.  That role should be for management and coaches, but because the superstars were too valuable (and too expensive), they were consulted as to who to accept as members of even the national team.

The losses of the national teams show that heavy reliance on the superstars proved costly, while the victors which trounced them played excellently as a team.  And even if Neymar propelled Brazil to a victory over Mexico the other day, that does not change the observation that teamwork, more than fan idols should be the rule. 

This was the similar observation of the Argentine representative in Taiwan during a recent conversation, that teamwork has been sacrificed at the altar of superstardom.

Teamwork of course does not mean teamwork even in basket-brawls.  For shame, Gilas and Australia.  Still, bitter lessons ought to be learned.

In any case, the superstars have made their millions upon millions of dollars throughout their now-abbreviated stardom. Not only in hefty acceptance fees and retainers, but even more in advertising sponsorships.  They can retire in great wealth.

“Nothing is forever” after all.

* * *

Even in governance, teamwork is necessary.  

The job of a president can be very difficult and very lonely, especially if his subordinate officials cannot act as a “team.”

We have seen this lack of teamwork in so many administrations since the fall of Marcos.  Some Cabinet-rank officials wanted to hog the limelight, often without clearing their policy pronouncements with the president, or publicly stating contrarian positions from some other member of the cabinet.

Some undersecretaries or assistant secretaries do likewise, hoping perhaps that the publicity about their pronouncements and “achievements” would reach the attention of the appointing authority.

Turf wars, which can be expected in any huge bureaucracy, are often magnified by the media, resulting in “sabong” reportage, which complicates the performance of departments.

This is not to say that the lower-ranked bureaucracy should keep quiet and co-exist with incompetence or corruption by the higher-ups, far from it.  There are reasons, and a season for countering when principles are to be compromised.  Still and all,  there are times when very important policy decisions and program implementation are held hostage by such turf wars, resulting in unintended yet largely foreseeable consequences.  These should not happen.

 Some sociologists and anthropologists trace this phenomenon even to our being a “nation of tribes,” and some even use this “tribalism” as a reason for the current push for federalism.  Without debating the merits of shifting from a unitary to a federal system, such tribal instincts, if indeed instincts they are, should not be used as reason.  

There has to be national purpose that unites us under common goals and aspirations. That should be the underlying basis for a national team spirit.  

Japan should be the model.  It is governed by a career bureaucracy, with political considerations reserved only at the choice of ministers who preside over bureaucrats who have ascended through an ingrained meritocracy.

We have yet a long way to go before we achieve this kind of national spirit let alone a national purpose.

* * *

Even now, two years into his presidency, people both here and abroad already ask questions about succession.  What happens after Duterte?  Who is likely to succeed him, and will his programs be continued?

Because ours is a president-centric government, almost everything revolves around the presidency, his goals, his policies, his priorities.  And a new president, just like his new appointees in top positions, can dictate their own terms of governance.

Continuity has a shelf life of six years, even less, depending on the “mercury” of the president, who could always shift policy and priority.

* * *

And if we do shift to a federal set-up, it is the transition that worries people, whether in the country or abroad. 

I read that the consultative commission on constitutional change headed by the eminent CJ Reynato Puno has completed its work and is ready to submit their proposed federal constitution document to the president. Everyone should be waiting with great anticipation and even anxiety on the details.

They are polishing the unanimously approved draft for styling and proofreading.  (At least one is confident it’s not the PCOO’s bright boys who are editing, but Doy del Mundo, a professional who knows his stuff).

Systemic change is never easy, especially since our unitary system has been with us since the birth of the First Republic, through the Commonwealth, and through the internationally-recognized Third Republic, through the dictatorial regime under martial law, and into our present, institutionally-weak system as governed by the 1987 Constitution.

Long before that, through the entire history of colonial rule, even if the Spanish-imposed centrality in Manila via the Viceroy of Mexico and the islands-wide friar set-up was unable to culturally unite our tribes into one solid nation.

With that kind of history, a shift to federalism will require a very smooth transition.  Beyond the transitory provisions, its length, its processes, the foremost question is—who presides over the transition?

We live in very interesting times, and just as this writer is into sunset years.  What happens in the next four years of the Duterte administration will affect greatly the lives of our younger generations.

The President, we believe and we trust, understands why his God and his people placed him at the helm in these precarious period of our history.  

 Legacy, Mr. President—legacy.

Topics: Lionel Messi , Cristiano Ronaldo , World Cup , Rodrigo Duterte , Ferdinand Marcos , Reynato Puno , Doy del Mundo
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