Friday, June 14, 2013

Crisis Mgt 4: LGUs beat CEOs in crisis learning

By Winston A. Marbella

A school for good governance at the University of Makati is pioneering a unique way of teaching disaster risk reduction and preparedness among local barangay officials. It lets them share live experiences with each other in coping with natural calamities like floods and earthquakes and man-made emergencies like fires and hostage-taking.

Two incidents involving crisis management skills shook the country recently.

In a show highly relevant to today’s corporate environment, ANC’s “Inside Business” host Coco Alcuaz put together an episode loaded with lessons for CEOs operating in a pressure-cooker environment. 

The episode was triggered by Cebu Pacific’s minor accident at the country’s third busiest airport in Davao and the more serious explosion at the Serendra condominium complex at the Global City in Taguig, where there were casualties.

In my mind, this show ranks topmost among intelligent news commentaries. It is a must-see for business leaders operating in today’s critical business environment. (See YouTube.)

But corporate executives might also learn valuable lessons from barangay officials who have finished the crisis management courses at the Pimentel Institute for Local Governance.

Lessons from Lance

The spirit of learning pervades the two recent incidents. In his press statement after the Davao accident, Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei said the incident was a learning experience for them -- he apologized for the delayed flights and pledged to improve service in the future.

During the ANC show, the sterling performance of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was recalled for having set the norms for dealing with crisis situations. The lessons from the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001 are worth studying by current CEOs who must prepare for crises as part of their daily routine.

Following Mr. Gokongwei’s description of a crisis as a learning situation, I looked up my lecture notes on crisis management, which formed part of simulations we did for multinational companies who underwent training in “Crisis Management, Planning, Organization and Control.”

Those teachable moments are as relevant today as they were 12 years ago.

Unique seminar

U/Mak seminar organizers headed by former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. have adopted the case method of instruction used in graduate schools. It models real-life cases in discussing various approaches to management problems.

Class participants have included Forbes Park barangay captain Jose (JoeCon) Concepcion, who brought officials from the richest barangay in the country to share experiences with others from the municipalities of Metro Manila and provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. 

Succeeding good governance seminars decided to expand the original case studies  to include other emergency situations like typhoons, floods, fires and earthquakes.

These four emergencies are now part of the regular classes being conducted by the Pimentel Institute together with the College of Governance and Public Policy, headed by Dean Ederson Tapia.

Experience as credits 

Pimentel’s Institute and the College of Governance and Public Policy also launched jointly an innovative executive program that enables state employees to make lifelong dreams come true. Now they can earn academic degrees by converting real-life experiences into course credits at the University..

In exceptional cases, the university can grant academic degrees outright to government employees who have earned national or international recognition for their work, said Dean Tapia.

The executive program enables local government employees to earn degrees by crediting their service experience, seminars and additional courses to college degree to enhance their career executive service qualifications.

Under the program, a government employee like a postman or barangay secretary can earn a degree in as little as six months, depending on number of college course credits previously earned and career experience recognized by an academic panel of examiners.

Information about the program is available at the Office of the Dean, telephone 883-1886 and 883-1860, local 181.The university president is Dr.Tomas Lopez.

Managing local governments

Initially the executive program format will be applied to the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, major in local government administration.  Subsequently the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Governance Studies will be offered also in the executive program.

The flexible academic format allows government employees to attend classes on Saturdays or Sundays. Credits for previous college work, seminars, training and work experience are approved by a panel of examiners “to ensure academic integrity and rigor,” Tapia explains.

“This specialized program aims to produce graduates adept in the politico-administrative aspects of managing local governments.”  

Aside from Pimentel and Tapia, the other academics who developed the program include Dr. Raymundo P. Arcega, Dr. Jaime G. Ocampo,, Prof. John Raymund P. Rosuelo, and Prof. Norma Camunay.

The first phase will target employees of the Makati city government to enable them to earn degrees needed for possible promotion.  The program is also open to other local government units, government employees and interested persons who are at least 22 years old and have worked for five years.

Like Harvard’s Kennedy school

The university already has an approved Bachelor of Science in Life Studies program, which converts real-life experiences into course credits.  The concept is being extended to local government administration to support the aims of the Pimentel Institute to professionalize government service, similar to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, which offers a variety of degree and non-degree programs for public servants seeking a career in government service.

Upon application and completion of tests, students are categorized into three levels which determine the amount of classroom hours they still need. 

On-campus sessions on Saturdays or Sundays  run for eight meetings, supplemented by other academic activities.   
People’s university

The U/Mak is a local government unit-fully funded public university originally established in l972 as the Polytechnic Community College of Makati during the term of Mayor Jejomar Binay, now vice president.  In 1987 it expanded its curricula and became the Makati College.

After merging with the Andres Bonifacio College in 1990, it became the Pamantasan ng Makati, a chartered university, and got its present name in 2002.  It offers five colleges and two centers for token fees to Makati residents, slightly higher to non-residents, making it a true university of the people.  

The university sits on a strip of land in West Rembo, Makati, beside the burgeoning city of Taguig. 

(Editor’s Note: The author, a fellow at the Center, is chief executive of a think tank specializing in transforming social and political trends into public policy and business strategy.  Comments are welcome at Marbella International Business Consultancy, e-mail: mibc2006@gmail.com.)

Crisis Mgt 3: Crisis management 101 for CEOs

By Winston A. Marbella

In a show highly relevant to today’s  corporate environment, ANC’s “Inside Business” host Coco Alcuaz has put together an episode loaded with lessons  for CEOs operating in a pressure-cooker environment. 

The episode was triggered by Cebu Pacific’s minor accident at the country’s third busiest airport in Davao and the more serious explosion at the Serendra condominium complex at the Global City in Taguig, where there were casualties.

In my mind, this show ranks topmost among intelligent news commentaries. It is a must-see for business leaders operating in today’s critical business environment. (See YouTube.)


Lessons from Lance

In his press statement after the Davao accident, Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei said the incident was a learning experience for them -- he apologized for the delayed flights and pledged to improve service in the future.
  
During the show, the sterling performance of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was recalled for having established the norm for dealing with crisis situations. The lessons from      the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001 are worth studying by current CEOs who must prepare for crises as part of their daily routine.

Following Mr. Gokongwei’s description of a crisis as a learning situation, I looked up my lecture notes on crisis management which were part of simulations we did for multinational companies who underwent training in “Crisis Management, Planning, Organization and Control.”

Those teachable moments are as relevant today as they were 12 years ago. 


No time to think

You have no time to think when the crisis occurs. All the thinking must be done before it strikes.

Companies must recognize that they could be hit by a crisis anytime. But damage can be minimized with a crisis preparedness mindset.

Planning is irrelevant unless the crisis mechanisms and responses are simulated and practiced repeatedly until they become instinctive. Panic wipes away conceptual learning in an instant.

Forming a senior-level crisis team headed by no less than the CEO is the first step. It sends a strong signal to the company that crisis management is a major concern.


Crisis team

The CEO’s direct reports are a critical part of the team. After the team is formed, they must participate in anticipating all sorts of crisis scenarios in today’s operating environment.

The team must then prepare detailed action plans for each scenario. Those action steps must be simulated repeatedly until they become instinctive, as in a fire drill.

Public utility companies and manufacturers of consumer products are particularly vulnerable to crisis unpreparedness. But in today’s operating environment, high public expectations apply to all companies, privately owned or publicly traded.

After the senior crisis team is prepared, the effort must reach down to the levels where the company interfaces with customers. In the case of the Cebu Pacific incident, passengers expressed some impatience with the crew’s slow response time to explain what had happened.

It also helps if the company has prepared scripts for contingencies and trained the crew how to handle the anticipated scenarios.


Time compression

At this point, it is relevant to recall a study we made about people’s perception of time in a stressful situation. Seeking to improve fast cycle time at the cashier in supermarkets, we clocked the average time it took to process each customer. It was 12 minutes.

But when we asked the same customers how much time they took waiting in line, they said anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes. Their perception of elapsed time was easily double that of real time!

This gives us a valuable insight into the psychology of today’s customers. Pressed for time daily, customers expect instant response. The news media, operating on a 24-hour cycle, are no exception.


High expectations

This is why -- although there were no injuries in the accident -- the airline still received high customer and media expectations of faster response time.
  
This is the world where we operate, and excellent companies must adjust to survive. This is also when the company can draw from the reservoir of goodwill that it has built over a sustained time of good public relations.


Window for excellence


Going back to my lecture notes, crisis situations – although stressful -- provide an opportunity for companies to demonstrate excellence. This standard came out in a study we did: Customers rate company performance highest when it shows how much it cares for its customers. And this is best shown during crises.

Coco Alcuaz raised an important concern when he asked if CEO performance under pressure would have long-term effects on the brand.

It will definitely have positive or negative effects, depending on how the company handles the crisis. In today’s business environment, brand equity is even more valuable than the company’s physical assets. Preservation of the company’s most valuable asset is paramount. In the case of Mayor Giuliani, he became a presidential candidate largely because of his performance after 9/11. 

President John F. Kennedy liked to quote Hemingway’s description of courage, “Grace under pressure." Mayor Giuliani’s exemplary demonstration of courageous leadership provides many lessons that have become standard operating procedure in crisis management.


Four lessons


First, leadership must be visible, on site, in control and decisive. It boosts morale among those who will have to risk their lives. Designate a spokesperson to handle media inquiries.

Second, defuse the situation.  Express concern to the families of those affected. Then go to the verified facts quickly: “Here is the situation as much as we have verified it. We have set up a crisis control center at (place).  Mr. (name) is in charge. Here are his hotlines for quick updates and verification.”

Third, announce the following: “Here are some emergency procedures we have put in place (police lines, checkpoints, media coverage guidelines, hospitals, location and telephone numbers). We will update you as the situation unfolds (or at specified hours and places).

Fourth, announce the medium-term and long-term procedures being put up to minimize risk, resolve the situation quickly, and lessen chances of its happening again. Then make a personal appeal: “We seek your understanding and prayers. May Almighty God help us and keep us safe.” 

(The author is chief executive of Marbella International Business Consultancy, a think tank specializing in risk management.  He is the only Filipino to have won 8 Anvil Awards from the Public Relations Society of America.  Following 9/11 he conducted in-house training courses in crisis management among Philippine transnational companies.  Comments are welcome at email mibc2006@gmail.com.) 

Crisis Mgt 2: CEO lessons from Ground Zero, 9/11

By Winston A. Marbella


ANC’s “Inside Business” host Coco Alcuaz has put together an interesting episode on crisis management in the wake of Cebu Pacific’s minor accident at the country’s third busiest airport in Davao and the more serious explosion at the Serendra condominium complex at the Global City in Taguig, where there were fatalities.

The episode ranks high in the list of intelligent news commentaries. It is a must-view for business leaders operating in today’s critical business environment. (See YouTube,)

In his press statement after the Davao accident, Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei said the incident was a learning experience for them -- he apologized for the delayed flights and pledged to improve service in the future.
  
During the ANC show, the sterling performance of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was recalled during the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001. The lessons from that day alone are well worth studying by current CEOs who must deal with crisis situations as part of their work.


Towering infernos

Aside from the two towering infernos, our collective memory of 9/11 centers on Mayor  Giuliani emerging from the catacombs of the New York City subway, arriving at Ground Zero with his staff—his hair, face and shoulders covered with  dust from the crumbled concrete of the mightiest symbols of the American century   

The day dawned with the cloudless sky over New York City looking like a bowl of cobalt blue turned upside down.  Mayor Giuliani was having breakfast with staff at the classy Peninsula Hotel on 55th Street.  At 8:48 he received the phone call that would change his life—and our lives---forever.

A jetliner had crashed into the World Trade Center less than a minute earlier. The mayor bolted and raced to the scene near the southern end of Manhattan Island.

Fifteen minutes later, at 9:02, a second plane crashed into the South Tower.  Giuliani and his staff were on the scene at 9:20, some 22 minutes after he received the call. Looking up, Giuliani saw a man jump from the  burning building.


Setting priorities

“I immediately had two priorities,” GiulianI was to recall later in his memoir, Leadership.  “We had to set up a new command center.”  (The city’s Emergency Command Center, housed in a smaller building nearby at 7 World Trade Center, was in grave danger, and Giuliani had ordered an immediate evacuation.)  “And we had to find a way to communicate with people in the city,” he recalled.

At 9:50, 30 minutes after he arrived at Ground Zero, Giuliani had set up a temporary command center on Barclay Street, a block away. His staff made contact with the governor of the state of New York and the White House. The two towers were aflame but standing. 

Just as he was about to talk to the White House, the South Tower crumbled—and his staff was momentarily trapped in their makeshift office until two janitors led them to a passage that went through the basement and out to the street.

At the corner of Chambers Street and West Broadway, Giuliani was in the middle of a press briefing when the North Tower collapsed. It was 10:26, a minute short of 100 minutes since the first plane struck.  Over the next hour, Giuliani and staff struggled to organize a new command center.


Communication critical

All the landlines in Lower Manhattan were dead, and Giuliani’s cell phones were dying. He wanted to go on air immediately to talk to the people of his city. On Channel 1 he asked the people to remain calm, although casualties would be “too much to bear.”  He briefed them of the latest developments, and then he was back at crisis center.

They had been able to set up a temporary command center at the Police Academy on 20th Street. He had gathered most of the heads of the city’s emergency services and the police and fire commissioners. (The city’s fire and police chiefs had died rescuing people when the towers collapsed.)  They set up a war room with Giuliani as war commander.

At 2:35 p.m. he went live on TV.  He asked the people “to go about their lives as normal.” At the 6 p.m. briefing he said: “New York is still here.  We’ve undergone tremendous losses, but New York is going to be here tomorrow morning…”


Five return trips

Giuliani would return to Ground Zero five times that day, reassuring New Yorkers that everything that could be done was being done.  Back on air shortly, David Letterman said: “…all you had to do at any moment was watch the mayor.  Watch how this guy behaved.  Watch how this guy conducted himself….(He) was the personification of courage.”

The day after the attack, Giuliani was back to his usual upbeat mood, encouraging business owners to reopen: “We are mourning, we hurt and we are going to hurt tomorrow, the next day, for a month, a year, or maybe forever…. But we have to be optimistic…. We have a problem to overcome. But overcoming the economic problems is going to be the least of it.”

He cajoled the theater owners to reopen on the 13th.  He got the stock exchange to reopen on the 15th, although he had wanted them operational on the 12th.

In leading his city back on its feet, Rudy Giuliani wrote a new chapter on leadership – how CEOs will be rated by the stakeholders they serve, public and private.


Four key lessons

The first day’s responses alone provided many lessons that have become standard operating procedure in crisis management, organization, planning and control 

First, leadership must be visible, on scene, in control and decisive. It boosts morale among those who will have to risk their lives. Designate a spokesperson to handle media inquiries.

Second, defuse the situation.  Express concern to the families of those affected. Then go to the verified facts quickly: “Here is the situation as much as we have verified it. We have set up a crisis control center at (place).  Mr. (name) is in charge. Here are his hotlines for quick updates and verification.”

Third, announce the following: “Here are some emergency procedures we have put in place (police lines, checkpoints, media coverage guidelines, hospitals, location and telephone numbers). We will update you as the situation unfolds (or at specified hours and places).

Fourth, announce the medium-term and long-term procedures  being put up to minimize risk, resolve the situation as quickly as possible, and lessen chances of its happening again. Then make a personal appeal: “We seek your understanding and prayers. May Almighty God help us and keep us safe.” 

(The author is chief executive of Marbella International Business Consultancy, a think tank specializing in risk management.  He is the only Filipino to have won 8 Anvil Awards from the Public Relations Society of America.  Following 9/11 he conducted in-house training courses in crisis management among Philippine transnational companies.  Comments are welcome at email mibc2006@gmail.com.) 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

For CEOs: Protecting the brand from crisis damage

By Winston A. Marbella

ANC’s “Inside Business” host Coco Alcuaz put together an interesting episode on crisis brand management in the wake of Cebu Pacific’s minor accident at the country’s third busiest airport in Davao and the more serious explosion at the Serendra condominium complex at the Global City in Taguig, where there were fatalities.


The incidents happened within days of each other and brought into sharp focus corporate behavior in the face of crisis situations -- and how it impacts brand values over the long term.


This episode ranks high in the list of intelligent news commentaries that are the saving grace of television. It is well worth watching by serious viewers. Congratulations are in order for Mr. Alcuaz and producer Michelle Ong, and Aiza Lumbuan and the rest of the crew. (See YouTube)



What’s in a name?

The incidents bring back to mind earlier musings on the nature of brands and how valuable they are in modern business. But first a little literary digression.

  
In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the star-crossed lovers, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, meet and fall madly in love.  As members of two families with a long history of blood feud, the lovers are doomed from the start.

Juliet tells Romeo his name does not matter to her—she’s in love with a person who just happens to be a Montague, and not with the Montague name or the Montague family.  In this line which captures the heart of the play and perhaps immortalizes it more than any other, Juliet professes undying love: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / by any other name would smell as sweet.”


Burnt skin

In the business world, a name used to be called a brand-name.  Because businessmen are an impatient lot, they shortened the word to brand, evoking in the process a more down-to-earth meaning:  “a mark showing identity or ownership, burned on an animal’s skin.”

In modern times, the word brand has evolved to mean anything and everything that comes to mind when we think of a product or a company. It means everything that personifies a product or a company.


A brand now means much more than a logo, a trademark, or a catchy selling slogan. It embodies everything about the company--its stationary, every press release it sends out, the voice of the person who answers the phone, the timbre of the salesman’s pitch.


Indeed, a brand’s personality transcends its physical attributes; it lives in the consumer’s mind. It is the result of the consumer’s entire experience with the brand—an embodiment of the customer’s total interaction with the product over time.


Because it is the result of a continuing dialogue between customer and company, a brand is a product of communication--the sum of the intimate conversations between product and customer over time.  It is what the customer thinks about the product … without thinking.


The brand consultancy Interbrand calculates the value of the world’s most popular brands and ranks the most valuable as a percentage of its market capitalization.  In 2000 Coca-Cola ranked first, its brand value exceeding more than half the company’s value—51 percent, or $72.5 billion.



Beyond dollars

Another way of visualizing that mind-boggling number is by listening to a story told by its legendary CEO, Roberto Goizueta:


“Imagine that by some strange twist of fate all Coca-Cola plants all over the world were burnt down, totally destroyed. Admittedly we would have a problem, short term, but any bank in the world would be more than willing to provide the funds to rebuild.


“Now supposing you wake up one day and find out brand Coca-Cola is simply not known.  A strange virus has wiped out the entire world’s memory.  Nobody knows what Coca-Cola is. What do you have? Nothing but idle plants.” 


While the brand’s economic values are staggering, they do not fully capture how much the brand is worth to its customers.  There are other values which are hard to quantify: let’s call them the brand’s endearment values.


As Coco Alcuaz recalled in his show, Coca-Cola found this out dearly when, after perhaps the most intensive market research ever done, the company replaced its iconic product with New Coke, a reformulated variant that had won numerous consumer taste tests.


Irate consumers took the company to task for fooling around with THEIR (the customers’) brand.  In a nationwide outcry, they railed, “How dare YOU (The Coca-Cola Company) change OUR product?!”  


Coca-Cola quickly brought back the old formula and called it Classic Coke. The company had surrendered ownership of its brand to its customers -- the pinnacle of a marketing man’s achievement! 



Public trust

Knowledge of the public pulse is a powerful tool of corporate governance. It is not to be taken lightly. It can lead to responsive, responsible corporate governance—or it can lead to irresponsible manipulation of the public trust.   

 
This is why corporate response in the face of a crisis is now a critical measure of corporate social responsibility and good corporate citizenship.  Public expectations of acceptable corporate behavior have risen to very high standards. 

And customers have ceased from making distinctions between private enterprise and public service. All are accountable to the customers they serve.


Customer expectations will continue to rise. And companies will be forced to higher levels of performance – even in the seemingly everyday act of communicating to its customers.


(The author is chief executive of Marbella International Business Consultancy, a think tank specializing in corporate planning, management training, marketing strategy, corporate communication, and in transforming social, political and technological trends into business plans that work.  Comments are welcome at email mibc2006@gmail.com.)







Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Running on a shoestring

By Winston A. Marbella

(Editor's Note: This is the last of two articles analyzing trends in the recent political campaign. The author is president of a management consulting  think  tank.)

When he filed his candidacy at the Commission on Elections, independent senatorial candidate Teddy Casino knew the odds were overwhelmingly against his winning. So he had to be smart.

He allowed the front runners to swarm to the Comelec on the first few days. When the front-page stories and photos had died down, Teddy made his move.


Together with supporters, Teddy literally ran to the Comelec in a jogging outfit. The gimmick worked.  Teddy got his 15 minutes of fame in the newscasts that day and the broadsheets the next day.

He was off to a running start.

But he knew he had to do this every day for the rest of the campaign if he was to have a fighting chance against the more popular candidates.

None of the photos of Teddy running to the Comelec showed his running shoes. If the news photographers had latched on to the metaphor, they would have seen that Teddy was running on a shoestring.

As if happened, for the rest of the campaign, Teddy stayed below the radar screen of winners. Interestingly, the candidates who stayed ahead of the pack had famous political names – and there were more than 15 of them fighting for the 12 Senate seats. So  Teddy had no ghost of a chance to sneak in.


Advertising folly?

A political phenomenon that deserves more study is the role that advertising plays in getting candidates elected. Stated in a better way, does advertising improve the level of political discourse, and thereby the quality of elected officials?

This question popped up at a media forum organized by political volunteer Mandy Manaloto. 

The 2010 presidential campaign  shattered myths about the power of the paid television commercial to elect a president and raise the level of the political dialogue.

But caught between the dilemma of a short campaign period and the need to reach over 50 million voters scattered   across more than 7,100 islands, the senatorial candidates spent tens of millions of pesos daily in advertising campaigns that cost them hundreds of millions before the shouting was all over.

Radical change

Political rallies in populous cities and provinces used to do the job, but not since registered voters swelled to over 50 million. 

Reeling from physical exhaustion and probable financial bankruptcy halfway through the senatorial campaign in 2007, Sen. Panfilo Lacson saw the dawning of a new era. “Now it’s all media advertising,” he told reporters.

Sen. Manny Villar, who was then also running for the Senate, had a businessman’s insight -- he noted that it had become simply more “cost-efficient” to air political ads. Then he could use his free time to campaign up close and personal, shaking hands and kissing babies in shopping malls and public markets.


Sound and fury

Because the courts have ruled that advertising before the official campaign period is legal, many senatorial candidates started advertising early. This head start gave them a definite edge -- the poll surveys showed the heavy advertisers leading the pack. 

This raises a serious sociopolitical question: Do paid ads raise the level of political discussion and voter maturity?

Citizen groups have expressed concern that the massive ad spending merely raises the noise level but does little to deepen voter understanding of the issues that count. 

Crazy game

Defending his massive ad spending in 2010 at a television interview, Villar said he was merely trying to level the playing field.

“I am not a movie star and I do not have a famous political name,” he said, taking a broad swipe at his rivals. “I am just a poor man who succeeded through diligence and perseverance.” 

“I am not widely known.  Imagine, I have to advertise just to match their popularity!”

And yet, despite spending hundreds of millions in advertising, Villlar still lost. 

It has become one of the  cruelest ironies of our time that this most democratic of political processes -- electing our leaders -- should now become the private playing field of millionaires, celebrities, movie stars and political clans.  

Teddy Casino’s political future will have to hang on to the tattered threads of a shoestring.

(E-mail mibc2006@gmail.com.)

Nancy, with the laughing face

By Winston A. Marbella

(Editor's Note: This is the first of two articles analyzing trends in the recent political campaign. The author is president of a management consulting  think  tank.)

A recent study done by Ronald U. Mendoza of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), reportedly shows that there are more political dynasties in regions with higher poverty, lower human development and more severe deprivation.

The apparent conclusion seems to be that people in economically depressed areas tend to vote for candidates from the same political clan.

The converse can also be true: that these provinces are poor because they vote for political dynasties.
Tyranny of numbers

Another study done earlier found that 70 percent of the members of Congress come from political clans.  And there seems to be no relief in sight. Famous political names dominated the winning senators.
 
To find some method in this madness, we have to draw insights from the political phenomenon called name recall.

The conventional wisdom is that the poor have such bad memories they tend to simplistically vote by “name recall.”  And since the voting population is dominated by the poor (70 percent are officially classified poor), the candidates with names easy to recall will tend to be elected – (you guessed it!) 70 percent of the time.

Mendoza’s study draws its conclusion from four provinces: Ilocos Sur, Siquijor, Dinagat Island and Maguindanao, where a single clan dominates each province

The sample size of four provinces begs for a bigger base from which to draw conclusions. It is good that Mendoza says he will do another study with a wider base.   


Dead law

The 1987 Constitution provides for “giving equal access to opportunities for public office.” The grave error of our Founding Fathers is that they left it to Congress to pass an enabling law. 

But Congress itself is dominated by political clans. So what chance is there that such a law will ever pass? 

Seventy percent of the incoming senators and congressmen come from political families. Nine of the 12 elected senators come from political families.

So maybe there is no need to pass the law – the people have spoken many times since the 1987 Constitution was passed.


People’s voice

While waiting for my car to get fixed, I had occasion to ride several taxicabs which were tuned in to radio talk shows about the recent elections.  So I engaged the drivers in a conversation about political issues.

They had no problems with political dynasties. They chose their senatorial candidates on their own merits, regardless of whether they belonged to political clans.  

In some cases, the famous surnames were considered assets – in others they were liabilities.  But there were no biases against famous names simply because they belonged to political clans.

Curious, I expanded my interviews to include drivers and household help in the neighborhood, Same results:  No bias against political dynasties.  

Having a famous name was even a plus factor if the candidates' relatives  enjoyed a good reputation. Where relatives had a negative image, this worked against the current candidate.

Here I must caution readers against jumping to hasty conclusions, considering the bad reputations poll surveys are having as tools to create a bandwagon effect for candidates.  What I am reporting are just random comments from voters.

The candidates who benefited from having relatives with good reputations were Koko Pimentel, Nancy Binay and Cynthia Villar.  I will not mention those who got negative comments because of their relatives for fear of igniting a family feud.

What I gathered from these conversations is that name recall arising from famous political clans has its good and bad sides. But voters still assessed candidates based on additional criteria they use for choosing senators. 

In the case of Koko Pimentel, his advocacy against election fraud was a winner. So were Cynthia Villar’s livelihood programs.

Nancy Binay got the brunt of the media criticism against political clans  because of her perceived lack of experience for the Senate. She took everything in stride, smiling all the way to the polls.

That engaging smile disarmed voters. The only decision they had to make was whether her smile was closer to that of Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic Mona Lisa or Frank Sinatra’s adorable Nancy … with the laughing face, of course.


(E-mail mibc2006@gmail.com.)