Mentor for ‘presidentiables’ | Inquirer Opinion

Mentor for ‘presidentiables’

/ 12:26 AM September 16, 2015

Is there a school for “presidentiables”? No, not an institution which trains a “presidentiable” how to run a presidential campaign, but which trains him or her how to run the presidential office if and when he or she wins and becomes the resident of the Palace by the Pasig?

I think there’s a crying need for such a stopover training facility for one salivating to become president. Some, if not most, of those we have sent to Malacañang have weird, discomfiting ideas how to handle the presidential job, or how to behave in the manner expected of the leader of the nation, and the mightiest person alive this side of the West Philippine Sea.


Legends are aplenty about Palace goings-on that leave us, the people, shaking our heads in dismay. A story is told, for example, of one president boozing and carousing with his barkada till the wee hours of the morning and having to sleep till the afternoon, thus failing to meet his morning schedule which included, among others, receiving the courtesy call of important foreign investors.

Another story tells of a president who explicitly and atrociously desecrated the hallowed hall of Malacañang by using it as payoff center to assembled political gofers (acolytes, supporters) who each was handed a grocery bag bulging with peso bills—the highlight of a “transactional” confab.


And then we hear or read about a president who is so clueless about the job he got shoved into that the team he assembled to help him govern the country was immediately discerned by government veterans as clueless as well, and promptly labeled it no better than a student council.

National governance is serious business; you entrust it to an amateur team and you get debacles instead of great results.

A job-ready “presidentiable” is our great need—meaning, we must put in the highest seat of power a person who is fully and thoroughly acclimatized to the demands and workings of the presidency that when he or she gets the job he or she would hit the ground running and not spend a quarter of the term or more trying to just learn the ropes, fumbling and stumbling like a regular on-the-job trainee.

I think the most productive way a “presidentiable” can acquire a meaningful handle on the presidential office is to get it from a mentor, a personality of respectable stature who can explain presidential concerns with great clarity—from the no-brainer to the knotty, from the common to the sublime. Who can be this kind of mentor? Who else but someone who’s been there and done that, an ex-president whose probity and work ethic stands as model for our future leaders. I cannot think of any other personality at the moment who can fill this bill other than the man whose modesty I fear most as he would surely chew me out for writing this piece: the one and only FVR.

I am surprised that none of the “presidentiables” see the great value of sitting down for a one-on-one with FVR on a whole gamut of subjects that a president must deal with—in short, to be mentored by the master guru. I worked with FVR during his entire incumbency as president, and I am amazed at the seemingly inexhaustible supply of nuggets of thought he threw around during meetings that defined the roadmap of his presidency. Some of these nuggets have remained embedded in my mind, and I unhesitatingly appropriate them when rising politicians seek my advice about something or other.

FVR is a stickler for prompt action on all matters—a penchant which he articulates by propounding a thought: “Don’t let a wound fester or else it develops into gangrene.” How to develop the technique and audacity to act promptly is one lesson “presidentiables” noted for temporizing and teka-teka ways can get from the mentoring of FVR.

The man has low tolerance for people with intolerable IQ, aides and staff who cut corners, who bluff and bluster to project ostensibly superior brains. He will not even look at half-cooked submissions or papers not backed by thorough and complete staff work. This ability, I believe, is a learned passion from his military background, where it is ingrained that half-measures equate with carelessness, which in turn spells failure and loss of lives.


These are only a few of FVR’s traits which enabled him to steer the country safely through troubled waters onto near-tiger status during his watch. He has many more trade secrets which should be mined by the “presidentiables,” as what institutions in Asia, his stopovers in his lecture circuit, are doing.

Will the “presidentiables” seize the opportunity to add to their knowledge on governance by getting mentored by a leader who has been there and done that? Or will they, out of hubris, pass up the opportunity, dismissing the idea as just an encumbrance to their campaign schedule? A great pity if they did!

Gualberto B. Lumauig ([email protected]) is past president of the UST Philosophy and Letters Foundation and former governor/congressman of Ifugao.

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