[Blueboard] GMA's Decision-making Style: Threat to Democracy

polsci at admu.edu.ph polsci at admu.edu.ph
Fri Oct 10 09:46:03 PHT 2003

GMA’s Decision-making Style: Threat to Democracy
Lydia N. Yu-Jose
Department of Political Science

President Gloria M. Arroyo finally put an end to speculations about her plans 
for Election 2004. She finally announced that she would join the presidential 
race. The initial reaction of many believers in the value of “palabra de honor” 
(word of honor) is that she does not have it.  She may be criticized for not 
being a good model because she does not possess this traditionally, although 
usually broken moral value. Nowadays it is not only politicians who are wanting 
of this, but common mortals as well.

But the dangers in the President’s style of making decisions, demonstrated by 
her turning back on her previous decision, are not this lack of word of honor. 
The dangers are her seeming penchant for discerning God’s will and her tendency 
towards independent decision-making.  

One’s decisions, promises, and pronouncements, although not exactly like one’s 
findings or conclusions in a scientific research, are still close to it. In a 
scientific research, the scholar makes objective observations before making his 
conclusion. The scholar may be proven wrong by succeeding events. As a 
scientist, he should therefore change his conclusion, instead of stubbornly 
holding unto it.

It may be presumed that the President did her own observations of the situation 
of a few months ago, and based on that, decided not to run for president, 
surprising almost everyone. It may be presumed too that she did her own 
evaluation of the developments after announcing that she was out of the 
presidential race, and concluded that her previous conclusion was wrong.  It is 
just right, therefore, for her to change her mind, and to run for president in 
2004. Sticking to her previous pronouncement only for the sake of “palabra de 
honor”would be an irrational act.  

The problem, therefore, is not her first decision not to run, not her second 
one, which is not to run, and neither is it in her being fickle minded. The 
problem is in the way she makes and announces her decisions.

The first problem can be detected in her speech delivered upon her being sworn 
into the presidency by virtue of the fact that she was vice-president, and that 
the president had been ousted from power. Among the things she said was that it 
was “divine” grace or will that catapulted her to the presidency. Such a 
pronouncement smacks of the so-called “divine right of kings” of the 18th 
century age of absolutism. 

There is nothing wrong about the President’s giving credit to God for her being 
president. After all, it is true (at least for us believers) that nothing 
happens without God’s permission. There is nothing wrong about her tendency to 
seek divine guidance. And, making public announcements about this is a rational 
political act, considering the strong influence of religion in our society. As 
Machiavelli said, it is a wise strategy to be perceived as religious, 
regardless of whether you are really so or not.

However, the danger in the President’s penchant for directly (it seems) 
communicating with God is that no one can really empirically know God’s will. 
And since no one can really know it, anyone can say that something is God’s 
will, and if he were in power, like the infamous Louis XIV of France, he could 
impose it on the people. No one, except someone who could also claim God’s 
divine grace, could contradict him. 

The second danger is her penchant for independent, personal discernment. The 
President said in her announcement to join the 2004 presidential race that she 
arrived at this decision through her own discernment. Although she did not 
clearly admit in her previous contrary announcement the same thing, the mere 
fact that she surprised almost everyone shows that she also arrived at it 
through her own discernment. To put it in simple terms, she did not consult 
anyone. The President indeed has displayed independence, usually an admirable 
virtue, but not in this case. The President seems to have forgotten that in a 
democracy, consultation is a more transparent and acceptable way of making 
decisions, rather than personal discernment.

Discerning God’s will and making independent decisions through one’s own 
discernment may be more appropriate for decisions in private and personal 
lives. Keeping the concerned in suspended speculation and giving surprise 
announcements may be exciting on a personal, private level. But all these do 
not have a place in public decisions that affect the whole country. The 
President is responsible to the people for the affairs of the government. The 
presidency is not her own estate, about which she can make decisions based on 
her own personal discernment and communication with God. The affairs of the 
government involve the people, the international community, the opposition 
parties, and her own party. What is good for the government and the people is a 
matter that should be decided by the people, the opposition party, the 
administration party, etc. through open communication and consultation.

The President’s tendency to give credit to God for her presidency is a threat 
to democracy. Her penchant for making personal discernment is also a threat. 
Democracy thrives in freedom of information, consultation, fair play, and the 
recognition that a public official owes his position to the electorate. All 
these cannot be had by invoking divine grace, and by consulting only one’s 
conscience for discernment. Much less can they be had by making surprise 
announcements, as she did when she said she would not run for the presidency. 
Her most recent announcement to the contrary was not much of a surprise, but 
still, her admission that it was a result of her personal discernment makes 
light of the democratic process of consultation and fair play.

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