Are the Magdalos the modern day eunuchs?

Leading scholars already illumined the road to understanding public administration and governance. Some of these include Shafritz and Russell, Caiden, Jena, Waldo, Kjaer, Simon, Lane, and Wilson on the one end and Carino, Corpuz, De Guzman, De Lima, Valera and the like on the other. Their worldviews sought to show the balance in theory and practice in the field of public administration, said to be ‘a watershed of various disciplines’ (Dr. Co). Quickly, let us survey some of these works:

Shafritz. Are bureaucrats really perceived as ‘angels of mercy’ or constitute the modern version of ‘medieval knights in shining armor’? Altruistically, citizens do expect instant service from their governments, more so in times of disaster. In the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Shafritiz felt that the barbarous attack wounded the country, its people, even its psyche – ‘a crime against the Constitution and the United States’, no less. Like the Shakespearean Hamlet, governments are in a constant flurry but whatever they do or do not do is ‘public policy’ (Shafritz 2000: 8). Further, public policy and public administration are two sides of the same coin – “one decides, the other does”. On the other hand, public interest is the universal label that wraps policies and programs that political actors advocate according to Shafritz.

But for E. Pendleton Herring, laws are necessarily the product of ‘legislative compromise’ thus explaining why they are vague and wanting in definition. Still, however, he thinks it the task of bureaucrat to broker between various special interests.

Shafritz did not fail to subscribe to the Lincolnian understanding (Abraham Lincoln) of the legitimate object of government in saying that ‘public administration is doing collectively that which cannot be so well done individually’, hence, the ingredient of so-called community spirit. As former head of the Business Permits & Licensing Office of the City of Antipolo, I find it interesting to learn that the Code of Hammurabi (in ancient Babylonia) is the classic example of public administration from the point of view of regulation. It predates that thing of ‘license to operate a business’ in local municipalities or cities.

Note also that the whole concept of a welfare state is founded on a notion of redistribution (shifting wealth or benefits from one segment of population to another) or as the Harvard Business School so defines so simplistically, “poverty is the uneven distribution of wealth”. More strikingly however, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in 1851 had this said (as invective against all governments): “To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right nor the knowledge nor the virtue”. It is Shafritz that theorized the interdisciplinary nature of public administration.

Wilson. Woodrow Wilson, thought to be the patron saint of American public administration is the archetypical idealist but his League of Nations failed to gain support. He advocated for merit system rather than spoils system in the civil service. With this theme, he came up with the notion of a ‘politics-administration dichotomy’ in his time (1919). In his article, The Study of Administration, Wilson explains that the object of administrative study is to discover, “first, what government can properly and successfully do, and second, how it can do these proper things with the utmost possible efficiency and at the least possible cost either of money or of energy”.

Moreover, Wilson says that it is a field of business. “It is removed from the hurry and strife of politics” which means simply that it rises above mere technical detail to ‘permanent truths of political progress’.

Waldo. It was Dwight Waldo who decried in 1975 that ‘public administration suffers from an identity crisis, having expanded its periphery without a unifying center’. But he posits public administration to be a legitimate academic field. For this leading theorist, the goals of government are: public affairs and service delivery. Some examples of public affairs are election, lawmaking, peace and order, justice system, and taxation. The term commons refers to oceans, seas, territory, natural resources and possibly air space that have to be protected. Service delivery refers to such concerns as in the area of education, health, agriculture, clean environment, job, infrastructure and transport.

Caiden. Gerald Caiden traced roots of prejudice against public administration in ignorance and this makes interesting point. Rightly so, the public remains in the outside, looking in. For Caiden, the following are the peculiarities of public administration: 1) the individual cannot escape communal authority, 2) it can compel obedience upon citizens, 3) public services have priority over others, 4) it provides each citizen a wide range of public services, 5) it is directly responsible to political leadership, 6) it makes judgment of performance difficult, and 7) it prescribes public morality. One major point raised by Caiden is the fact that some governments provide extensive public services while some simply contract them out and government simply becomes a superintending public authority. In the case of the Philippines, much like US, public services are largely privately owned.

Caiden mentioned in his article of Price’s four estates in public policy making, namely: 1) scientific – discovering truth, 2) professional – applying science to practical affairs, and 3) administrative – using wide variety of disciplines and 4) political – making decisions based on compromise. It was Simon however in mid-1940s who proposed the decision making approach in public administration. In mid-1950s however, Waldo set out to provide his own view of public administration as “one type of rational human cooperation calculated to realize given desired goals with minimum loss to the realization of other desired goals”.

Caiden exhaustively discussed the shifting base of public administration, expanding fast as it does to meet contemporary needs. No wonder then that today, a wide range of diverse disciplines – mathematics, anthropology, linguistics, biochemistry and the like makes the public domain an open territory (Caiden, p 21).
Jena. Saroj Kumar Jena made distinction between the integral school and the managerial school in viewing public administration. The integral, the proponents of which include White, Wilson, Dimock, and McQueen, regards the activities of the executive, legislative and judicial as public administration whereas the managerial (held by Gullick, Simon, Messon and Fayol) only those of the executive branch. Corollarily, Alexander Hamilton hammered more nails by saying that public administration is the executive function of government.

Sharp on dichotomies, Jena also distinguished between private and public administration (by similarities and differences), public administration as science or art, the political and non-political approach to the study of public administration, formal or informal organization, advantages and disadvantages of the principle of hierarchy and how it differs with span of control, difference between centralization and decentralization (by merits and demerits)

Varela. For Amelia Varela, public administration is culture-bound but in espousing about Filipino cultural values such as amor propio, delicadeza, hiya, utang na loob, pakikisama which are contained in her concepts of personalism, familism, and particularism might like be confusing. It is so because the question on whether there is a Filipino culture remains a never-ending debate owing to the fact that there is a single human nature. In other words, other nationalities surely also exhibit these so-called traits typical only of Filipinos.


The eunuchs in ancient Greece were portrayed as the ‘public administrators of choice” and are deemed to have raised the level of ethics or standards for public officials at the time. This extended to Rome as well in their adoption of most of Greek science and culture. On reflection, the basis for this worldview is rather commonsensical since the eunuchs, castrated as they are, are not expected to take advantage of the wives of rulers. For them to have been considered as loyal could be rather ambiguous. They are males with their external sex organs amputated and it therefore follows that they would rather be effective and loyal administrators since in the first place, they too are slaves or the servant class most trusted by rulers of ancient Syria, Persia, China as well as Rome.

This student tried to ask if there is a modern-day version of the eunuchs in the Philippines and hinted that they may be the peemayers within bureaucracy who assume juicy posts in the government – from one presidency to another. In fact, at every electoral cycle, they are fielding members from their own ‘class’. The Magdalos joining this forthcoming 2010 is a proof of this point. Unlike Sweden where lampooning public officials has been a traditional sport, no one in the Philippines or no mechanism openly allows that public records be made open to the public. So who or what can police our politicians?

Sadly, our realpolitik has yet to do away with the notion of King’s largesse which led to the notion of representative government. Up until today, the devil is in the details in our brand of Filipino politics. What approximates the ‘traditional big city political machine’ in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the Great Depression of “snow buttons” are the ‘health insurance cards’ that Malacanang gives to as many patronizing voters as possible when election nears. In a situation where a perceptibly ‘bloated bureaucracy’ (although it is more graphically top-heavy) no longer produce an economic ‘basket of goods and services’ but rather, simply subcontract or contract them to private sector entities, it challenges reflection that no one attempted to reverse the scheme of things. There are enough entities in either the military or civilian government that can build homes for the homeless than these public projects to have to be subcontracted to private industries.
Truth is, we import our drugs or medicines than produce them. We import even our rice than benefit from our own local produce. Our roads, bridges, highways are constructed by private enterprises. Security guards manning most government offices are from private security establishments. Maintenance of our aircrafts and navy vessels through purchases siphons off so much money from government coffers. There ought to be a desired point where some of public goods and services are produced by government itself and some produced for the government by private businesses. For it should not be the business of private entities to produce these public services. The level of privatization in government has probably exceeded some desired level of self-reliance – that of government itself producing goods and services.

There are several cases in point that could be cited. Why are our expressways (both NLEX and SLEX) privatized through profiting concessionaires? Why are our water and services likewise privatized by Manila Water Company and our electricity by MERALCO? No single specific office in government builds our dams, airports, national highways, seaports, piers, harbors, et cetera. A deep vacuum is theoretically present in Philippine public administration, come to think of it.

In the Philippine civil service system, the healthy concept of ‘equal opportunity employer’ is yet to achieve a level of success until patronage politics is done away with. The prevailing pattern of recruitment in Congress alone elicits certain disturbing facts. Most positions in the congressional staff are relatives, families, or friends of the Members of the House of Representatives. Jose Almonte in his book, “We must level the playing field” proposed a “new business culture” (Almonte 2007: 182) for the Philippine economy in the twenty-first century. It will be one that ‘shelters no cartels, no monopolies’. It would appear that so much privatization is in fact injurious to public interest such as monopolies in telecommunications, banking, cement, agri-business, and interisland shipping. Thus, the Ramos government leveled the playing field by guaranteeing equality of opportunity for every business newcomer. Sadly, the prevailing mood is not about changed.

The case of the World Bank road projects being administered by the DPWH points to the observations that contracts are actually being rigged and the officialdom is accused of trying to siphon off kickbacks or commission as a precondition to the approval of the projects. Thus, running corporate RP is a case of “We must reform – or perish” as correctly raised by Almonte.

The Wilsonian prescription in the light of the Maguindanao massacre is inapplicable. Firstly, it is not proper for government to put Maguindanao under a state of martial law, however true it will only last for 60 days. Nor will government truly succeed to thwart, at the least possible cost, the threat of massive arms proliferation in the area. Fact is, the government will end up employing too many troops in the area, exacerbate the problem it aims to solve, and inflict more economic uncertainty in all the neighboring provinces, cities or municipalities. It seems that the initiative is being taken away from the local governments concerned by a regime of too much Marxian intoxication. Says F.M. Marx : “it is a systematic ordering of affairs and the calculated use of resources aimed at making those things happen, which we want to happen”. As Almonte suggested, in public administration, “we need to professionalize the bureaucracy; decentralize political power, and empower local communities” and perhaps, Proclamation 1959 placing Maguindanao under martial totally obliterated this piece of wisdom.