Machiavelli has been identified with the dictum, “The ends justify the means”. This has been construed in its negative context which connotes that the use of indiscriminate, extra-judicial and extra-legal methods are necessary to achieve an avowed objective. On the contrary, it simply expresses that a leader must accept dreadful responsibility in serving the common good.
Under the Duterte administration, the employment of the military and police in many branches of the bureaucracy has been grossly criticized. The soldier is unfairly vilified for complying with the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. Of late, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has been assigned to their stewardship.
Machiavelli further posited that under extreme situation, extreme measures are necessary. The golden rule is “if you are dealing with honorable people, you must be honorable yourself, but if the reverse is true, you must be bound by strict rules because you get trampled in the system.” The drug and customs problems have escalated into unmanageable proportions that a normal process to administer is useless and inutile.
The tract record of the BOC revealed massive abnormalities due to its utilization outside its mandate. Allegations that ruling administrations have used it to generate funds for political purposes as well as a window for business opportunities to repay political debts cannot be further from the truth. No wonder, in the designation of a BOC Commissioner, merit and competency were subordinated to the craft, flair, and willingness to generate the largesse for extra-revenue purposes. By this nature, the corruption spread like cancer, metastasized into the deep recesses of the BOC. Past Presidents did not accept that dreadful responsibility in solving the problems. They were wanting in leadership that could have spelled the difference; even the Office of the President was implicated. Unabated corruption are caused by unworthy leaders to permit the situation to deteriorate and get out of hand. Past Presidents were too soft and effeminate to displease the big players for fear of reprisal.
The assumption of customs duties by the military has received a lot of unfavorable remarks. A lot of people questioned the legal basis while others doubt their skills and knowledge. Can a square peg fit into a round hole? This argument maybe valid but there are other mitigating circumstances wherein the military can stand on solid grounds. Skills and knowledge of old times have not made a difference. Professionalism was an exemption rather than the rule.
In spite of its long years of existence, the BOC has not matured professionally. It is teeming with lawyers, accountants, many with graduate degrees, even advanced training in customs administration and operations, both local and abroad. Scholastic and educational power-house does not guarantee efficiency and seriousness of purpose. These academic preparation and investments were no match to a weak personal resolve to withstand the influence and temptations of corruption. Instead, it paved the way to adopt a penchant of a life of frivolity and lustful debauchery.
What it lacks in customs tradecraft maybe compensated in values and attitudes. It is easier said than done. It is in this context whereby the military commands a higher premium that can compensate any inadequacy on skills and training.
There are major factors that augur well in the firm belief that military can also do it, if not even better. According to Machiavelli, “The Prince must not worry about reproach to drastic and hard actions.” When it is a matter of keeping his subjects united against a noble cause for a few example of cruelty, he will be more compassionate than those who, out of excessive mercy permit order to continue from which spring murders and plundering. “The complacent attitude of mercy, due consideration and excessive pardon usually harm the institution at large. True enough, customs have countenanced all forms of illicit activities bringing no one to account for inefficiencies.”
The President has spoken that while customs duties is not the job of a soldier, he believes that under the present circumstances, only a soldier can do it. He is acting as a real prince not bothered with disturbing public opinion.
Skills are essential but values and attitudes are equally relevant to fill in gaps of limited knowledge. A soldier is always ready to fight. Readiness implies accomplishment of a mission. The military psyche is primed to take risks, accepts injury as part of his job. The level of compromise is reduced due to a higher level of tolerance to absorb risks. Customs inefficiency is also borne out of compromise. While there are good laws, rarely are they complied with. The presence of legal experts is no guarantee. Good laws need the military organization because their strict adherence to order make compromise irrelevant and nil.
Discipline is an inherent military strength. It provides the muscle to enforce laws. Rigorous application of laws requires discipline. Discipline is necessary to restrain mass hysteria. The military establishment is predicated on the unquestioned obedience to a command. Punishment breaks lax attitude and rewards can enhance efficiency and creativity. Selflessness is necessary to serve the common interest. A good soldier is willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of the mission, and a leader must be willing to give way to his personal ambitions for the success of the mission. The Senate investigation revealed one glaring weakness of custom officials; putting personal desires before institutional goals. The military continuously prepares for war. He has a higher tolerance level not to compromise and to stand firmly on his ground.
This positive attitude is further reinforced by a serious and well-meaning leadership who only knows too well that a job must be finished.
The new BOC Commissioner possesses the leadership to succeed and achieve. Gen Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero occupied the highest AFP position. To reach the pinnacle of the military establishment means you possess and are imbued with the qualities of intellect, character, and good service reputation. But the most important quality ingrained in every top commander is the determination to succeed. He will never leave the battlefield until the mission is accomplished. Expect results because a combat commander will exert pressure on the enemy to surrender or recapitulate. Can a civilian exert extreme pressure to the big players and political patrons fearlessly at the risk of his life?
Compromise undermines and gives destructive vices a greater sway. Always maintain a high level of integrity. Calibrate the pleasures and desires that come your way when power and influence prevail. Heed not the advice of doomsday soothsayers or political spoiled brats who only see problems in every opportunity. The Prince personified by the Commander-in-Chief has laid the mantle of sheer resolve to finish the job. The military will provide the follow through.
(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is a member of the MAP National Issues Committee 42nd Commanding General of the Philippine Army and Professorial Lecturer of Management at UP Diliman. Feedback at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com>. For previous articles, please visit <map.org.ph>)