Keynote Speech of DBM Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno at the 13th PMDP Graduation Ceremony

Graduation of the Middle Managers Class Batch 13
6 October 2017 | 2 pm | DAP Conference Center, Tagaytay

Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno
Department of Budget and Management (DBM)

 To the senior officials of the Development Academy of the Philippines, fellow workers in government, the Middle Managers Class (MMC) Batch 13, ladies and gentlemen: good afternoon.

 I stand before you today with pride and joy as another batch of public sector managers make their way into the bureaucracy. Congratulations scholars for hurdling the Public Management Development Program – Middle Managers Class.

 Today, you will no longer be quizzed on public finance and fiscal policy. I don’t want you to relive nightmares of your professors, some of which are my friends and colleagues. Kidding aside, I will momentarily put to rest my arguments for investing in public infrastructure and human capital development. I’m sure you’ve had enough of the economic policy-making in your intensive training modules over the past months.

 Instead, I will talk about two things that bring us together and matter the most. Allow me to address two simple questions: (1) what this degree means to you, and (2) what this program, and you as its graduates, mean to the government.

 On a personal level, this special occasion represents another milestone in your challenging yet highly rewarding voyage. I’m sure the 11-month Development Management Program has been anything but easy. For the first five months of your course, you were asked to stay full-time in a training center ala college dormers and seminarians. This is where you had to learn about the bureaucracy, budgetary practices, economic policies, and other relevant topics in your curriculum.

 And then, for the next six months, you were asked to conceptualize and implement a game-changing Re-entry Project as a reminder that all your learnings must be translated into results. The course sounds neat on paper, but I’m sure that the past 11 months have been a mixture of emotions, good and bad. Hence, all of us ought to be proud of what you have accomplished. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

 However, celebrating your accomplishment means knowing the expectations that come with it. Coming from diverse backgrounds, all 41 members of your batch were meticulously selected to participate in this Middle Managers training program. Some of you here are engineers, while others are lawyers or government technical staff. Some of you are involved in the realm of national security, while others deal with the economy, and so forth. You come from different agencies, regions, and fields of study. But in the midst of this diversity, you were all trained to become well-rounded public sector managers. Being conferred with a Master’s in Development Management means having the technical proficiency to analyze complex issues and manage projects in an effective and efficient manner.

 Beyond the brainwork, it also entails having the soft skills to inspire people to perform to the best of their abilities. Being a manager does not end with the X’s and O’s of your respective Departments, but also requires having effective communication, conflict management, and leadership attributes. A famous economist Alfred Marshall called for the need to have “cool heads and warm hearts”, and his clamor rings true today. We need government workers who have the technical know-how to get things done, yet possess the traits of an ideal civil servant such as integrity, humility, and the passion for public service. So please always remember, “cool heads and warm hearts”.

 As a collective, I also hope that you stay true to your batch name “Balangay”. I can only infer your reasons for choosing such a name, but I think the word aptly symbolizes what we expect from your batch.

 As far as I know, balangay has two meanings. The first meaning refers to precolonial wooden boats used by early migrants that settled in the Philippines. As an archipelagic country, our predecessors naturally relied on these skillfully crafted sailboats to traverse our seas. Balangay boats contributed heavily to the flourishing maritime economy, transporting goods and people in the pre-Hispanic times. In this sense, we are all counting on Batch Balangay to be a vehicle for change and progress in our country.

 The second meaning refers to the smallest socio-political unit in the pre-colonial era, whose name we have carried over in the modern times – barangay. “Barangay”, derived from “balangay”, were independently governed polities consisting of about 50 to 100 families. A local chieftain, or a datu, headed these local communities. The historical context of your batch name serves as a timely reminder to make sure your leadership is felt by those in the lowest ranks of your organization. Middle managers ought to be in touch with the situation on the ground. Being a grassroots leader is integral in succeeding as a manager at the forefront of your respective office’s operations.

 Your batch name – Balangay – has tremendous historical and cultural precedence. As Middle Managers Class Batch 13, make sure to not let it down. You are already off to a good start. This is the first batch to graduate with all members being conferred a Master in Development Management. Keep up the good work.

 Moving on, allow me to surmise very quickly what PMDP means to the government. As you know, it is envisioned to create a corps of experienced and competent public sector managers. It is part of the overall effort to professionalize the bureaucracy, a primary strategy of which is to invest heavily in human resources.

 In effect, the government has invested its resources to capacitate you into effective leaders. You, graduates, will plug the dearth of competent managers in the bureaucracy. This intervention is strictly related in improving the government’s public service delivery capacity. Capacitated personnel will translate into efficient rollout of projects, timely utilization of funds, improved monitoring of beneficiaries, and so on. Scaling this at a national level will improve our chances of providing quality education to Filipino children, better healthcare for the senior citizens and indigent, economic opportunities to laborers and entrepreneurs, and a brighter future for the Republic of the Philippines.

 Despite the resources required for this program, the government decided that it’s a worthwhile investment because the benefits outweigh the costs. This comes with the hope that you, scholars, will be key drivers for us to achieve our socio-economic development goals in the medium to long term.

 Spelled out in measurable terms, this is for the Philippine economy to achieve upper-middle income status by 2022 while reducing poverty to a low of 14 percent. In the long term, it also means providing Filipinos with a “matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay” in line with AmBisyon Natin 2040.

 As middle managers, you are a crucial link in the government’s delivery of public goods and services. I know you understand that there is much much more expected from civil servants than any other profession. A lot of the times, we are the public’s battering ram for their frustrations. Of course, these frustrations are valid. But as human beings, and not mere technocrats, it can be quite disheartening, I know.  Push forward knowing that the work you do, the inconveniences of the day to day, will result to improvements in the lives of so many more people.

 I have worked for the government for more than fifty years and I do not regret any of it. I think you will find wisdom in the Oath of Athenian, a powerful oath of citizenship, engraved prominently in the lobby of Maxwell Hall, the building that houses the Maxwell School Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University where I went for my Ph.D. It encapsulates my own attitude when it comes to the work that I do; it goes:

                 “We will ever strive for the ideals and sacred things of the city, both alone and with many; we will unceasingly seek to quicken the sense of public duty; we will revere and obey the city’s laws; we will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

 This oath reminds us of our joint responsibility, as citizens, and especially as public servants, to transmit our country, the Philippines, “not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

 Again, thank you and congratulations Middle Managers Class Batch 13 – Batch Balangay!