Recto's adieu to 'public servants for all seasons'


Posted at Aug 17 2009 10:13 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2009 06:15 AM

(Farewell Address of NEDA Director General & Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph G. Recto, August 14, 2009)

I was supposed to address you last week, but didn’t, because having a flag at half-mast was not the most appropriate backdrop for what I will say.

You are perhaps aware that rumors have been swirling about my resignation from this office.

That to me is no big deal, because when I showed up at the gates of this agency to work as its highest-paid casual 13 months ago, I know that my term will be brief, 22 months at most.

As a temp, my leaving office is not a question of if but when. The fine print of my working papers imply an “expire before” label that won’t give me time to arrange the office furniture.

With the highest turnover rate of employees in the bureaucracy, you NEDAns, however, should be the last to express surprise over personnel changes in your workplace which has become some sort of a departure lounge for those bound for greener pastures.

This is not a circuitous way of addressing the reports; I just felt that to jog your memories on the circumstances of my arrival will put in the proper context what I will say next.

Less than a month ago, I tendered my official resignation as director general of NEDA to the President, to take effect on the closing hours of Aug 16.

That resignation has been accepted by the President.

But it has not been made public because I told her that if ever she accepts it, my fellow workers in NEDA should hear it from me first and not read it from a crawler on some TV news channel.

As for the reason why I am saying my goodbyes, the answer lies in a line in my letter to her, and I know that I am breaking no protocol if I quote it.

I told her: “Elective political opportunities lie on the horizon, and after much thought and discernment, I have decided to explore these, but outside the podium and the canopy that my present office provides.”

When I first ran this line by some senior staff, they said that mere exploration of some political options is no ground for resignation.

Actually, they are right, because to dream for a public office in this country is not punishable by law.

And even if one starts preparing to run for one, civil service rules do not require him to give up his current post.

The practice, then and now, is one can run an office and for an office at the same time.

But that may be possible in other offices, but not in NEDA, I believe.

In  my letter of resignation to the President, I thanked her for giving me the opportunity to serve the country through a great agency whose admirable staff responded ably to the challenges of the times.

Indeed, I could not have asked for a more professional and proficient staff than the one who have warmly welcomed me here.

And in my heart, I know that I will be dishonoring their dedication to public service if I will be preoccupied with other matters other than leading them in their work.

Heading the NEDA is fulltime work. It does not need a leader who is a job applicant in disguise.  Thus, I will be demeaning the people I have worked with and debasing their work ethic if I report to work with other things in my mind.

I know that my resignation violates all the rules in the playbook of political campaigns.

It will automatically deprive me of the soapbox which will make me visible and the bullhorn which will allow me to be heard.

Politicians are also supposed to run into the spotlight and here I am doing the opposite by running away from it.

But perhaps, working with you has detoxed me of my political instincts to lead me to trade awareness for anonymity.

But you have also taught me something else: the nobility of civil service bereft of pomp and publicity.

So that is why  for me to retain my credentials as a NEDAn, I must step aside and give way to a new DG who will dedicate his every waking hour to the task at hand and not be distracted by an office yet to be won.

The only way I can thank your industry is by leaving so I can be replaced by one who can match your own.

So today, I have decided to speak to all of you in a candid manner that typifies NEDA communications so as to prevent the fog of intrigues from enveloping the real reasons for my leaving.

For the record, my resignation has nothing to do with dams, detonations, or debates on oil prices. It is simply the right thing to do.

I am not opposed to any project that will quench the thirst of MegaManila. In fact, in our investment-starved land, any foray into this type of undertaking should be welcomed.   Sadly, our institutional evaluation of projects has been caught in the crossfire of corporate rivalries.

On the issue of the travails of my brother, I think he is old enough to handle his own affairs.  I am not his keeper.  Both he and his accusers have a right to a fast and fair trial without fear or favor.

On the debate on oil prices, these have all been done in the spirit of forging public policy in the anvil of criticism, and our healthy exchanges between an officer and gentleman have roused consumer interest on a very important issue.

But if there is one spin on my departure that I will not worry about and in fact will welcome is one that may appear in a newspaper headline as “Recto resigns; economic recovery seen”.

To all of you, I could not have asked for a better crew.  One cubicle in NEDA packs the same intellectual density as one whole bureau in other agencies.

I would like to thank you for the stimulating discussions, the superbly-crafted studies, the incisive briefing papers, the review on proposals in which scams are smoked out right away.

I will miss the coffee sessions, the watercooler chats, the snap dialogues at the lobby, and the instant parking lot caucuses.

I will always be in debt for the memoranda-on-the-go, speeches-while-you-wait, real-time feedback, on-the-spot data analysis, and numbers-on-demand.

I will always look back with fondness and amazement on how some of you guys can churn out numbers with the same intensity that you strum guitars.  

Whether pounding drums or plotting graphs, you guys rock!

Because any politician is one way or another a slave of some dead or defunct economist as Keynes had said, hopefully, if fate will smile kindly on me, I will be needing your counsel in the near future.

To the government employees for all seasons: Maraming salamat at hanggang sa ating muling pagkikita.