Vice President Leni Robredo underscored the need for a leadership that is able to “pull everyone together towards a single direction” in addressing a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

robredo - In the face of crises, leaders provide ways forward —Robredo
Vice President Leni Robredo (FEDERICO CRUZ / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Robredo, during the webinar launch by the University of the Philippines (UP) National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) on Oct. 30, spoke about the kind of leadership that is needed especially during emergencies, and about what will it take to provide a more “harmonious” response with the help of other sectors.

“A crisis of this magnitude calls for a massive, strategic response, and this can only be achieved by leadership that is able to pull everyone together toward a single direction,” Robredo said.

Robredo noted that if stakeholders—such as those coming from government, the private sector, and the general public who serve as the “first line of defense” in preventing the spread of the disease—are given a concrete horizon that they can work toward, “then it will be much easier for everyone to buy in.”  

Policies, Robredo said, can be implemented and actively supported by the public, thus keeping social anxiety at bay. “In other words, we need goals, and a plan to achieve those goals,” she explained. “It is unfortunate that such goals, such plans, have been in short supply, even with very good and reliable people spearheading the efforts,” she added. 

Robredo lamented despite months of response, “there are times that we get the feeling that there is no central coordinated approach with a clear set of priorities.” For instance, she noted that there were “missed chances” for preventive measures.

At a time when all hands needed to be on deck, Robredo noted that “national priorities went elsewhere” and “unfortunately, the government has responded with hostility or further distractions to criticisms and suggestions.” 

Robredo noted that the the COVID-29 pandemic “should not be approached as a public relations exercise, but a once-in-a-century problem that needs to be urgently solved.” But, sadly, the national approach “has been centered on debates that fail to take bigger goals into account; worse, it has fallen back on an either-or mindset that misappreciated the interconnectedness of things.” 

During the past months, Robredo said that the people were presented with binaries—lockdown or no lockdown; economy or health; public safety or human rights. She believes, however, that all of these are components of what should be an ultimate goal of a safer, “more compassionate and a better normal” for all.  

Robredo also underscored the importance of response based on data. “During times of crisis, having a clear and informed direction takes on life-or-death importance, and such a direction can only begin with data,” she said.

While the data, at this point, might still have noticeable gaps, Robredo believes that these can already be used to make informed decisions. “What needs to be done is to make sense of the data available from a policy lens, come up with clear and strategic action points, and implement them,” she added.

When the response is data-driven, Robredo said that the orientation “ultimately signals a relentless bias towards the truth” which, in turn, builds trust.

Robredo also noted that if data guides decisions and trust allows widens the circles of action, then “empathy and compassion drive and sustain us.” 

With the critical role of leadership highlighted in crisis situations like this pandemic, Robredo shared the importance of having leaders who do “not shy away from doing the hard work” and those who are ready to make urgent decisions based on actual situations.

“Ultimately, and especially in the face of crises, leaders provide ways forward: A clear direction emanating from the best available data; strong, transparent partnerships built on trust that pull everyone together towards a solution; and above all, empathy and compassion, driven by the principle that the vulnerability of the least among us redounds to the vulnerability of all,” Robredo ended.

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