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EDITORIAL - A deluge of errors of omission

When you are the head of an organization, whether in government or in the private sector, it always pays to avoid the trap of feeling superior and in charge of everything. You still need to keep your eyes wide open and your ears close to the ground. You need to know where you stand in relation to the environment around you. And more importantly, you need to understand what is expected of you, whether from your own bosses, from those who work for you, and those you are sworn to serve.

Unfortunately for former Dangerous Drugs Board chief  Dionisio Santiago, who was forced to resign by President Duterte, none of the above seemed to matter as he appeared to have violated all of these unwritten rules. He did not study Duterte carefully to learn what pleases the president and what sets him off in anger. As an underling, he failed to appreciate both his limits and the proper way to do certain things. And he missed out on some very crucial facts.

Santiago went public with his take on a mega drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija, calling it essentially a mistake and a waste. This angered Duterte who promptly asked him to resign. If Santiago had anything at all against the rehab center, he could have taken it up with the president instead of unburdening himself to the media. If Duterte can fire away at then US president Barack Obama for calling him out in public, who is Santiago that the president could not rip apart.

But griping in public was not even the biggest mistake of Santiago, even if it was what precipitated the knee-jerk of Duterte. His biggest blunder was failing to appreciate the fact that the mega drug facility rose from a multi-billion-peso private Chinese philanthropic donation whose specifications were tied to the wishes of the donor.

Yes, for the 10,000-bed mega facility to have only about 500 enrollees makes it clearly under-utilized, as Santiago complained. Yes, it might have been better if the mega facility had been split into smaller facilities spread all across the land, as Santiago publicly theorized. But Santiago forgot that the donor did not want smaller facilities in a number of places but a humongous one housing 10,000 beds in one place.

There is a saying that beggars cannot be choosers. Well, it seems Santiago has not heard of that one as well. For while the government is not exactly a beggar in this case, an unsolicited donation being different from alms, it still amounts to the same thing. If a donor wants his donation used in a certain way, it is either you accept it as specified or you decline it. Having accepted it, the government stuck to its end of the bargain. And then here comes Santiago openly griping. Bang.

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