Former chief justice Reynato S. Puno was scheduled to expound on the topic, “The DAP’s role in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA) World” in the Third Onofre D. Corpuz Lecture Series yesterday.

Based on his written lecture, CJ Puno will survey the tectonic forces shaping our world. Among the myriad issues he mentions are the unrealized Bangsamoro and Cordillera aspirations for equality, pervasive poverty, inequality, hunger, disease, ignorance, environmental disasters, the erosion of moral values, and the challenge of safeguarding our porous territory. His prescription for navigating these turbulent waters is a fusion of power and a shift toward a federal system of governance, aiming to address inequality and foster regional cooperative federalism that emphasizes shared objectives amidst diversity.

As a discussant in the forum with service history at DAP since 1975 in various roles, I offer additional insights into the organization’s role in this challenging milieu. In a VUCA world, institutions like DAP must cultivate resilient foundations, anchored in visionary leadership, agile organizational structures, diversified financial resources, technological prowess, and an inclusive multistakeholder approach.

Established five decades ago, DAP’s endurance itself is a testament to its adaptability. Born in 1973 amidst the turbulent waters of martial law, it emerged as a response to the VUCA conditions that pervaded the Philippines during that era. Even as the regime that birthed it collapsed, DAP displayed agility by finding relevance under subsequent administrations, providing essential resources to fledgling governments grappling with turbulence. DAP showed versatility as a national resource untied to any specific regime.

However, DAP seems to have lost its former vigor. Staff size has diminished, financial independence has dwindled, and confidence in taking a central role in governmental reforms and innovations has waned. It often appears that DAP has forgotten its “Tatak DAP” (DAP brand) pride and strategic purpose.

Dr. Onofre D. Corpuz, were he alive today, might not be disheartened by this transformation. He never envisioned DAP as a perennially pivotal institution. DAP was designed as a response to crises, intended to diminish as regular line and staff institutions matured to perform governmental functions.

While DAP may have evolved, CJ Puno’s portrayal of the VUCA world provides an opportunity for rejuvenation. DAP can serve as a government think tank, stepping into the void left by the President’s Center for Special Studies, which was dissolved during the Cory Aquino administration. This think tank could provide crucial strategic insights as the Philippines navigates complex domestic and foreign policy challenges, including territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea and active participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Moreover, DAP can spearhead the preparatory planning required for moving the Philippines closer to adopting a federal system of governance. As an advocate of federalism, I lament the critical absence of regional-scale development in convincing our people of its merits. Our spatial approach to governance has been myopic under the unitary system.

In the present structure, we have a ladder with three rungs: barangay, city/municipality, and province, with the national government at the top. We overlook the missing rungs—urban regions and state regions, which could be the foundation for transformative change. Regional governments are the missing piece in the Philippine puzzle. For instance, the flooding in Pampanga and Bulacan is not a problem for individual localities but rather a regional issue that demands a regional solution. Metro Manila, divided into 17 disjointed fragments, hinders its role as the vibrant heart of the nation. It is an apoplectic crisis waiting to happen.

An expedient step toward federalism is converting Metro Manila into a substate, akin to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. This transformation, achieved without constitutional changes, could serve as a prototype, inspiring Filipinos to embrace federalism. Subsequently, other substate regions could evolve based on their readiness.

These transformative ideas position DAP to contribute significantly to national development. By championing the Sustainable Development Goals, futures thinking, e-governance, knowledge management, productivity and quality, transparency, and accountability, DAP can serve as a cornerstone for Philippine resilience in a VUCA world. DAP’s potential as a strategic futures think tank in a VUCA world should not be underestimated. It must rediscover its sense of purpose and adapt to its niche within the complex Philippine landscape.

by: Dr. Segundo Joaquin E. Romero