Leadership in times of crisis

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Big props to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Eli Remolona Jr. for the way the BSP has been handling the ghost employee scandal that has rocked the country’s chief monetary institution.

He was calm and composed and never without his trademark cool smile as veteran newsmen grilled him last Tuesday over the many pressing problems concerning BSP, including inflation and the peso and of course, the hottest topic, which is the ghost employee issue.

I told him it was brave of him to show up at the forum hosted by the Tuesday Club, knowing that there would be endless questions about the scandal but with his deadpan humor, he even jested, “as long as there’s longganisa.”

Turning serious, Gov. Eli was as transparent about the ongoing investigation as Civil Service rules allowed him to be. He did not mince words but was also very fair in discussing the different aspects of the issue.

“I was flabbergasted. I didn’t think this kind of thing would happen at BSP. We really need a good reputation and enough credibility just to make monetary policy work, just to make bank and supervision work and a repayment system work,” he said.

It was around October when the BSP received an anonymous complaint about ghost employees but Gov said an anonymous complaint has to be credible before the BSP acts on it.

There has to be some evidence. So, there was a preliminary investigation to establish whether it’s a serious complaint.

That preliminary investigation was concluded by December.

After the preliminary findings, the investigating team then asked Gov. Eli if they should proceed with a full and serious investigation.

He gave the green light to go ahead with a full investigation. This was particularly important because it was crucial for BSP investigators to know that they had the full backing of their boss – that there was no sweeping under the rug, no matter how scandalous it would be.

Credit goes to Gov. Eli for this.

“And since then, we have identified four of those employees. And then we also identified their supervisors. Because the supervisors apparently were the ones who vouched for the presence of these employees. So, the two supervisors were also put under investigation.”

Gov. Eli believes that they acted as fast as they could.

“Where things stand, I think we acted as fast as we could in the bounds of due process, in the bounds of confidentiality. The Civil Service doesn’t allow us to tell you the names. But the investigation process should go through very soon. We’re already in the disciplinary process. We want to recover the salaries,” he said.

Gov. Eli has a stellar reputation, both locally and abroad, even before he was appointed to the BSP. It’s sad that this issue unraveled during his term.

But he is handling the matter well and according to existing rules and regulations. If this happened in another government institution, the issue may just be swept under the rug. Gov. Eli did not allow that.

As an old adage goes, rough waters are truer tests of leadership because in calm waters every ship has a good captain.

The next thing Gov. Eli needs to ensure now is for the BSP to have mechanisms to prevent a repeat of these fraudulent acts.

Ghosts need serious ghost-busting so they don’t spook us again.


Speaking of leadership in times of crisis, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is one such leader who has led his people despite the odds.

His surprise visit to Manila is part of his diplomacy work as he continues to gather support against Russia’s occupation of their territories.

We can heed lessons from him as he continues to lead the people of Ukraine in resisting Russian invasion for more than two years now.

As President Zelensky shows us, this is how to be a leader especially when times are tough. You carry on, no matter the challenges.

The Ukrainian president is a comedian-turned-politician who has risen to the occasion. Our politicos should learn from him because here in the Philippines, some of our politicians just end up being comedians.

Independence Day

Whether in Ukraine or in the Philippines, the heart of every struggle is freedom and independence.

As we embark on another year to commemorate our Independence Day on June 12, we must not forget the “shared affinities and intimate companionships that contributed to our emancipation as a nation, the liberty that we long yearned for centuries,” Leon Gallery director Jaime Ponce de Leon said.

As part of this celebration, de Leon once again trumpets fine works of art that “celebrate this watershed episode in our story as a nation.”

Jose Joya, for instance, shows “an intimate reconnection with the cultures of his beloved motherland in a monumental work, Morning Mist, Hangehows.”

And then there is the celebrated and internationally acclaimed artist Pacita Abad. Leon Gallery partakes in this significant moment for the late artist through her work Sandra’s Mysterious World, which depicts an amiga very much close to her heart.

Exciting, too, is Elmer Borlongan’s Rematch, an artwork on boxing, which was part of a 2019 reunion show that gathered former students of Fernando Sena. The artwork not only shows the enduring popularity of boxing in the Philippines but also the bond of Borlongan and his art mentor.

These and more will go under the hammer this Saturday as Leon Gallery holds its Spectacular Mid-Year Auction.

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Follow her on X, formerly Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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