Corporate Watch

Human Behavior in Organization (HBO) has always been a foundation subject in Business Administration courses. At the University of the Philippines (UP) Virata School of Business, BA151-Human Behavior in Organization (HBO), is a required “theory” subject, which is a pre-requisite for BA152-Human Resource Management, “applications and practices” towards the four-year course for a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration or a Bachelor of Science in Business Education (per UP-VSB catalogue). At the Master of Business Administration (MBA) level, the very first trimester of the two-year study starts with BA251-Organizational Behavior, for which the graduate student must have taken BA151-HBO in his/her undergraduate Business Administration course.

How much more directly can it be said than by sagacious Academe herself, that people are the most important resource of business, and so is how people in the organization can mobilize, optimize, or decimate the otherwise inert resources of production and capital? Who thinks up new products and concepts, the strategies for sustainability and development, the tactics in the delivery and distribution, packaging and marketing, pricing and selling? Ah, but in business there must always be unity, and harmony, and cooperation in a single-minded mission-vision to achieve goals and objectives. And that’s where human behavior in organizations becomes most critical.

In business administration and management, the formal organization is tightly aligned with goals and objectives — succinctly: with making profit. And thus, people in the organization have “roles” or duties and responsibilities with a reporting hierarchy to ensure proper supervision towards the most efficient and effective performance by individuals, teams, departments or groups of their “roles.”

Alas, the devil comes in to taunt the system — for there is always the “informal organization” that can derail the smooth running of a business by the formal organization. In Filipino culture, certain Filipino values like “utang na loob (debt of gratitude),” “hiya (exaggerated shame),” “amor propio (self-esteem),” and the ubiquitous “padrino (patronage)” system among others, can feed and grow the informal organization in business. (Read Jocano, F. Landa [1999]. Working With Filipinos: A Cross-Cultural Experience. Quezon City: Punlad Research House, Inc.)

Is the informal organization much discussed in government personnel administration? At the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), the first-year undergrad Public Administration subject, PA111-Management of Organizations, proposes to guide students in “Understanding the major theories and practices of organization and management, and their relevance to the Philippines” (per UPBPA list of courses). But the focus may not be on the late anthropologist Dr. F. Landa Jocano’s concern for culture and the informal organization in the Philippine workplace: the rest of the course pounds on the workings of the bureaucracy, and drills on the civil service system.

But the irony in public personnel administration is that in the real world, the nameless, faceless bureaucracy is still composed of people. From the lowest “petty” bureaucrat up to the highest — the president — these are all thinking, feeling people who do not just know and follow Administrative Law blindly, but may turn to where brighter lights tempt them to personal power and perhaps personal aggrandizement. And so we see that in our country today, much of our humongous turmoil is the problem with people.

Here’s an HBO case study involving the three coequal branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. And it starts with a personnel management issue: appointment to the highest position in the Judiciary — the Chief Justice — by the highest in the Executive, the President.

Background of the case: chief justice Reynato Puno was to retire on May 17, 2010 at the compulsory retirement age of 70, seven days after the presidential elections. Despite the constitutional ban on appointments (which stretched two months before the presidential election up to the end of her term) outgoing president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo chose from the recommendees of the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) and appointed Renato Corona as Chief Justice. Arroyo was guided by a near-majority ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) in April that the ban on appointments does not cover the Judiciary. Corona was then impeached for the dishonest filing of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) by the Legislature in May 2012, in the term of president Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III. Aquino chose from the recommendees of the JBC and appointed as Chief Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, who could look forward to serving in that position up to 2030, or 18 years — beyond the terms of Aquino, President Rodrigo Duterte (2016-2022), the president after Duterte, and into two years of the third president after Aquino!

Of course the appointment of Sereno by-passed many SC Justices more senior in tenure and in years than she — including Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who had already been by-passed by Renato Corona. Now Sereno herself is being impeached by Congress for various charges including incapacity, dishonesty, and misdeclaration of SALN, the latter just like the late chief justice Corona.

Did presidents Arroyo and Aquino both do wrong in appointing Corona and Sereno respectively? They followed the rules of appointment, and exercised their powers to choose, according to Constitutional Law (although Arroyo enjoyed an unexpected, almost unanimous ruling of the SC that the Judiciary is exempt from election ban on appointments). In both cases, the integrity of the formal organization in the SC had been respected, but was sacred social tradition violated?

During Corona’s four month-long impeachment trial, the majority of SC employees supported him. Despite that, the majority in Congress seemed in favor of ousting him. Committee on Justice chair Niel Tupas, Jr. said there were no instructions from the Palace to impeach Corona, nor would the pork barrel of representatives who did not sign be held back, but he said that he informed the president of their decision to impeach Corona, and that the president supported it. (“Chief Justice Corona impeached,” ABS-CBN, 2011-12-12).

Seven Justices testified against Sereno in the impeachment proceedings before the House committee on justice. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that one justice, together with the six others, “figured prominently in the ouster move against Sereno which ended in forcing her to go on an indefinite leave (, March 8, 2018).” Employees gathered at flag-raising rites supported the 13 of 15 magistrates who asked that the Chief Justice go on leave (GMA News March 9, 2018). Chief Justice Sereno said such problems are a “common phenomenon among human organizations (Ibid.).”

HBO is always the most difficult aspect to handle, both in business and in government. Could not both presidents Arroyo and Aquino have handled their executive power to appoint with more “delicadeza” or a sense of propriety above and beyond what is conceptually and legally allowed under the Constitution and public administrative laws? Cannot President Duterte help himself from riling up an already-blood hungry majority in the Legislature on his side — who will tear the flesh from anything deemed hued “Yellow?”

Power is the biggest complication when it comes to human behavior in organizations.


Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.