Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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The Public Servant Par Excellence

           When, with admirable humility, President Benigno S. Aquino III acknowledges that he cannot claim sole credit for all the good things that are now happening to the Philippine economy, that he is only “standing on the shoulders of other leaders who came before him,” he may not have an exhaustive list of all these sung or unsung heroes.  General Pedro G. Dumol, who recently passed away, is one of them.  General Dumol is widely known as the “Father of Rural Electrification” in the Philippines.  Under his leadership during the Marcos years, Philippine rural electrification, with technical and financial help from the United States, became a global model.

          Pedro Gallarza Dumol was born on June 7, 1926 to Liborio and Constancia Dumol in the small barrio of Cadio, 7 kilometers or so from the Poblacion of Panitan, in Capiz Province.  Pedro was the second of ultimately eight children born to the Dumol couple. Despite being brought up in a mostly rural setting, at the age of 15, the young Pedro already demonstrated his entrepreneurial and leadership skills by conceiving, designing, building, and operating a press producing bihon noodles and successfully marketing the product. He also discovered traditional healing practices to treat feet deprived of their shoe or slipper protection.  These early entrepreneurial experiences honed the creativity, innovativeness and risk taking talents that some thirty years later would serve him well in addressing the daunting task of electrifying the Philippine countryside.

          After completing his studies at the prestigious Philippine Military Academy (PMA), he was assigned as a young lieutenant to Mindanao to lead his men in combat with both the Moro rebels and the Huks.  As he himself narrated to Dr. Frank Denton who wrote The Vision of Light (The Pedro G. Dumol Story):  “While I was (in Mindanao) I trained my people very well which was extremely important later when we went into combat.  I used firecrackers.  My troops would be on a practice patrol and I would secretly ignite firecrackers.  Under simulated attack the ones in the front were to face the front, further back one group would take the left side, another the right side and the last men would face to the rear.  Using the firecrackers to simulate gunfire trained them so there was no hesitation.  I got to have the reputation that I was the only unit commander that didn’t suffer a single wounded, sick or killed in either Lanao or Jolo and I think it’s because I trained them very well.”

          This seemingly trivial tactic highlighted his passion for people development which made him an outstanding leader in the various government posts that he occupied later on in his career.  This passion was only surpassed by his never ending eagerness to develop himself through study.  He took up a bachelor’s course in mechanical engineering in the University of the Philippines and then followed up with a Master in Business Administration (MBA) in the same state university.   These academic degrees were supplemented by further studies of systems analysis at RAND Corporation and of US Army engineering procedures at Fr. Belvoir in the Washington DC suburbs.  All this learning gave him the technical competence to lead a team of like-minded PMA graduates to oversee the establishment of the Infrastructure Operations Center under the Marcos Administration.  This Center met the need for monitoring the greatly increased number of government projects after martial law was imposed in 1972.  He was then detailed to the Office of the President and worked under Executive Secretary Rafael Salas and his successor Executive Secretary Alejandro Melchor, two of the most competent and honest technocrats during the Marcos Administration.  It was Alex Melchor who offered him the position of Administrator of the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

          As described by his biographer, Dr. Denton, “Colonel Dumol moved in as chief of the National Electrification Administration with bold and courageous efforts to clean out a notoriously corrupt organization.  He brought in with him a cadre of 12 or so experienced people whom he trusted.  Dumol quickly developed and got approved a Phase I (36 cooperatives) plan.  Within a few months, a financing plan evolved which provided the peso funds needed to cover local costs and the dollar fund needed to cover purchases of imported materials and technical services.  His theory of management, honed from personal experiences through the years, was simple:  his people would give their best if he:  1) demonstrated total and absolute incorruptibility himself; and (2) had enough and soon enough boots on the ground—in this case electric distribution lines and lighted nipa huts—that his workers would see they were different and superior.  True enough, when General Dumol retired in 1986, approximately 2,700,000 connections had been made from a start of zero 15 years ago.  The real test of greatness in his leadership was that the NEA survived the departure of the Father of Rural Electrification. 

          One of the most moving testimonials to the greatness of General Pedro G. Dumol as the Public Servant Par Excellence came from former Secretary of Finance Roberto de Ocampo.  In an email he circulated to his  friends, Bobby wrote:  “My life has been blessed by its having crossed paths with General Pedro G. Dumol whom I encountered at the onset of my career  when we became pioneers of implementing the nation’s rural electrification program and reshaping the National Electrification Administration.  He treated me like a son and became the most significant influence on my career as my principal mentor.  Under his guidance, I learned to channel my youthful idealism towards tangible programs and projects that could help change the lives of the neediest.  I learned the difference between theory and practice, planning and implementation, talk and walking the talk…Perhaps too few may remember that under his leadership the Philippine electrification program became the global model.”  I can only add that we need to increase the tribe of people like General Dumol:  leaders who are both technically/professionally competent and absolutely honest.  Honesty is not enough.  The leaders with integrity we need, especially in this third millennium, must also be competent professionals and effective managers like General Pedro Dumol.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.