What is Iskology? Simply put, it is the study of Isko Moreno and his style of leadership or common sense in action. It is enforcing the law and picking low-hanging fruit as he creates political capital to sustain governance in the first six months of his three-year term under the budget of the previous dispensation.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on September 23, 2019.

Zig Ziglar once said, “the most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.” In this world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, or VUCA, “authenticity and integrity are integral qualities of responsible and inspiring leadership. An effective leader has integrity and is authentic. Authenticity builds trust which in turn helps leaders to build teams that are engaged, focused and successful.”

”Iskology” is a phrase coined and authored in You Tube by some followers of the mayor of Manila, Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso. It was mentioned by a taxi driver who told a good friend of mine that what the mayor is doing can be best explained as part and parcel of Iskology. What is Iskology? Simply put, it is the study of Isko Moreno and his style of leadership or common sense in action. It is enforcing the law and picking low-hanging fruit as he creates political capital to sustain governance in the first six months of his three-year term under the budget of the previous dispensation. It is converting campaign plans into executive and legislative agenda, such as the social amelioration, the tax amnesty and the 15-year incentive given to locators to build Escolta into the central business district of Manila.

This is the main problem of local chief executives who have to eat humble pie and manage expectations since his/her first six months are defined by how the previous administration completed their tasks and left money for the new government, among others. If there are no savings left, the local chief executive will not be able to move. What did Mayor Domagoso do? He used common sense and a lot of political will to pursue things that do not need much budget to roll out. Manila was a ghetto. It was dark, dirty and unsafe. The decay was palpable all around. What couldn’t be done for years, Domagoso delivered in his first few months in office. Divisoria was the start of the turnaround. Slaughterhouse cleaning and rebuilding was applauded. The Parola cleanup was also welcomed. Running after kids inhaling rugby was dangerous but showed to all that Moreno meant business. Removing illegally parked vehicles and barangay halls were hailed by taxpayers tired of the usual. Putting order was the priority. Literally, cleaning up (the public latrine) of the Kartilya and collecting garbage became the major focus. Government was felt and the Manileños reacted favorably.

What has been missed is the fact that most of the clearing operations took place without truncheon-wielding troops. No shouting, no stone-throwing. The ambulant vendors picked up their wares and decided to fold up and move and support the young mayor who is embraced as being one of them. Domagoso was a certified basurero, the son of a laundry woman and stevedore father. He was an only child who graduated late but willed to secure a better future for his mother by joining the movies. He was Manila’s youngest councilor at 23 years old. He topped his first run and completed nine years as councilor. He was the youngest vice mayor in the history of Manila politics at the age of 32 years old. He gave way to former president Erap Estrada in 2013 and teamed up with him. Instead of contesting the mayoralty position, Domagoso decided to run for the Senate in 2016. But by 2019, he ran against Estrada and won. Domagoso at 44 years old is the youngest mayor in the history of Manila and is the 27th mayor of the city. He is the first to come from the ranks of councilors and the first vice mayor to become mayor. While others have come to elective office in the capital from national positions, Domagoso started out as councilor.

Apart from common sense in action, Iskology is also about open leadership. “Tapping into the power of social technologies isn’t about mastering the latest shiny technology; it is actually about having a clear idea of the relationship one wants to form. The fundamental rules that have governed how relationships work are being rewritten, because of easy, no-cost information sharing.” Open leadership is having the “right culture and mind-set — and more importantly, the right leadership — to engage the groundswell.” The highest like in Domagoso’s social media virality was the bundling of wires across poles. A very ordinary thing but much appreciated because it showed it can be done. The basics of governance are being met and the public registers its appreciation and satisfaction of the young leader, who seems to be awake up to 2 a.m., a practice he has been doing even when he was vice mayor. It has been said that he closes the city hall then. Today, he is bringing the city hall to all the nooks and crannies of the city.

Iskology is also embracing a spiritual process. By invoking the oft-repeated chant he made during the campaign in cheering up Manileños with God first!, Domagoso has redefined himself from the rest. This is now carried over into his governance as mayor. Iskology is also about paying it forward and maintaining a mindset of never giving up, a growth mindset. It is also about being true and being honest that the mayor is not qualified and ready for a stab at a higher post as many are pushing him to do. Manila has given him what very few men have received, a mandate to serve. And serve he must, for no one can shine in the nation’s capital devoid of such honor.

Domagoso has not yet proven much when it comes to building Manila. Very rare is the chance to build the capital of the nation; doing things for a higher position is not the way to go. Yes, the presidency is destiny, but a major part is preparing for it, maturing as a leader and being able to build one’s public record. Yes, politics is about right timing, but giving up Manila after a hard fight and without accomplishing the plans laid out is not a mature decision. Time will tell if Domagoso is made of the real stuff. A year in office will show everyone if he can get his team together and sustain the support of the city’s residents. Two years in office will no longer be all glow, the shining star on the hill will flicker and the light could die but the early signs show to all that he has grit. He has faced poverty and failure in life but he would battle it out and stand up. Today, Domagoso continues to plod on. Corruption will test him as he builds Manila. The 40 percent has to go.

If Domagoso can “transform values into actions, visions into realities, obstacles into innovations, separateness into solidarity, and risks into rewards,” three years from today or nine years later will not matter for Manila will have a bright belfry, a testimony to a poor boy from Tondo who thought, dreamed, believed and dared. Domagoso should hold on tight to his faith so that if and when the world moves, he could be on top. As has been said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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