What connection exists between Winston Churchill and rural electrification in the Philippines?

No, I haven’t discovered some little-known historical connection. I was just struck by this seldom-cited quotation from Churchill, which I have made into an e-poster:

Last July 31, when I dropped by the office of the National Electrification Administration, Administrator Edith Bueno expressed her concern about the spate of attacks on the electric coops and NEA, coming from some party-list representatives, and another government agency.

“They seem to be well-funded,” she said. “The electric coops can’t get their side heard.” And NEA, as a government agency, can’t engage in a tit-for-tat media battle with members of congress.

Ironically, the attacks come just when the work of NEA and the electric coops have caught the favorable attention of President Noynoy Aquino. Last year the NEA-EC partnership delivered the 90-day targets for sitio electrification. And not just delivered; they delivered more than the target numbers, and below budget.

Exceptional performance can have its downside. This year, they have been given even more ambitious targets, with budgets adjusted to what they spent last year.

Great expectations

While waiting for PNoy’s arrival last August 2, I warned the NEA senior officials: “When PNoy gets impressed by an agency’s performance, he will make hirit, and ask you to deliver earlier than the original schedule.”

I based this on the experience of Sec. Procy Alcala and the Department of Agriculture. When he took over the leadership of the DA in July 2010, he promised to achieve rice self-sufficiency by the end of 2013. There were many skeptics, of course, even in the cabinet. But when the DA delivered on its scheduled targets last year despite the destructive typhoons, PNoy was persuaded that the ambitious target is attainable. And soon after, on more than one occasion, he would ask Sec. Alcala: “Could you not achieve it earlier, before the end of 2013?”

After PNoy delivered his message, the NEA officials smiled knowingly at me. Sure enough, PNoy pledged to complete sitio electrification by the end of his term. Then. after praising the performance of NEA, Edith, and the electric coops, he added: “And if possible, they may even finish this by the beginning of 2016.”

What to do about barking dogs?

Churchill’s quote is simple common sense. Stopping to throw stones at every barking dog can prevent us from reaching our destination. Better focus on our goals and tasks, and not dissipate our energy and time answering critics, much less trying to persuade them. Let the dogs bark.

But there is the all-too-human need to answer criticism, especially unfair criticism. Leaving these unanswered also dissipates energy.

Besides not all dogs limit themselves to barking. There are dogs whose bark is followed by their bite.