Mayor who knows how to accept error

By Alex P. Vidal

“Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed.” – Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

A good leader knows how to acknowledge a mistake and is not ashamed to admit it.

His finest moment is also defined by how he corrects his error and how he is able to reverse the fiasco without showing any morsel of arrogance to camouflage the slip-up.

“Sometimes we make correct decisions, sometimes we make wrong decisions,” Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas admitted, referring to his recent unpopular decision April 21 to lift the ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Iloilo City through an executive order despite the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

Apparently acknowledging that “the buck stops here” (popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman), the city mayor, realizing his “mistake” issued a new EO “reimposing the express prohibition on the sale and consumption of liquor within the city” the next day.

The EO No. 066-A stated: “Effective immediately, the sale and consumption of any form of liquor, alcoholic beverages, or any alcoholic drink containing specific percentage of alcohol by volume or weight, which may be in the form of whisky, brandy, gin, rum, cordial, liquor, cocktail, wine, champagne, vermouth, basi, tuba, saki, ale, stout, and the like shall be absolutely prohibited, unless expressly lifted. Establishments, convenience stores, groceries, sari-sari stores, and other similar businesses who shall violate the prohibition on the sale of liquor, whether directly or indirectly, shall entitle the city government to mete out the appropriate penalties provided under the Iloilo City Tax Code.”

Treñas later told reporters: “Abi ko didto malang sila sa ila sulod balay mainom-inom para mapabilin nga malinong kag matawhay ang syudad, pero I got a report nga kadamo sang insidente natabo,” he said in a press conference. I found it very necessary nga ibalik naton ang ban. I am tasking our punong baragays and the BPLO (Business Permits and Licensing Office) to strictly implement this.”

If he was oozing with pride or intoxicated with arrogance, Treñas would just ignore the backlash of his ill-fated decision to lift the liquor ban.

It showed that the city mayor gamely welcomed the criticism from the media and other sectors that cried foul and lambasted the lifting order.


Mao Zedong also realized his mistake in his disastrous attempt of the “The Great Leap Forward” in 1958 to rapidly industrialize China.

The communist leader banned all private holdings and created communes where peasants who no longer owned their own land would live together in a field and would be forced to work steel instead of farming.

As Mao tried to improve farming through a number of misguided techniques set forth by Trofim Lysenko, each farm would be given a steel furnace and often every peasant in the commune was forced to work long hours.

The techniques decreased grain production but local leaders were under so much pressure that they actually falsely reported large increases in grain production in order to please their superiors. Unfortunately, these numbers were used to determine how much grain was sent to the capital to be used for export, the false numbers meant little if any grain was left to feed the peasants.


These and other polices of the Great Leap Forward are believed to be responsible for the Chinese Famine which resulted in the deaths of millions of Chinese. And 30 to 40 percent of all houses were also destroyed as part of the Great Leap Forward as the materials were needed for their efforts to industrialize.

Even as Mao knew his people were starving, he continued to export grain in order to save face and some even claim he knew millions would die through his program but he thought it was a worthwhile sacrifice. The economy also failed as the period of the Great Leap (1958 – 1961) was the only time between 1953 and 1973 that the economy regressed. Officials who had lied about harvests were publicly executed and Mao took a backseat to government affairs for several years.  Liu Shaoqi said in 1962 that 30 percent of the economic crisis and famine was the result of nature and 70 percent human error.

President John F. Kennedy also realized he was wrong when he pushed with the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba On April 15, 1961, where a squadron of eight B-26 bombers piloted by Cuban exiles roared down a Nicaraguan airstrip on a secret mission.

Kennedy and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hoped the Bay of Pigs Invasion would result in the overthrow of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. But the operation that unfolded over the next five days became one of the greatest military fiascoes in American history.

Like Mao and Kennedy, Treñas accepted he erred like a sportsman who lost a game and won his succeeding matches.

At the end of the day, it’s the winning matches that the people will remember, not the lone defeat which was immediately “avenged” or redeemed.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)