IN locally produced movies, congressmen are often portrayed as the worst kind of public officials. They are depicted not just as arrogant and rude, but worse, as murderers and syndicate leaders.
Sometimes, they are not even addressed as congressmen, but you would know they are because of the special car plate No. 8 used in the films.
In the ongoing Metro Manila Film Festival, one of the movies features a congressman who is behind a ponzi type of investment scheme, while another film shows a philandering lawmaker.
A lawmaker may also be characterized in films as a hoodlum, thug, hooligan, trouble-maker and law-breaker. Governors and mayors are similarly portrayed, but less frequently as congressmen.
That is probably because of the number of high-profile cases and incidents of abuse involving congressmen.
There are almost 300 congressmen in the Philippines, including party-list representatives, 81 governors and at least 1,712 municipalities and cities across the country.
Officials in higher positions are less frequently illustrated as the bad guys in the same way that they are demonized in social media networks.
But just the same, our basic government institutions and the judiciary as well, have a serious image problem. We wouldn’t be seeing this kind of movie portrayals if we don’t witness them happening in real life.
Our public officials, elected or appointed, exhibit this sense of entitlement, that they deserve certain privileges and brag about that. They forget that they are public servants.
More than rejoicing over the victory of Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach to regain for the Philippines the Miss Universe crown after 42 years, public officials, particularly politicians, should draw an important lesson on why they deserve the people’s votes, from the beauty titleholder’s response to the final question on why she deserved to win.
“To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and responsibility,” said Wurtzbach. “I will use my voice to influence the youth. I will shed light on [worthy]causes like HIV… show the world that I am confidently beautiful, with a heart.”
Compare that with the answer of Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez: “I’m positive that I should be the third Miss Universe from my country because I have attributes of a Latin woman, a woman from Colombia, and a Miss Universe.” It was oozing with confidence, but sounded arrogant.
Miss USA Olivia Jordan said: “I should be the next Miss Universe because I’m so driven. I want to work to bring equality toward men and women.”
Wurtzbach’s statement was deeply meaningful. A Miss Universe crown is not just something to be proud of; it is not a symbol of entitlement, but an honor and a responsibility.
She said she wants to show the world that she is “confidently beautiful, with a heart.”
During election campaign periods, almost all politicians claim to have a soft heart for the poor and the homeless, but once elected, they only have their self-interests and the welfare of their families, relatives and friends in mind.
The promises of being honorable turn to dishonorable deeds. The sad reality is that most of them still get re-elected.
Politicians fool voters because we don’t seriously take our right to vote. We don’t take public service as an honor and a privilege. We allow the culture of entitlement to prevail among public servants, instead of the public having that sense of entitlement from those who had sworn to serve them in accordance with law.
Public officers must observe the laws, and not be the first to break them. Public service means self-sacrifice to serve, not a privilege of being served.