IF the Constitution needs to be changed, the provisions on qualifications for public office should get the priority.
Recent events have shown us that we have people both in elective and appointive positions whose qualifications do not meet the requirements and tests that lowly employees undergo.
But then, that seems like an impossible dream when those who would tinker with the Constitution are the same people who have proven to us how they use the immense power they have, that is, for their personal and partisan interests.
Can we expect people in government to waive confidentiality in their income tax payments and bank deposits? I don’t think so. How can we when they don’t even declare their rightful incomes, business interests, and assets?
How can we expect them to serve the public good while in public office when they can’t even be loyal to their spouses and be responsible parents to their children?
These problems did not spring up yesterday or last year. These have been with us for a very long time. It is just that the problems have been getting worse. People who promise to do better while courting votes turn out to be doing the opposite and end up improving only their personal lives, forgetting those whom they promised to serve.
We get this kind of public officials because we elect them into office. Then those we elect into office appoint people of their kind. Rarely do we get public officials who place public service over personal interest.
They may be qualified to seek public office as far as age, citizenship and residency are concerned. But shouldn’t the qualifications be far more stringent than those for low-salaried jobs like security guards, utility aides, and factory workers?
Keep in mind that these public officials are entrusted with millions, or billions, of pesos in taxpayers’ money. That’s why they are called public servants. If we don’t demand good service from them and we tolerate their incompetence and indiscretions, we’re doomed.
I have always advocated for resp0nsible voting—choosing the best qualified for public office based on the performance record and character of the candidate, never on popularity or wealth.
I believe that we’d have good choices of candidates if we reject the grandstanders and incompetents who distribute dole-outs, and choose instead those who may not have much money to burn but are burning the midnight oil at work.
The defense of Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag that we should be forgiving of President Duterte’s sexist remarks and jokes about extramarital affairs because “we voted for a President, we did not vote for a priest, we did not vote for a saint” is unacceptable. Banaag must have run out of excuses to justify her existence in the bureaucracy.
The least we could ask of our public officials is to be discreet instead of flaunting their extra-marital affairs, bringing their mistresses along as part of an official entourage, and even taking their personal problems into the public arena.
How can we expect government employees to behave and perform well if the highest-ranking officials could not give a damn about ethical conduct and standards they ought to follow under Republic Act 6713?
If we were discerning about the people we have chosen to lead us, we would not have an assistant secretary like Lorraine Badoy at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) who says “get the f— out of my way” to critics of the administration she serves.
We would not have had the fourth highest-ranking government official and third in the line of succession to the President like Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez if we had chosen congressmen who put the public interest over their partisan and personal interest of getting a share in the spoils, and access to funds for their pet projects.
The next elections will continue to produce incompetents, unqualified, and immoral leaders if we continue to shrug off their indiscretions and say they’re normal human beings who commit mistakes.
Public office demands higher standards of morality and responsibility. We ordinary mortals should demand it of them.
Remember, public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives. That is in the Constitution, under Article XI, Section 1.
If the public officers cannot meet this standard of public service, it’s about time the other constitutional provisions spelling out the qualifications for specific positions are toughened.