Sunday, February 28, 2021

‘Public service is a public trust’


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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.– The Constitution, Article XI, Section 1

Too often we don’t even try. That repeat of the opening line in this writer’s Sunday column applies not just to the Beatitudes of holiness expounded then, but also to the above-quoted tenets of public service set out in the Constitution.

Amid rampant sleaze and misgovernance, from record-setting smuggling, crime and pork barrel under President Benigno Aquino 3rd (see “Is Aquino Corrupt?” at The Manila Times at, to “laglag-bala,” commuter train, combat chopper, and even license plate scandals, it’s easy to think that people in government are utter incompetents, grafters or both.

Thankfully, the annual Honor Awards of the Civil Service Commission (CSC), held yesterday in Malacañang, remind Filipinos who happen to read about it that many public servants do live and perform by the first section of the Constitution’s Article XI, titled “Accountability of Public Officers.”

Last Sunday and this Tuesday and Thursday, this column recounts the expert, diligent and honest work of the 2015 crop of Lingkod Bayani, “servant-heroes” extolled in the CSC awards as exemplars for all 1.3 million public servants from barangay to Palace.

If readers feel like turning to another story, probably one featuring some government scam or fiasco, that’s one reason why public servants lose motivation to serve with excellence, integrity, and commitment: nil public and media interest in excellent, honest and committed officials and personnel.


Must heroes die before we notice?
When was the last or only time one read, heard or watched a feature about exemplary personages or acts of integrity, expertise, compassion, justice, diligence, and heroism in the government?

Maybe it was about the Fallen 44 of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, left to be massacred in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in late January. Or the late Jesse Robredo, extolled after his plane crash in 2013 or recently, as a backdrop to his wife Lenny’s vice-presidential candidacy under the ruling Liberal Party.

It seems upright and heroic public servants have to die or get caught up in politics for press and public to pay attention to them. That can hardly encourage excellence in government; nor would it inspire others in the civil service to emulate good work or the youth to aspire for careers in honest, competent service to the nation.

Hence, people and entities wanting to see more responsiveness, integrity, competence, efficiency, compassion, and other hallmarks of exemplary public service, should find ways to bring to wider public attention, especially among students pondering their future, the Honor Awardees cited here and others in the CSC archives. The last thing their exploits deserve is to be filed away and forgotten in some rusting cabinet.

The CSC gives three awards. Dangal ng Bayan recognizes public servants of exceptional integrity, self-sacrifice, and simple living, as espoused by the lines from the Constitution quoted in the beginning. Several were cited in the Sunday article, “Believe it or not, there are saints in government”.

Among them: a truck driver who keeps thinking of ways to save money for the National Food Authority, and a Tacloban fire officer who reported to duty on her day off at the height of Supertyphoon Yolanda, and even after her own two very young children died and their home sank in the storm surge.

Even as the Ombudsman fired six state auditors for improperly accepting bonuses from the Local Water Utilities Administration they were monitoring, Dangal ng Bayan honored Maria Daisy Bercede of COA’s Region 7 office in Cebu City for her fearless crusade against misspending.

And while scandals repeatedly rocked the National Bilibid Prisons, jail officer Vivencio Claros of Rodriguez town in Rizal Province is recognized for various feeding, learning, and rehabilitation programs for inmates. Plus braving monsoon rains in 2012 to save families threatened by floods.

How a few benefit thousands
The Presidential Lingkod Bayan Awardees are lauded for achievements that yield widespread benefits well beyond their localities. Several scientists and technicians are awarded this year for discoveries, innovations and other accomplishments which enhance the productivity and living standards of rural communities.

Teodora Balangcod, biology professor at the University of the Philippines Baguio campus, developed research projects for Benguet communities. Top scientist Arsenio Ella of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute developed technologies for maximum resin output and imparted know-how to indigenous peoples and local communities nationwide.

Visayas State University professor Robert Guarte rolled out extension projects and developed agri-industrial equipment, benefiting various communities and speeding up rehabilitation in areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Another agriculture professor, Jonar Yago of Nueva Vizcaya State University, found the right fungicides to stop major outbreaks, saving the livelihoods and crops of thousands of farmers.

Non-scientists also brought gains to countryside sectors. Fisheries center chief Alma Dickson boosted the fishing industry by posting Filipinos as fisheries observers on Philippine-flagged vessels. Negros Occidental provincial agriculturist Dina Genzola managed the Negros First Universal Crop Insurance Program, which helped indemnify more than 11,000 farmers at total of P23 million for crop failure and calamities.

Several medical personnel also won Presidential Lingkod Bayan Awards. As executive director of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Julius Lecciones upgrade and expanded the PCMC, benefiting thousands of boys and girls from all over the country treated at its top-ranked facility.

Lamer Saber did the same for the Amai Pakpak Medical Center he heads in Marawi City, “transforming a government-run medical center into a modern, state-of-the-art medical facility meeting international standards,” according to his award citation. And Abra medical technologist Lilibeth Martin established a one-stop malaria treatment center, which helped rid the province of the killer disease.

If the foregoing and yet incomplete awards listing is impressive, there is a third batch, the CSC Pag-asa Awardees, recognized for contributions enhancing their units and agencies. They will be covered on Thursday.

Even better news: these awards have been given for decades, so the exemplars run into hundreds, every story worthy of telling for fellow civil servants and young people to be inspired, and for Filipinos to see that our government can work.

So in this election season, spare a thought for the Dangal ng Bayan, Presidential Lingkod Bayan, and CSC Pag-asa Awardees. They have already delivered the topnotch public service that headline-hogging politicos promise in exchange for your vote.



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