Ubiquitous Public Servant

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We often hear the two words, “Public servant,” and associated to people working in government.

But what is a public servant, to begin with?

Republic Act No. 6713, Section 3, Paragraph B, it states “Public officials, includes elective and appointive officials and employees, permanent or temporary, whether in the career or non-career service, including military and police personnel, whether or not they receive compensation, regardless of amount.”

To be candid about it, to apply, pass stringent requirements and become an employee in government offers a stable and rewarding job.

Most comforting is, working in government offers security of tenure and retirement pay to boot. Some even say the retirement pay is far larger, compared to those who retire after working in the private sector.

Bear in mind, however, that to work in government, there is the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards that governs every employee.

Let’s accept this: There are scoundrels and scalawags able to enter government service, who in the first place, should not be there.

It could, for this reason, be why there are in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 1 populace often skeptical of government workers and enjoy bashing them.

Of the many adjectives attached to government workers, what tops them all is the word “rude,” or discourteous or impolite way in dealing with people.

Yuk! But why these cynics couldn’t cast their glance the other way and see that there are, too, scoundrels and scalawags working in the private sector, who in the first place should not be there too.

For there are those working in the private sector, who, too, are often rude.

As to who gets first prize in this rude category between the two sectors maybe settled by a fact-finding committee.

Ah Kong queried about this last Sunday to a group of beautiful women in Baguio who called him up, invited him to a cafe and asked for a friendly chat.

“Hindi ko sinusuportahan ang sinumang nagtra-trabaho sa gobyerno, pero bakit di n’yo naman ibaling ang tingin n’yo sa kabilang bangir?” was the exact question in broken Tagalog which Ah stated.

Selina Macadaig, in her thirties, spoke for her group and said, “A, basta. Kagaya ng pagmamahal namin sa aming mga asawa, ayaw naming ibaling ang tingin namin sa iba na kabilang bangir!”

Just that time as Selina spoke, a group of handsome men entered the café. Immediately, the eyes of the women followed the men, their mouths saying, “Ooooh! Aaaah, ang gu-gwapo nila!”

Ah nearly fell off his seat hearing the women regurgitating Oh and aah, when in the first place they stated earlier, “Kagaya ng pagmamahal namin sa aming mga asawa, ayaw naming ibaling ang tingin namin sa iba. . .”

Still, Ah brought the ladies attention to their topic.

He said public servants are people who serve us, not serve politicians, not even the Constitution – but the people.

Ah Kong holds a theory that to remove the civil service out of government, functions of a given community can collapse.

Sometimes, civil servants are the butt of jokes.

Laram Villanueva, 67, from Baguio City, friend of Ah and knowing Ah previously worked in government for more than two decades, often joked, “Know what Ah, after a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil.”

Now, Ah remembers the late and fiery senator Defensor Santiago, who, even while in government, said, “kapag tumataas ang posisyon mo sa gobyerno, lumilit ang balls mo.”

Cripes! Can anybody interpret what Santiago meant?

But thank Santiago, who, when she was still with us, came to the defense of the Filipino civil servants when she said:

“If the Philippines suffers from a culture of corruption, it’s not because the millions of Filipinos are corrupt. On the contrary, the greater majority are decent, God-fearing law abiding men and women.”

“Even in the civil service, the greater majority of employees are honest and willing to work hard. The problem is that they belong to the silent majority.”

Section 2 of the same Act, says, among others, “Public officials and employees shall at all times be accountable to the people and shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence, and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives and uphold public interest over personal interest.”

Indeed, public interest over personal interest” is not thinking less of yourself, but it’s thinking of yourself less. That’s humbleness.

Take the word “accountability,” and profoundly put across by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong when he recently said:

“Good governance is about accountability. In the previous senate hearings, I have come to appreciate this even more. When we make a mistake, we should always own up to this mistake. Accepting our mistakes is the guarantee of growth and learning, whereas blaming is the guarantee of failure.”

Or RA 6713’s Policy of the two words, “modest lives.” Another word for modest is humble.

For it talks about being humble civil servant. IN CAR and Region 1, we see a lot of humble civil servants.

Magalong said, ““I learned that to be an authentic leader, to be a servant leader, is to put the needs of others above my own, to give value to humility instead of authority, truth instead of falsehood, grace instead of demands.”

So it ‘twas in Baguio City when Mayor Magalong, assessing his 100 days in office, said, “In truth, despite all the plans set in motion, despite all the funding we are to receive, despite all the champion teams created 100 days is not enough and I cannot do it alone. All that we have accomplished is only the beginning. And if I don’t have your support, then I don’t have anything.”

Mayor Magalong was simply saying if he doesn’t have the Baguio people as his bulwark, he is up against a stonewall, a signature of humble strength from a person who simply wants to be called “Public Servant.”

Who was it who said, “Humility or humbleness is nothing but the disappearance of self that God is all?”

Well, let’s try to find truth in such statement when the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) Station 8 shared with Ah, a police officer’s prayer of plea:

“Lord, I ask for courage – courage to face and conquer my own fears. Courage to take me where others will not go. I ask strength. Strength of body to protect others. I ask for dedication. Dedication to my job, to do it well. Dedication to my community to keep it safe. Give me Lord, concern for those who trust me. And please Lord. Through it all, be at my side.”

How often Cordillerans and lowlanders love to have heroes in their midst. The glaring truth is, soldiers, firemen and police officers don’t want to become heroes.

They simply want to be the normal women and men doing their jobs. In in doing so, they merely want to be supported, be understood that they, too, are vulnerable. Ponder at part of the police prayer which says, “be at my side.”

Death in the line of duty of say, a fireman, soldier or police officer will always cause ripple effect across a community. Every officer who falls represents one less person in a family in a community circle of families.

In the community circle, parents, spouses and children breath a heavy sigh, a sigh filled with grief for the fallen.

A sigh hiding a smaller one coming from the lips of families in the community circle saying, “Thank God, it wasn’t mine, this time.”

Maybe we take a look why they merely want to be supported and understood, best exemplified by the plea of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 1, based in San Fernand, La Union, Philippine National Police (PNP), the plea they shared with Ah:

Here it is:

“Ako ay isang pulis, tagapagpatupad ng batas. Makadiyos, Makabayan. Makatao. Makakalikasan.”

“Minsan ginagawang panakot sa mga bata. Kinukutya ng karamihan. Sinasabing buwaya. At kung ano pang masasakit na salita. Pero OK lang yun, kasi pulis ako. Handang tanggapin anumang masakit na salita at ibato sa organisasyon naming dahil paglingkod sa bayan ang aming hangarin.”

“Isa rin po pala akong ama at isang asawa. May malambing na anak at mapagmahal na asawa. Na laging iniisip kasi bihira lang makasama. Pero OK lang yun. Sabi nga nila duty first. Para sa bayan.”

“Ako’y anak ng mapag-arugang ina. Na bihira ko ring madalaw dahil walang sapat na oras. Mas mahalaga kasi ang mabantayan ang katahimikan ng lipunan.”

“Siya nga po pala, tao po ako hindi superhero. Hindi kasing lakas ni Superman at walang superpowers para gawin ang lahat ng bagay. Isa po akong pulis at tao po ako. Nasasaktan. Nasusugatan at nabibigo. Pero handang maging superhero. Para sa kapayapaan ng buong Pilipinas.”

“Saktan n’yo man kami, hamakin at kutyain, sa bandang huli, handa pa rin naming i-alay ang iisang buhay naming para sa inyong kaligtasan.”

“Mahal namin kayo at di naming kayo pababayaan. Dahil ito ang aming sinumpaang tungkulin.”

“Ang karapatang pantao ay para rin sa kapulisan. Dahil tao rin po kami.”

You read their plea and it brings heart-rending echoes of the Fallen 44, Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

And we wonder why a lot in our midst hate so much the guts of police officers.

So, he-he, next time we are badly in need of help, suffice to say, we call not, a police officer, but a criminal!

And let allow the lowly civil servants who can share their weakness to make them vulnerable. And in making themselves vulnerable, they find there is no absurdity in being called that “mapakumbaba nga agtrab-trabaho iti gobyerno.”

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