Watching a news item about Rep. Manny Pacquiao last night just reinforced one thing I have observed with how (some of) our current officials view their positions: a part-time job, a title to add to their list of job descriptions, something "else" to do while waiting for what they really would rather be doing.
Which hat is he wearing, again?
(Courtesy of mannypacquiaovideos.com)
In the report I caught from State of the Nation, it seems the representative is currently in Mexico, drumming up interest for his upcoming certain-to-be-a-blockbuster fight with fellow pugilist Juan Manuel Marquez, who hails from there.
Of course, the "Pacman" does not need any more introduction, being a pop culture phenomenon aside from being a world champion in the field of boxing. NBA players know him, Paris Hilton takes time out to watch him live. A friend who's been to Cambodia told me that the driver who took her around said "Oh, Manny Pacman, we know!" when he found out she was from Manila.
This may sound like an incredulous question to the millions of fans who follow him and his boxing matches, but here it is: what on earth was he doing there?
No, I don't have amnesia. I know what he was there for - he is "making some noise" (to use a colloquial phrase) for a professional boxing match.
I want to know how he can do that when he was elected to be the people's representative of Saranggani province.
Call me crazy, but isn't public service a...oh, I don't know...full time job?
I won't go to the fact that many comments over social media are focused on how a fourth match between him and Marquez is already going overboard in milking it for whatever pennies they can get. It's a free world, there's money to be made, and since there is an overwhelming culturally-approved support for a sport that requires you to beat your opponent into a bloody pulp while simultaneously (and hypocritically) teaching our kids that violence is wrong, let's not focus on that.
I won't even play the morality card - we've all seen him go on a religious kick, quoting the Bible, going around proclaiming his piety and having photo-ops with religious connotations, some have even (derisively) called him Pastor Manny - and ask how he can act so morally smug when he has to resort to violence to put food on the table. People in this country obviously have no conflict over him smashing his fist into another man's face and going to a house of worship after to thank a deity for helping him land that decisive punch.
I just want to know this: shouldn't you be a legislator, first and foremost?
Public service is not a "hobby". It's most certainly not something to while away the time. The late Secretary Jesse Robredo was an example of how time consuming this undertaking was, that even his last weekend was spent doing his duties, not even making it for a family event. In his interviews and stories about him, he was often the last to leave a site that had been hit by a calamity, and also often one of the first to arrive "on the scene" to do whatever he could to alleviate the condition of his constituents.
When Saranggani province was hit with floods recently, I was rolling my eyes because Pacquiao was still on a trip in the United States, and of course news organizations followed him around to see what he would do. If I remember correctly, he left his family in the USA so he could - supposedly - do his job as a public servant. But when I opened the television, the first thing he did when he arrived from the USA was...to dance and give away money on his "show", which is part Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko (a longtime running charity show), part That's Entertainment, and all around vehicle for him to stay in touch with the masa.
During that show (I had to witness it for myself) he had a "solemn" moment for his constituents, saying something along the lines of how he cares for them, and that they should just hang on, pray to God, and he would soon be there.
Behind him, onstage, were dancers, bright lights and co-hosts nodding at his every word.
I don't get it: Are you or are you not a public servant?
I find it ethically offensive for public officials to be on television shows, after they constantly complain about how many bills they have to go over, how many deliberations they have to sit through, and how there's really just not enough time to do what they are required to do, what their job entails them to do: serve the public.
While this country is paying his salary - which is a pittance, obviously, from what he earns as a professional boxer and his endorsements - he can just go off for his "training", which takes months, flies off to fight, leaving his duties, and worse, inducing several legislators to also go to the USA to watch his show live.
This belief, this culture that says public service isn't a full time job, one that should't hamper or be a hindrance to other occupations or your social life, isn't isolated to Pacquiao.
For months I have been seeing Sen. Francis Escudero on a morning show (as a co-host to presidential sister Kris Aquino) that comes on daily, and he apparently plans to be on the show until he files his certificate of candidacy, which would make his appearance in any show against the law, once he officially declares himself a candidate. But before that time, there apparently is no imperative (at least, none of the self-induced variety) for him to stop what I also find to be brazen campaigning in advance, giving him an unfair advantage over other people who are running for the same position.
And he also appears over television advertisements for some kind of meat company, a school, and at least thrice, I have seen his face plastered at the back of buses, this time extolling the virtues of some nutritional supplement.
Cong. Lucy Torres Gomez is a recurring judge at some talent show, I do not fail to notice this because she is "proudly" referred to as a legislator (often focusing on how pretty she is) when the host announces the list of judges for the night.
And how can we shut our eyes to the eyesores that we now call epal posters? (Loosely translated as having no shame, or having a thick hide, grabbing credit.) Mayors, governors, legislators, down to the barangay captains, are fighting it out to announce to the public that "they" were "responsible" for a waiting shed, a basketball court, the reblocking of a road, or a dental mission. Lamp posts are designed with the mayor's initials, city seals are more akin to family crests since the father, mother, uncles and children practically comprise all of that city's officials, and even disaster relief goods are plastered with stickers proclaiming that so-and-so was doing this out of "kindness" and "effort".
Guess what? What you are doing runs counter to how Republic Act 6713 dictates public officials should act.
Section 7 of this Act, under "Outside employment and other activities" says that "Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not...(b) engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions."
Since the business of government is never done, I view this as a diplomatic way of saying "you are now a public official, act like one!" No more excuses, no more nebulous ethical situations, no more rationalizations about how your other job isn't interfering with job numero uno: serving the public.
Let's tackle one particular piece of legislation, as a stark example: the Reproductive Health Bill. This bill has been stalled for more than a decade. While you legislators are off fighting in a boxing ring, or judging a talent show, or appearing in a kilig morning gabfest, you have directly allowed this bill to languish with each passing Congress.
Vote on it already! And move on to hundreds, or even thousands of bills that need tackling!
You are on the clock with our money. If you do not wish to be tied down with obligations to the public, by all means, get out of public service. You voluntarily decided to make yourself publicly accountable, this was not forced on you. Do not run for a post and then think that you can just coast along, doing "other things" and think that we will just accept that as a given, or as our political culture, as "ganun na talaga sa atin" (that's how things have been).
Enough. Do not waste our time, money and ultimately our hopes and our very lives while you so cavalierly engage in other personal pursuits while being voted to give public service.
Is asking you to do your job a particularly "high" expectation? If you can't even be bothered to show up at your place of work, what are we even discussing this for?
And now that you know where I'm coming from, tell me again how unreasonable I'm being.
As I was just about to post this, a news item caught my attention, and in lieu of the fact that Pacquiao will be fighting Marquez later this year and possibly Mayweather next year, all I can do is shake my head and find a stack of plates to break: he will be running again.