The Senate's Santa?
(Courtesy of manilatimes.net)
That Senate President Enrile reportedly gave out 30 million pesos, sourced from the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) budget, for his Christmas 'gifts' to senators, is hardly surprising to anyone who is a student of politics.
(See http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/01/09/13/enrile-admits-p30m-xmas-gift-senators for more details.)
From where I stand, it is merely symptomatic of what ails anyone who enters the government to work: we are now ignorant - willfully or because "everyone's doing it as a matter of culture" - of what it means to be in public service.
Enrile has defended his action by saying that his "gift-giving" is provided for in the Constitution. But, given the more-than-usual passing reactions of those who have come across the news item, particularly from netizens, it's apparent that it does not sit well and is not well received by the public, constitutionality notwithstanding.
It may be time to go back to basics - as the Sound of Music tells us, let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
For example, anyone who identifies her/his occupation as "teacher" would be naturally burdened with a question like "what will I teach today?" You may think it odd, funny, or even silly, that I had to point that out, and you're maybe thinking "hello! Teacher nga eh! Of course it will be a concern for that person as to what will be taught, duh!"
So let me direct this next segment to those who are in government and public service, to ask themselves this question everytime they conduct themselves in an official capacity: how does my action serve the public?
Indeed, a very good place to start.
The reason it's called public service is plain to anyone outside of it, but apparently not too obvious once you are entrenched in the system. Reading the reactions of netizens, there is a theme of "ang kapal! Pera namin yan!" prevailing, and rightfully so: public money is to be used for public purposes.
It should benefit us, the people. Period. After all, we pay the taxes, it's only right to expect it to work for us. Applying that principle, we can then ask Sen. Enrile: "How does giving 30 million pesos of MOOE to your fellow senators serve the public?"
Where is the benefit for everyone?
How does this translate to public goods or services?
And using this question, it becomes easy for anyone who is "untainted" - thinking of going into public service just now - to weigh any potential decision or action.
If I use public funds to put up my family name as the city's official seal, or embose my name over the sidewalk, or put up tarpaulin signs that say this project is because of me, how does it serve the public?
If I use a wang-wang to beat the traffic, or, since that is currently frowned upon, get a bunch of motorcycle-riding police officers in front of my publicly provided luxury sedan, to wave other motorists to get out of the way while I am on the road, how does it serve the public?
If I use the cover and excuse of law (as if laws are dead and written in stone) to propagate and further actions I wouldn't want my own mother and children to know, how does it serve the public?
Once that question can be answered with a straight face, and with no moral compunctions, only then should you proceed. It stems from a simple impetus - why - and if your answer is nowhere near the public's interest, then you should take another course of action or consider (to put it diplomatically) leaving something that requires you to serve the public as a matter of label and course.
In the Sound of Music, Maria won the heart of the Captain because she stood her ground, insisted on what she knew to be right, and made the audience sing along with her in the process.
If only Sen. Enrile could hear the virulent cacophony of violent reactions in cyberspace over what we feel with his gift-giving, he would not have responded the way he did. But then, even in the impeachment trial, he was seen regularly adjusting his hearing aid.
It may be time to sing louder.