An officer and a gentleman

AS A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven De Guzman

During the inauguration of President Rodrigo Duterte last June 30, 2016, he called on the Philippine National Police, the barangay chairmen, the mayors, governors and all those occupying seats of power and authority, not to lower their guard particularly in the fight against criminality, illegal drugs and corruption. He assured the officials of his unwavering support. He particularly told them, “Abuse your authority, and there will be a hell to pay, for you will have become worse than criminality itself.”

Next week, the President will address the nation in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA). He should give us a comprehensive report on the promises he has made. Yes, one year is not enough but his seat in power for the first year already seems like eternity with the many strong moves he made and cannon balls he has fired. The first year that has come to past was truly exhausting not only for the President but also for the citizens. The President’s bold and unconventional moves have really given us a good whack but it still doesn’t seem enough to put this country in toe.

Has the President been able to bring this country to a higher dimension? I’m pretty sure he will report to us his war on drugs, his fight to stop corruption, the plans to improve our roadways, the trend of our economy and so on and so forth.  Yes, the work seems impossible but more so, because immorality and immodesty in public office prevails. Beyond the bureaucracy, the youth is growing in an environment of confusion and declining values. This is probably why many Filipinos were utterly shocked and still are when they hear the President himself curse a thousand words, make indecent and smutty jokes as if unaffected with public opinion and ridicule.

Well, Mr. President, may I report to you that many of your men, their wives and family members have forgotten ‘ethical conduct’ and proper demeanor. They may seem like saints in front of you but once at your back they are egoistic maniacs. This includes their kabits who prance around like they own the world.

On several occasions, those very people who will attend your SONA all made up and ready for the fashion walk (although restrained following your rules of simplicity) are not really meek and proper as they seem to be. They are loud, discourteous, disrespectful, feeling like kings and queens of their own kingdoms but in reality, they are worse than the loud market vendors and jeepney barkers in the streets.  I have personally witnessed your executive staff and their families talk so loud, change seats a zillion times and walk in front of an audience (unmindful whether they are disturbing the crowd or not) during formal concerts at the PICC (while sitting in the Presidential row). While everyone follows proper courtesy and theater etiquette (with all due respect to the performer and the audience), your staff and their children have been impolite and discourteous. I know this may be the least of your worries but I think in hindsight, you should be very worried about such behavior. It is a disgrace to the country. That image of roughing it and toughing it may not be a good example after all.

Recently, I have encountered wives of newly appointed PNP Directors who throw their weight around telling the people they talk to “Do you know who I am?” They demand things, are unrefined and expect people to give them a red-carpet treatment. Of course, this culture of narcissism has been going on for decades with many government officials, their wives, children and relatives behaving in this shameful manner. Isn’t there a protocol office to teach them good manners and right conduct?  I think every government official must go through such orientation. Let’s not assume they know how to lead with honor, integrity and dignity.

Filipinos have this penchant for name dropping. For instance, when caught violating a traffic rule, it is so easy for the driver or the owner of the vehicle to mention a name like, “I’m the son of General so and so…” or “Don’t you know me? I am the wife of so and so…”. Many times, a calling card of someone in authority will be flashed in the face of an officer.

Mr. President please get a hold of your ‘chosen ones.’ You should be wise enough to know that the trust you have placed on your men may be violated at your expense. You have cabinet secretaries who are allegedly already making deals left and right behind your back. Those who have been newly appointed in government agencies have weakened existing structures that were once very efficient.

If you want many changes to happen you must cleanse the spirit of your people. Train your men to the right kind of leadership, demand for inner transformation and expect them to act with strong moral principles. Choosing them and giving them power is not enough. We need to develop good men with honor and self-respect who will also tell their wives, children and friends to act as good citizens not entitled nincompoops.

Article XI, Section 1 of the Constitution states: 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.

In recent months, the President has appointed several former military men to his Cabinet and to other key government positions. Gen. Eduardo Ano, chief of staff of the AFP and former Philippine Army commander is now the DILG secretary; Roy Cimatu, the new DENR Secretary; National Irrigation Administration head Ricardo Visaya was AFP chief of staff for five months; National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, AFP chief of staff in 2006-2008 and chief of the Presidential Security Group in 2002-2004; and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, a retired Army major general and former head of the Veterans Affairs Office-Philippine Embassy in Washington among others. Other government officers and members of the police force have also been promoted.

Are these appointments good or bad? Do these men and other officials who come from a tradition of military and police training bring honor, loyalty and commitment to the country? We need a few good men who can change the tide of time, a true officer and a gentleman, not those ‘under the sayas’ who are bound to destroy the fabric of this nation.


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