What is public service? What does it mean to be a public servant? And what would qualify one to be in such a position?
Reading an article in today’s Sunday paper, one would think that a major qualification to be a public servant is to be rich. Or maybe to be rich is one of the benefits of being a public servant. Doesn’t that sound a bit askew to the concept of public service? Not that I am discriminating against fortune and public office. It’s just that today’s article was really an eye opener for me. I guess I’ve known that most public officials in the high throngs of bureaucracy are rich but I had no idea that they were this rich.
The article I’m referring to is Delon Porcalla’s front page entry about the number of millionaires in Congress featured in The Philippine’s Star Sunday Edition (May 24, 2009). He said that only 4 of the 238 House members are non-millionaires. Imagine! That means that some of the country’s richest citizens are in the House of Representatives. Now, I have nothing against them being rich. I know that for one to have the machineries to run in the elections, one needs the money – and a large amount at that – to do so.
Yet what I am wondering about is how some representatives get to increase their net worth by millions while they are on office. Like Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo (Pampanga), whose net worth of P96.7M in 2007 rose to P99.2M in 2008 – a staggering P2.5M increase! Another example is Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo (Cam. Sur) whose net worth of P83.7M in 2007 rose to P89M in 2008 – a more staggering increase of P5.3M! Now how could they be increasing their worth by that amount? Perhaps they have businesses and other legitimate income sources just like the richest representative, billionaire Cynthia Villar (Las Piñas) whose source of income is her real-estate lands in various locations in Parañaque and Las Piñas. But one cannot help but wonder how these officials really get all their staggering wealth.
Again I have nothing against their wealth, but I also cannot help but wonder what would happen to society, particularly their constituents if they could somehow shower their wealth to the less priviledged members of their respective districts. I do not mean for them to simply spoonfeed their money to these impoverised residents, rather I believe they can create employment oppurtunities for these people – with the aid of their “hard-earned” wealth – and improve lives other than their own.
I even wonder where they really spend such enourmous amounts of money. On luxury cars and impressive mansions, perhaps. Or maybe on grand vacations and royal treatments at various high-end establishments. In short – on an engrande or high maintenance life style. Wouldn’t we all profit more if our public servants were just like us – simple common folk who would desire for nothing more than the improvement of the common public’s life?
Wouldn’t it be a better service if our public officials can just content themselves with a simple car model, a modest house and a comfortable lifestyle while serving the general public? Again I have nothing against mansions, luxury cars and high maintenance living. Believe me, I’ve also dreamed of such luxuries in life and I’ve also longed for them. Given the chance, I would live such a life. But if I were a public official, I wouldn’t dare lead such a lifestyle while I am in public office when I can see the people I vowed to serve surviving on less than a P100 per day while my P100 is not even enough for a cup of coffee. I will not dare live such a lifestyle if I can see the kid of my constituent going to school in tattered slippers while I go to work in the latest and most expensive SUV model.
Point is: I have promised this people a better lifestyle. They look up to me to improve their conditions. Does it help them any that they can see me getting richer, enjoying a pompous lifestyle while they experience poverty day-in day-out without seemingly experiencing the economic revival that I had promised when I assumed office?
They already have the wealthy showbiz personalities of our country as their source of escape into the world of the rich and famous. Must I join the ranks of those showbiz personnas? No wonder our political scene had resembled the entertainment industry. Politicians have ceased to be public servants but had become entertainers whose grand lifestyles serve as a fantasy world of escape for impoverished citizens. But unlike the showbiz stars, these officials had candidly asked for the votes of the masses and had embarked on their gullibility to bring about their own selfish whims.
Pardon my gripe about the riches of these public servants. I myself had dreamed of serving as a public official. I knew that I would need to get rich – immensely – if I wanted to pay for the rigors of the election process and if I wanted people to really know me. But I had never dreamed of using my wealth to improve just my own way of living. I had dreamt of using my wealth to improve society by providing jobs, giving out scholarships and improving communities. I had actually considered using my own wealth to finance most public projects by donating my money to rehabilitation of barangay health centers or local community schools.
I know it is a very socialistic and utopian idea – to wish for a society wherein no one is that rich and no one is that poor. Wherein everyone would be middle class because the rich share what they have with the poor. And I know this is how communistic or socialistic governments operate. And I do not really wish for such a type of society because of all the horrors and flaws I’ve heard about it.
But wouldn’t it be grand if we would still retain our diplomacy yet also have a socialistic/communistic society in terms of resources.
I haven’t taken up any PolSci course in my entire college years and my knowledge of such political systems is very limited. And I know that I might be speaking opinions on things I do not really know about.
But the bottomline is: I wish our public servants wouldn’t gloat their riches when they are well aware that they have impoverished constituents who had voted them in office in the hope that it will be them who would experience, even just a small fraction of increase – just a few hundred pesos perhaps, in their net worth before the year is over. That is if they are not head deep in debt already.