What is ours is not theirs

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Proclamation of winning senators in 2019 | Photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr./PNA via Wikimedia Creative Commons

The death of a president is preceded by the crash of a Black Hawk utility helicopter with three pilots and three airmen aboard. Now followed by what could be the worst crash of a military aircraft in terms of casualties.

I know the presidential elections are only ten months away, and the ugly head of partisan politics is spraying the environment with its usual poison. But we are still inside a pandemic; millions are jobless, businesses mostly remain slow or down, and hunger stalks tens of millions of poor Filipinos. If there is a time where partisan politics has no place, it is today.

We are in mourning, and we are in crisis. Any administration will be adversely affected under these conditions. We simply are in a bad place. Yet, we must do our best not to attract even more man-made catastrophes to besiege us. Taal volcano is acting up, threatening a major eruption at any time. The rains have started, and typhoons are surely coming.

In a moment when there is a convergence of tragic or difficult developments, the ignoble ramifications of partisanship become grotesque. Multiple negative events demand our sympathy for one another; in fact, they demand our cooperation. Yet, I fear that politicians and their factions, including their trolls, will ride on misery to throw more dirt at one another.

As citizens, I know we cannot avoid seeing, hearing, and reading about them and the ill they speak against each other. Traditional and social media have overwhelming influence because their use is now part of our daily lives. We use cellphones, and now they have become smartphones with applications we need to function more effectively every day. In that same digital space, political partisanship attacks us.

Yet, with all the political bickering while we are suffering one tragedy after another, political rhetoric is not only loud, it is often deceitful and deliberately so. To endear themselves to the voters, politicians roll out a litany of good works that they claim to be responsible for. We are expected to be grateful to them for accomplishing programs and projects that we pay for. They should be thanking us, the people, for giving them the privilege of serving us because we are their employers. Said another way, they are all our employees.

This is what is ours – the power and the resources. This is what is theirs – employment and the attendant obligations. When they say, “WE gave this to you,” that is a lie unless they used their own money.

“If they have to say something in those public notifications, it should be 1) Thank you, fellow Filipinos, and 2) Here is the accounting of your money spent on this project.”

What the elected and appointed officials and employees in government do is return our power and resources in terms of infrastructure like roads and bridges, mass transportation facilities like MRTs, LRTs, air and seaports, various services like security through the AFP and the PNP, social works like the DSWD, the 4Ps, the CCT, health services like the DOH, PhilHealth and government hospitals plus health personnel, agricultural services for farmers and fisherfolks, and everything else that is part of the national budget.

The criticism of posters and billboards or images through other media showing the faces of politicians or bureaucrats is more than a valid one. These images indoctrinate the public with the big lie – an insinuation that they were responsible for giving us something we pay for. If they have to say something in those public notifications, it should be 1) Thank you, fellow Filipinos, and 2) Here is the accounting of your money spent on this project.

By the way, I am not referring only to the Duterte Administration. If it were the only one guilty, I need not say anything because the public will immediately know how deceptive it is. This lie has become the truth because it has been repeated too many times; by now, it sounds like the truth.

It used to be that the way taxes were collected, many poor Filipinos could not rightly claim that they were paying for the expenses of the government. Today, however, that is not true anymore. Even the poorest Filipino who buys or sells something pays taxes whether they like it or not. Some pay less, some more, but everybody pays, courtesy of the VAT.

“It is our power and our resources that we entrust to all public officials. In return, they swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, obey its laws and legal orders and decrees, most important of which is to adhere to the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for public officials and employees.”

Good, then, that everybody pays because everybody becomes the employer of all public officials and employees. Good, then, because everybody can demand that their employees, from the President of the Republic to the lowest ranking employee of the government, account for their obligation.

It is our power and our resources that we entrust to all public officials. In return, they swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, obey its laws and legal orders and decrees, most important of which is to adhere to the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for public officials and employees. In other words, all public servants 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.

Ours is the power and the resources, and theirs is to discharge their duties in compliance with the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards spelled out in Republic Act 6713. We must not surrender our power and resources, while all public servants must not abdicate their sworn obligations.

What is ours is ours. When we deny our nation our power and resources, we are traitors.

What is theirs is theirs. When public officials violate the terms of their employment as decreed by law, they are criminals.

No partisanship, just citizenship and public service.

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