THE CURSE OF PUBLIC OFFICE
Public office is a calling. It is meant that way. It is a period of sacrifice and not just that simple act of privilege denial but one which demands heroic renunciation. It means depriving oneself of self interest, of perks and advantages, of offering oneself instead at the altar of public servitude. That is the traditional view and a classic one at that.
There are two ways by which one acquires this calling. One, is getting an appointment in the civil or military service. Another, through election. In both instances, personal interest must be at the bottom of one’s consideration. The principal and the foremost concern is service to the people. Falling short on this matter is betrayal and treachery already. To be honest is at the core and a central element , the substance of one’s function in his elective or appointive position. Enriching oneself or being dishonest through sheer cheating or oppression while in office is a crime. As a matter of fact, there are laws imposing penalties on those found liable for misconduct by government workers. This is to emphasize that public service or even work in government is not an ordinary profession.
To emphasize further that government service is strictly a task exclusive for nobility, the Supreme Court intoned, “The rationale for the rule is that if a government officer or employee is dishonest or is guilty of oppression or grave misconduct, even if said defects of character are not connected with his office, they affect his right to continue in office.
“Government cannot tolerate in its service a dishonest official, even if he performs his duties correctly and well, because by reason of his government position, he is given more and ample opportunity to commit acts of dishonesty against his fellow men even against offices and entities of the government other than the office where he is employed; and by reason of his office, he enjoys and possesses a certain influence and power which renders the victims of his grave misconduct, oppression and dishonesty less disposed and prepared to resist and to counteract his evil acts and actuations.
“The private life of an employee cannot be segregated from his public life. Dishonesty inevitably reflects on the fitness of the officer or employee to continue in office and the discipline and morale of the service. “ (Remolana v. Civil Service Commission)
Public office is like living in a glass house. Everybody can see everything whatever the inhabitant is doing. It is literally acting on the stage where every movement is seen and scrutinized, interpreted and studied. There is virtually no privacy in said discipline. Unless one wanted to give and dedicate life to a principled leadership, public office should be shunned.
Yet many are lured, fortunes are even pawned just to be appointed/elected, just to belong to that rank where power, influence, fame emanates. That is what public office exudes in the first place. It is a brilliant glow; an apparition that the people, the subjects are awed to behold. For those who have tasted and experienced it, their minds are already beclouded and their beliefs are deformed. They are more than willing to kill or destroy more than they would offer their life to build and score. For them it becomes a birthright, something to be passed on, a matter to be handed over. It is, for some, an end in itself.
Just like wealth and education, just like fortune and luck, they are worthy to possess but also a curse if mishandled. It is like walking on the tight rope several feet up above. The performer can stun his audience with his commitment but can shock them if he falls down due to blunder. Only fools survive and heroes most of the time bear such a destiny.