Call for genuine public service | Inquirer Opinion

Call for genuine public service

/ 05:03 AM January 15, 2023

Perhaps anticipating long queues at the airport terminals with vacationing Filipinos returning from their holidays, an official from the immigration bureau had one piece of advice to travelers this week: arrive four to five hours earlier to avoid missing their flights. This gives off the same energy as that official from the previous administration who infamously advised public commuters to leave the house early to avoid traffic. Again, it is always the ordinary Juan who is expected to make sacrifices and the necessary adjustments in the face of poor public service.

Long airport queues? Arrive hours ahead. Traffic? Leave the house early. Expensive onions? Learn to live without them. But until when should Filipinos endure?

It has all been about highlighting Filipino “diskarte” instead of acknowledging the problems and finding long-term solutions, not band-aid ones, to improve the quality of public service that the government owes to taxpayers. Section 2 of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees states: “It is the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in public service. Public officials and employees shall at all times be accountable to the people and 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.”


At the very least, there should be an efficient plan to move people, not an unsustainable “Libreng Sakay” program to address the transport crisis that costs the government billions. A P1.3 billion budget has been allocated for the program this year, but transport advocates have been pushing for permanent reforms—not dole-outs like free rides that depend on budget allocations—including proper implementation of service contracting with bus operators that could help them lower fares, maintain operations, and improve services. There is no need to tell the public to leave their homes early to make it to their appointments on time because they have long been doing that—and yet, according to a 2018 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, traffic congestion in Metro Manila costs the country P3.5 billion a day and, by 2035, as much as P5.4 billion a day if interventions are not made.


The problem with those who make the decisions appears to be the lack of foresight and empathy for the sectors that bear the brunt. Take the handling of the onion shortage. The Department of Agriculture is poised to import 22,000 metric tons of onions to help supply the gap. But the country’s onion farmers, who have suffered losses over the last two years due to pests and weather disturbances, are appealing to the government to wait for the turnout of local harvests next week before making a decision. More than this stop-gap importation measure, the government needs to help the agriculture sector raise its productivity through innovation and distribution channels, protect its interests, and, more crucially, break the cartels that manipulate the market. The solution is never to import when local supply can be tapped, or tell consumers that they can do without onions.

The solution does not lie either in extending one-time “ayuda” and subjecting Filipinos to the indignity of begging for basic necessities and long queues that only reflect the government’s inefficiency and detachment—even insensitivity—to the plight of the ordinary citizen. The long queues at the airport terminals, for one, are due to the bottlenecks that usually occur at the security checks or check-in counters, and at immigration, which sees many empty counters despite the heavy volume of passengers. The Bureau of Immigration reported that 120,000 passengers passed through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport daily from Dec. 1 to 28. It has been keenly aware of the situation at the terminals, especially during peak season, and yet passengers still ended up missing their flights or having to make adjustments from their end to avoid any hassle. Why is it, many have asked, that the burden falls on the passengers instead of the government filling up all the immigration desks and ensuring that the officers conduct their tasks more professionally and efficiently?

Why is it that the Filipino public always has to endure and suffer from bad public service? Have government officials and employees been so emboldened because high-profile cases of graft and corruption, or abuse of authority, have gone nowhere? If Filipinos could expect higher standards and demand excellent performance from beauty pageant contestants, why can’t they do the same with public officials? It is time that the public, which pays taxes to fund the government’s operations, demands what is rightfully due them: efficient and genuine public service.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

TAGS: Editorial, public service

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Fearless views on the news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.