The call to public service



Dr. Jun Ynares Dr. Jun Ynares

“Bakit mo pinasok ang isang magulong mundo?”

“Why did you get into such a messy world?”

That was the question many of my classmates in high school and college asked me when they learned I decided to vie for an elective position in government. The year was 2007. I had just filed my certificate of candidacy for the gubernatorial post of the province of Rizal. That was my first attempt at politics and a lot of my friends were worried that I did not know then what I was getting into.

There were people close to me who objected to my decision to run for that post. Among them were my parents, both veterans of public service. Contrary to the belief held by some, both my mother and father were against the idea of me getting into politics. The decision caused arguments, many of which bordered on the vehement.

“Why don’t you stick to the practice of medicine?” one of my parents said. The actual words were in the vernacular and sounded like this: “Bakit hindi ka na lang manggamot, total duktor ka naman?”

I understood then where they were coming from. They knew, based on first-hand experience, that public service is not an easy mission to fulfill. There are other ways of helping people, they pointed out. When they enumerated the other options, I was tempted to reconsider the decision to run for an elective position. Yes, there are other more comfortable, convenient ways to be of service to others. Serving others in public office will be at the bottom of that list.

When I look back to the six years at the Capitol and another six years at the City Hall of Antipolo, I realized that my parents and the many others who warned me about the world of public service, had a point.

Those 12 years, to say the least, taught me what “inconvenient” and “uncomfortable” meant.

Those years showed me the malice that human beings are capable of. On my first year as governor, I experienced black propaganda used against me by powerful business interests. It appeared they felt that my presence at the Rizal Capitol would not advance their financial agenda. I was maligned and vilified. I saw how such interests, with the use of their resources, can twist the truth, mislead the public, and portray themselves as the aggrieved party.

On my first year as mayor of Antipolo City, I went through the harrowing experience of being the target of a well-planned, well-funded assassination plot. As shared in previous columns, the plot could have been easily consummated.

There were at least three instances in 2013 when I stood directly in front of the hired gunmen. Only Divine Intervention had saved me. For some reason, as shared by the widow of one of the hired gunmen, in all three instances, the killers froze and failed to pull the trigger.

I experienced fellow public officials who would say one thing in front of you and another behind your back. I did not mind those instances when the “backstabbing” was all about my personal character. What angered me was when these people whom our common constituents trusted would betray the aspiration of the city we served.

I remember in particular that unfortunate under-handed effort to have Antipolo City declared a Highly Urbanized City.

The move would have created a permanent separation of Antipolo from the Province of Rizal. The separation plot was hidden from stakeholders, carried out in cloak-and-dagger style. When the plot was uncovered, stakeholders of the city discovered that the move would result in major disadvantages to them. It appeared the plot – if successful – would have benefited only the political figures behind the move.

The plot was thwarted but not without a toll on my personal reputation. As usual, the plotters had resorted to character assassination and black propaganda to sell their agenda to the public.

Would experiences such as these cause one to regret the decision to enter the chaotic world of public service?

There were moments when one would pause, count the toll, and come to a tentative conclusion that “it may not have been worth it.”

Then, one realizes that Public Service is a decision.

When one makes a decision, one examines two things -- the opportunities and the risks.

Then, one asks himself whether or not the risks pale in comparison to the opportunities.

Once the decision has been made, one simply keeps his eyes on the goal.

Yes, the world of public service is messy. In that world, one discovers the extent of the malice that human beings are capable of. One sees first-hand the face of betrayal. There, the bid to advance selfish interests leads some to resort to underhanded means to achieve their goals.

It is a chaotic world.

However, the chaos of that world is nothing compared the rewards that come with keeping one’s eyes on the goals of public service.

We will talk about that in our next column.

Have a blessed Sunday, readers!

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