Pride in our ordinary public servants

Published January 16, 2020, 12:00 AM

by Dean Mel Sta. Maria



Atty. Mel Sta. Maria
Dean Mel Sta. Maria

Talking about our president, the cabinet secretaries, many congressmen/women, and  senators  may  not at all be inspiring during  crisis. Most of them have their biases, polarizing by nature, and , at times, having  something negative and even useless things to    say  against each other and, yes,  even against the people whom they should be serving.  Neither is any discussion of  Supreme Court magistrates useful. They are irrelevant  during periods of  actual disturbance. Some of their decisions are disturbing enough.

Instead, focus  must be on  our  professional civil service employees who toil every day to make government effectively function. They are  true public servants. No epal,  show-offs, and  grandstanding, but  dedicatedly fulfilling their jobs. Even without any prodding  from high officials, they  work hard always conscious that  what they do is a sacred vocation, not a source of power  and privilege. With clarity of purpose, they perform.

Taal’s eruption  glued us to our radios, televisions, and social media for news. Who did we see and hear? Our government meteorologists, volcanologist, seismologists, health officers, engineers, and others. They were in the forefront, painstakingly explaining in detail  what was done, being done and will be done.

For example, after the eruption,  Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division Chief Ma. Antonia Bornas   thoroughly  briefed the media on Taal’s history of previous eruptions, what the seismologists noticed  the past months such as the frequent earthquakes, cracking of the soil, and prevalent smell of sulfur. She made  well thought-of statements and warnings without unduly alarming us but still relaying the situation’s seriousness. When some reporters  asked irrelevant questions, she  quickly  responded politely that Philvoc’s  job is monitoring and assessing the explosive situation,  then relaying valuable findings to the proper authorities, and, later,  to the public at large. Time was not wasted. It  was reassuring to see Bornas intelligently explaining the situation  without relying on “codigos,” unlike other  high officials who  seemed to relish the limelight dishing out information but , obviously,devoid of any depth as shown by their constant reading from   notes supplied to them.

It was also very enlightening to hear National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesperson  Mark Timbal explain in my  Radyo5 noontime program  the coordination among  the Local Government Units,  Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), and the NDRRMC so that the public will know the flow of responsibilities. That was important. Also, Undersecretary of Health Eric Domingo assured the public of the sufficiency of face masks in the worse — hit places and the readiness of public hospitals to treat victims.  Their utterances were comforting.

President Duterte’s public utterance, on the other hand,  was not informative at all. Regarding the ash-fall that poses health hazards to the public,  he reportedly bragged: “Kainin ko pa ‘yang ash-fall na ‘yan. Pati ‘yang Taal na ‘yan ihian ko ‘yan. Bwisit na ‘yan” —-a cockiness not at all uplifting to the morale of the most injuriously affected.

When the US-Iran conflict threatened the  lives of our Overseas  Filipino Workers (OFW), our consuls and members of their staff in the affected regions immediately  went to work, alerting them to take precautionary measures and, later, the possibility for repatriation.  Their dedication to serve our OFWs was simply automatic. Our diplomats worked under pressure with the calm composure demanded by the alarming developments. Because the  situation was violently unfolding, there was clearly great effort to avert panic.

Meantime, in the Philippines, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin was  in the news again. He confronted the vociferous but peaceful protesters  demanding better treatment and protection for our OFWs. He shouted “O sige bugbugin mo ko,” then  again angrily bellowed “OUT” followed by hand movements as if to say “come to me” in a challenging and provocative way.  The chief of our diplomats  was not at all diplomatic, defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as   “employing tact and conciliation especially in situations of stress.” His combative stance invited violence and a potentially explosive situation.  Fortunately, the protesters’  self-control and non-abrasive mind-set prevented such eventuality.  Nothing can justify violence  against  the non-violent exercise of our citizens’ constitutional  right“to peaceably  assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances”.

Indeed, we can be proud of our public servants in crisis situations. They are exemplars of public service worthy of emulation especially by their superiors with disgusting  demeanors discordant with the dignity of their high offices. President Duterte  can also learn one or two things from them in making his comments on  dire  situations demanding  the highest  sensitivity.