Quezon mayor orders employees to ‘smile’ or risk fine, suspension

MULANAY, Quezon (AFP) – Mayor Aristotle Aguirre here has ordered public servants to smile, or risk a fine, as he seeks to improve the level of service provided by the local government.

Aguirre introduced the "smile policy" this month after being sworn into office last month.

The policy must be adopted "while serving the people to give sincerity by showing a feeling of calmness and friendly atmosphere," Aguirre said in an executive order.

Aguirre said the measure was in response to complaints from locals, mostly coconut growers and fishermen, about the unfriendly treatment they received from town hall staff when they went to pay their taxes or seek aid.

Some constituents would walk for an hour from their remote barangays to reach the town hall.

"When they arrive, they're dismayed at the attitude of people they transact with," Aguirre said.

Aguirre, who was an occupational therapist before running for office in the May 9 elections, wants to "change the attitude of our government workers."

"We need to be a business friendly municipality," said Aguirre, son of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre who served in the administration of former President Duterte.

Employees who do not comply with the order could be fined the equivalent of six month's salary or be suspended from their jobs.

Asked how the rule would be enforced when Filipinos are still required to wear a face mask in public, Aguirre said people can sense if someone is sincerely helping them.

"I don't think we'll reach that point," Aguirre said of the possible punishments. "It's just to send good vibes to our employees and constituents."