The government exists to serve the people. In an ideal world, we want empathetic public servants. These are qualified workers who have their heart in the right place, and they are working in government because they want to help the people. We want public servants with integrity so that they will be able to uphold high personal and professional standards in all circumstances.
Now, there are government agencies that are particularly prone to corruption for many reasons—perhaps due to the complexity and technical nature of regulations and processes, the high discretionary powers of the officials, and the disproportionate financial gains that can be made compared to the risk and cost of getting caught.
The appointment of officials to head sensitive government agencies, particularly those that generate huge revenues critically needed in the country’s economic development, should dovetail with the provisions of Republic Act 6713, or the Rules implementing the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees: “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”
With the thousands of government positions that needed to be filled up, there’s bound to be lapses in the screening process. And there are circumstances where power brokers and influencers would try all the tricks in the book to push for the appointment of specific persons for their own reasons.
I have been fighting all forms of anomalous transactions and illicit trade in the country for over four decades. And it pains me to see people being linked to graft and corruption by a respected former senator, as reported in national newspapers, being named to head an office that was once described as one of the centers of corruption.
I don’t want to draw conclusions based on these news reports. After all, these are all allegations. But I agree in the saying that where there is smoke, there is fire. Here’s my unsolicited advice: Before a person is named to head an office that generates huge revenues for the country, a thorough review of his background should first be made, if only to ensure that we appoint people with unblemished reputation in sensitive positions. Like Caesar’s wife, officials in strategic government agencies that generate revenues for the country must be above suspicion.
Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza is the chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries and Fight Illicit Trade; a broad-based, multisectoral movement intended to protect consumers, safeguard government revenues and shield legitimate industries from the ill effects of smuggling.