As the last entry on pet peeves, I’m saving the most disturbing entry today.
Atty Jose C. Sison wrote on May 21, 2012 in the Philippine Star, about “Delicadeza”. This single Spanish word that literally means “delicateness; regard and sensitivity for others whether in feelings, action or operation; tact” are apt descriptions for trustworthiness of a public official.
Every sitting president begins his/her term with a noble goal of “eliminating or even lessening graft and corruption in government”. Analysts point out that this utopian goal is more achievable in highly developed countries rather than the developing ones.
They say that public trust is vital in the success of any government institution. As they say, “public office is a public trust”.
Sison goes on to describing delicadeza in the Filipino culture.
…it has been given a nobler meaning associated with holding a public office or position of authority and trust. It is actually a virtue possessed in the olden days by those in position of trust and authority which tells them that when mere impropriety or irregularity has been perceived in their actions while in office, it is more honourable to resign and relinquish their position than to hold on to it; or when doubts arise about their objectives and impartiality on certain matters they are called upon to decide, affirm or deny, they should inhibit themselves from doing so.
Before World War II, our parents used to tell us that most officials and employees of the government had the keen sense of delicadeza while performing their jobs. Any slightest hint or taint of irregularity or conduct unbecoming of their position was enough to compel them to irrevocably resign. They never put conditions to their resignations with words like “only the President can tell me to resign because I serve at the pleasure of the President.” They knew very well that their boss was the people and not the President.
After gaining our independence, delicadeza slowly faded as well. Government service slowly became a breeding ground for enrichment and entitlement. It became a business enterprise for those in public office.
When people in government abuse their office and destroy the very institution they work for, it makes it more difficult for future people in government to work for improving the gains of any institution. There is erosion of trust and confidence and rebuilding what has been destroyed is a gargantuan task that takes a toll on the economy and the people.
The recent “conflict of interest” by the office a presidential appointee regarding a security agency is a prime example of what delicadeza is NOT.
Justifying a deal with the various government offices for a family business when you are a government official leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The reasoning that at the end of the day, the company this government official owns will only make a pittance is fraught with ethical dilemma. The family corporation still earns and it is taxpayers money that pays for the said deal. Whether it was a good deal or not in favor of the government is not the point here. Of course you can always argue about it’s legality. While the law can be interpreted in various ways to justify the deal, delicadeza dictates that it was still an unethical one.
This is not about what is legally right to justify a legitimate business for a security agency. If it’s such a good business, the owners don’t need to deal with government agencies because as the incorporators claim, they only make very little when they deal with government.
It is not only about the signatory of the deal. Or their relatives for that matter. It’s how their position can potentially “influence” the deal.
The justification sends a bad precedent among those in public office because it’s”legally” being twisted to accommodate whoever is in power. It is disappointing that people in the Administration see nothing wrong with the deal. It is not a matter of being above board. Parting with the largesse in government contracts when you or your family member has a powerful position in government is impropriety. Unethical. And lacks delicadeza.
But yeah. That thing called delicadeza is very lacking these days. To say that they lack decency is an understatement. Why they stay in government and build dynasties speaks of the financial remuneration being in public office has. Many of our government officials have generations of their relatives entrenched in office for the wrong reasons.
When institutions are politicised for the benefit of financial gains, we know that the government has failed us as a people. (And I speak for all previous heads of government as well.)
Only when delicadeza is brought back to our system, can we move forward as a nation. Otherwise, every changing of the guards will bring us back to square one.