The Need for Restraint and Caution among Bureaucrats

Our words also don’t occur in a vacuum. These often bear a significant impact on our associations- to our families and organizations we work for. 

While freedom of expression and speech are guaranteed under the Philippine Constitution, government bureaucrats are always subject to a higher standard of conduct especially when expressing views and opinions.

Controversial statements of bureaucrats from key government agencies against accused sympathizers of left-leaning organizations have recently caught the ire of the general public.

Weeks ago, MMDA Spokesperson Celine Pialago was severely criticized for calling supporters of activist mother Reina Nasino "overly dramatic" in reaction to words of support expressed towards the latter during the internment of her baby. Nasino's sympathizers expressed outrage towards the supposed “inhumane” treatment of police officers to Nacino during the baby’s funeral.

Over a week ago, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. of the  National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) came under fire from several netizens after issuing several warnings to celebrities for their support to women's group Gabriela and other groups claimed to have connections to the New People's Army (NPA). Many claim that the General was red tagging these celebrities while the General vehemently denies doing so.

For years in office, current NYC Commissioner Ronald Cardema has also taken shots at several academic institutions for allowing NPA recruitment in their respective campuses using non-NPA named front organizations.

The legitimacy of these claims should be investigated by the appropriate institutions. However, personalities or purported sympathizers should not be subjected to trial by publicity. Much more, government bureaucrats should very well be aware of the principle of presumption of innocence which is fundamental to the application of the rule of law.

There are serious responsibilities that go along with a government position, particularly in the conduct of one’s self in public. No less than Civil Service Commissioner Atty. Aileen Lizada reminded bureaucrats to follow the norms and conduct expected of public officials under Section 4 of Republic Act 6713- the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Social media has also become a self-correcting tool for baseless and unfounded accusations. Furthermore, netizens have become more circumspect of legitimate and irresponsible opinions particularly on key issues of the day. Hence, it is only but proper for government bureaucrats to observe prior restraint and caution in releasing opinions or perspectives in the public space. The views of a person as a talking head of a government agency and the views of a person as an individual are often indistinguishable especially for those not well-versed in the practice of communications 

Our words also don’t occur in a vacuum. These often bear a significant impact on our associations- to our families and organizations we work for.  Hence, acts such as rumor mongering, gossiping and hurling tirades also reflect the values and principles that our associations stand for.

The bottomline is--- recklessness and tactlessness have no place in government service. Period!

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About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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