Political debts and good governance
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - July 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Every elected public official usually lives two different lives - one as true public official mandated to enforce the law, and another as a politician, sworn to please his followers. As an official, he is sworn to conduct himself in office with utmost honesty, integrity and honor. As a politician, he is supposed to make all his supporters happy and pay for all his political debts. How does he maintain a balance between these two polarities?

One of the most difficult problems that local officials face nowadays, and all the time, is indeed how to maintain a viable and decent balance between the pressures to pay for political debts, on the one hand, and the need to uphold integrity, honesty and excellence in local government administration, on the other hand. Perhaps, an excellent public official is one who finishes his term and delivered all the required services well without any graft or corruption charge successfully lodged against him. And an outstanding politician is one who successfully makes all his political patrons happy without cheating on contracts and committing any shenanigan in appointments, procurement and governance.

Well, to do be able to navigate along the murky waters of politics and good governance is easier said than done. To successfully maneuver along the hazy avenues of day-to-day decision-making, trying very hard to be honest and faithful to the public trust, and at the same time, also attempting to please political patrons and campaign contributors, all require wisdom, strong character, and acumen in the affairs of men and government. Most public officials are determined to give honor to their positions by doing only what is good and what is right. But they are vulnerable to pressures, temptations, demands and varying public opinions.

The main culprit is political debts. All elected and even appointed public officials owe a lot of people a lot of political debts. The campaign contributors, mostly businessmen and contractors would now demand some favored treatment in the interpretation and implementation of laws. Big taipan would demand special consideration in their licenses and permits. Big contractors would demand to rig the bidding processes in order to corner juicy government contracts. Influential political leaders in the barangays and wards would demand appointments to choice posts, even if many of them are not qualified.

How could the governor and the city mayor say no to a giant business conglomerate which contributed a large bundle of cash for the campaign kitty? How could they reject the bids of giant contractors who provided substantial resources to assure success in the last political campaign? How could he say no to an unqualified applicant for job, when he is recommended by a political leader who tilted the balance between victory and defeat in the last elections? How could he resist pressures and uphold values of merit over political pull?

The answers lie in the conscience of an honest public official: Is his position more important than his integrity? Each day, nay, each minute, every public official must grapple with his conscience. In matters of procedures, he may dance with the music. But in matters of principles, he must stand like a rock. If he is able to surmount and win over all pressures, and insist on what is right, that really is what matters most. But then again, that is easier said than done.

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