It is High Time for the President of the Philippines
To be Assisted by Career Service Officers (CSOs)
By Apolinario Villalobos
The Career Service Officers (CSOs), in doing their duties and responsibilities, are bound to the Civil Service guidelines. Their failure could mean suspension, dismissal or imprisonment – after due process. Their positions are supposed to be sanitized, hence, non-political. There is no reason therefore, why they cannot cooperate with any sitting President as it is their duty to do so, for as long as they are within bounds of the guidelines, otherwise, they can be meted appropriate penalties. Compare this with erring politically-appointed agency Heads who just shrug their shoulders with indifference, because they are friends of the President, hence, untouchable and excused from prosecution!
The Career Service Officers are considered “managers” with ample trainings and knowledge on how to run agencies. They also rise from the ranks making them well-versed on all aspects of operations. The government is assured of the best performance possible, because they have their career path to take care of. Any mistake could mean their being sidetracked or worse, removed from the path. In other words, they have reasons to work as best as they can, if they want to grow professionally, thereby, forced to earn their keeps honestly and earnestly.
On the other hand, political appointees, have only their loyalty to the sitting President as credential. It is true that some may have earned their diplomas and certificates of masters and doctorates from reputable colleges and universities here and abroad, but these are just papers for show, to gain favorable impression. They are degree holders but with stagnant knowledge due to lack of practice in actuality, because their involvement is in politics which for them is a more “rewarding” career. There may be some, however, who before their appointment, may be holding “similar job” or with “similar function” in private companies. But the environment in a government agency is very much different from that of a private company, making the “similarities” not a guarantee of acceptable or exemplary performance.
What the nation needs are “honest-to-goodness” workers with accumulated experience and exposure in agency operation. For instance, the Department of Social Welfare needs Social Workers who have been working with it, thereby, exposed to the real situations for a number of years making them fully understand the sentiments and the needs of the socially-deprived people, and not just somebody who became close to the President after several toasts in social gatherings, or somebody who claps the loudest in the middle of his speech.
In some cases, the political appointees, aside from being co-terminus with the appointing President, may also be nurturing an ambition to run for an elective position. When campaign period for election sets in or if the President is approaching the end of his term, they leave their agencies in a quandary due to unclear directions for the continuity of projects, and which is worse, if another political appointee takes over. How about “official turnover” as some sympathizers of the government would ask?….to them I say, “tell that to the marines!”. The government is so dysfunctional that it seems, agencies do not even know what “coordination” means! It is different if the Agency Head is permanent, as project implementation will not change direction, while Presidents come and go. These permanent Career Service Officers are protected by their eligibility, so that no political ignoramus can ever budge them from their position, not even the President…that is, if the Civil Service guidelines shall be followed to the letter.
Lately, very clear circumstances point to the necessity of professionalizing the administration of the Republican government, in order to remove the taint of politics in its administration. Since the Commonwealth period, the administrative system of the Philippines has been founded on traditional “utang na loob” or gratitude and sympathy. The worried American Governor Generals saw and felt this, making them apprehensive and conclude that the Filipinos were not ripe for self-rule yet, at the time. The perpetuated tradition became a habit, and now Filipinos suffer from the result.
As a practice, Presidents chose people who contributed much for their election, to saucy positions in his administration as an “assurance for smooth operation” and continued support. Presidents chose people whom they can trust with cooperation for quick release of funds. Presidents chose pea-brained people to head agencies that are directly involved with the voting base of the population, especially, the poverty-stricken who are always ready to bite dangled morsels of insignificant relief. The practice has nurtured the growth of a deeply-rooted corrupt system that eventually ruined the Filipino culture. What we see today is a country that needs a drastic change to turn it around, for the better.
Personally, as a last resort, I maintain a change in the system from the centralized to federal….