“Public office is a public trust”

Such is the tenet to be held in high regard and in full implementation by employees of the Philippine government. Supposedly.

It is even put down in the letters of the Philippine law that one would expect such people to fully adhere to that mandate. More specifically, it is written in Section 1, Article 11 of the Philippine Constitution:

Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.

I won’t pretend to have read the full letter of that particular provision so I really can’t say this conclusively but it appears to me that this tenet is simply disregarded by just about every public servant because there are no punishments and/or penalties attached to violating that code of behavior.

Why do I say so?

Well, last time I checked, government employees are some of the worst people you will ever have to transact with. I have so many such awful encounters my list will be quite long if I had to write them all down.

For instance, I once had to get a copy of my sister’s birth certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO). To be absolutely fair, their system has already improved dramatically since I first had to get a similar document from their office.

If only the employees could have improved just as well.

I still had to wait in line as usual but I was glad that my sister’s name was called after a relatively short while later. So far, the experience was going well. Someone just had to ruin it for them.

Before they give you the papers you requested, you will have to sign off some sheets. While I was doing that signing, I haven’t even halfway near finished when the guy inside ripped off the pen, took the paper I was trying to sign, shoved the documents to my direction, and stormed off further inside leaving me and those behind me quite shocked.

It is but a simple act and I understand that I am way younger than that man but that was simply beyond disrespectful. Discourteous. Impolite. Impatient. I could totally go on.

I’m pretty sure the ones behind me would have agreed if I said those out loud.

I didn’t, of course. I just left the line without even a single world. Thankfully, God has blessed me with so much self-control.

And that was just one of them. I’ve had lots of similar experiences with other government employees.

Perhaps, if they attached a penalty clause to that mandate, every government employee would start following it. Until that happens, expect bad service anytime you try and deal with government employees.

What about you, have you had any similar experiences? Perhaps, you have had the opposite experience. I’d love to hear one.

In defense of law

My foray into criminology has properly introduced me into a subject I previously deemed uninteresting: law. I used to simply dismiss this particular subject as the epitome of boring.

stack of law booksPerhaps, it is those gigantic books I imagine law students to be reading. They are very huge.

Seriously, their books and bound in a very formalistic manner: in plain color with the letters embedded in. It’s not something that screams, “Pick me up!” It’s the kind of books that you’ll just pass by in a book store simply because of an utter lack of appeal.

I have two of them in my shelf. One, despite being small by comparison, managed to be about an inch thick. It’s hard cover, in plain black, and the titles are written in gold. The other one, about three times as thick, is not so different besides the cover being maroon.

The print doesn’t help them either. It’s as basic as can be, in simple black serif.

Books the like of which are the sort which I would never have picked up, opened and read. I used to not even read books let alone a law book.

Then, in comes criminology and I started taking such courses as Criminal Law.

I would never have imagined myself actually wanting to read through the black book outside of class hours but I did. For one reason alone: the law is one of the trickiest thing there is.

I have already said once before that the law isn’t perfect and that no humanly-devised system has ever achieved anything close. Whatever system humans have devised, there is bound to be a loophole here, a confusing precept here, a baffling provision somewhere.

And that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

The job of a good defense lawyer is not all about making his/her client look right but also finding such confounding statements in the letter of the law and using it in their favor.

It’s almost so vicious an idea but it’s the truth – that which I have learned in the few courses I’ve had with law.

I know I said in the title that this is in defense of the law and this almost doesn’t sound like it. Of course, nowhere does it specify which kind of defense I am to give neither does it say to whom I am voicing my defense. And that is what makes it so great.