What civil service means

Has anyone ever encountered snooty and arrogant government personnel? By “snooty” I mean “ma-ere” or displaying a condescending disposition toward you. I am certain many of you have, as I myself have. Bureaucrats or government personnel, regardless of rank or office, are obliged to make your transaction smooth and productive.

The transacting public should feel that, at the end of their visit to the government office on any day, the concern must have been attended to with courtesy. However, there is such a thing as the interrupted processing of your request because some necessary papers are lacking. This, however, is the exception, not the general rule in public service.

Efficient civil service is what the civil service system has been mandated to implement. The civil service system in our country traces its roots way back to September 1900 through Act No. 5 of the Second Philippine Commission during the Commonwealth era. The title alone of that initial law (it has undergone amendments over the years) tells us what it was supposed to be essentially: “An Act for the Establishment and Maintenance of an Efficient and Honest Civil Service in the Philippines.”

I emphasize three words in that old title: efficiency, honest, and service. They just about describe what true civil service is.

So much good is accomplished when government offices do their duty. When government bureaucrats do that, efficiency is promoted. Both the public and the government waste no time.

In some countries, people need not even physically visit the government office they are transacting with, unless in exceptional cases where they are required to appear personally. They just do their dealings through email, the post office and private couriers. We have started doing this to some extent, but we need to promote this practice further.

Those countries are able to do this with optimal effect (resulting in high trust ratings for themselves coming from their own citizens) because their government offices try continuously to minimize the papers they require you to attach to your transactions, and that incidentally is what is meant by fighting red tape whenever and however you can.

The practice of using email, the post office or private couriers also contributes to fewer anomalies because of the reduced contact between government functionaries and the public who need their intervention.

Aside from efficiency, the civil service system is meant to provide HONEST service to the public. Honesty is learned from early childhood and within the family. At an early age, the basic pillars of honesty must have been established so that there is something to build on.

For adults, education in honesty can continue through the implementation of ethical standards applicable to their respective offices, and which in our country the head of the department is responsible for — under the Rules Implementing the Code of Conduct and Ethical Rules for Public Officials and Employees — to ensure are taught to all within the department.

It is my belief that all government offices in all branches should regularly teach value formation and development to their personnel. This is the kind of formation designed to foster and maintain honesty among civil servants and must include incentives for being honest, such as recognition, promotion and possibly financial incentives.

Efficiency and honesty are the twin bastions that define what “service” in civil service means. True, during the Commonwealth, and still true today.

Those who apply for government positions these days – and I understand there are many of them – should remember that public office is a call to serve and not merely a stable job with a reasonable salary.

Public service is demanding but fulfilling if done with integrity. A public served well by the government develops trust in it, and this is good for the country and its people.

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