ICYDK, everyone and their mother is running for office. The current list of presidential hopefuls (or at least those who have announced their intentions for running) includes a professional boxer, a former actor, a former fugitive from the law, a Marcos scion, and a religious advisor threatening to run for office (yes, threatening).
While every potential presidential candidate comes from vastly different backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: a desire to “serve” the people. It’s common politician speak when asked about their intentions and goals. “Serving” the people is right up there with “ending poverty” and “stopping corruption.”
From the start of the campaign trail right until the moment the results are announced, everyone declares they’re a public servant. But if you examine the machinations of their campaigns, promises, and track records, they’re all just politicians.
And yes, those are two different things.
What’s in a name (or title)?
The Oxford dictionary defines a politician as “a person who is professionally involved in politics, especially as a holder of or a candidate for an elected office.” The most important thing to note here is the word professionally. Like most doctors, lawyers, and businesspeople, politicking is an inherited occupation, at least in the Philippines.
Entering the Philippine political arena has become a lucrative family business. It’s not uncommon for mayors, vice-mayors, and councilors to have the same last name. It’s even more common for the spouses of elected officials to run in their stead when they’ve passed their term limits.
A public servant—on the other hand—is simply described as “a government official or employee.” But the keyword here is servant. A servant must attend to the needs of their employer (which in this case is us, the people). Public servants are there to make sure that our needs are met and that everything is running smoothly and up to our standards.
Following this logic, we need to elect more public servants instead of politicians.
But you might ask, “What about those who really want to serve the people?” Well, serving the people isn’t a government-exclusive job. Volunteering is serving the people. Donating to causes you believe in is serving the people. Giving back to your community by creating jobs is serving the people.
You don’t have to be an elected official to help others.
Being elected into public office means writing legislation, implementing policies for the good of the country, and making sure that the voices of your constituents are being heard. In a nutshell, it’s a tough job. And a very big deal.
You bear the weight of the needs of the people who have elected you into office—which is something corrupt politicians tend to eschew for their own personal gain. The core of serving in government is serving the people by creating tangible, actionable policies for the benefit of the public.
That’s what being a public servant means.
It’s not just semantics
What we collectively and actively have to remember is we’re not supposed to be electing just “politicians.” We’re supposed to be electing public servants. As a people, we have needs that have been severely neglected by those who currently hold power in the country.
Almost two years into the COVID-19 pan de coco, the demands for mass testing have yet to be answered. We are all either trapped in our own homes or risk our lives by working outside in fear of going hungry. In a corporate setting, this government would have been fired years ago for failing to meet our expectations. But alas, the common employee is held to a different standard.
Again, we need public servants. We have enough politicians.
To the naysayers who claim that it’s just semantics, all I have to say is this: Words hold power. Think of the word “China.” One definition is used to describe fine porcelain. The other is a “threat” to our country’s sovereignty, arguably with the cooperation of some politicians.