ARRESTS of government officials and employees involved in unlawful activities taint the institutions they serve. Even if they still have to face a trial, the public servants exposed doing monkey business could not escape judgment in the court of public sentiment.

The arrest of Cebu City Hall employee Kara Marie Arcilla-Bargamento for allegedly extorting at least P100,000 each from Carbon vendors in a quid pro quo deal also degrades the government institution in the public eyes.

Granted she acted alone, Arcilla-Bargamento’s actions can affect other Cebu City Hall workers who are in good standing. These City Hall employees could cry foul if they are caught in the flood of the public’s sweeping generalization that all government employees and leaders are corrupt, and they always find ways to generate illicit money.

Despite the 1987 Constitution’s call for public servants to live modest lives, there are workers who still live in questionable lifestyles.

Arcilla-Bargamento, caught by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Central Visayas, has been charged with violation of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

At least 50 vendors had transacted with Arcilla-Bargamento, Cebu City Market Supervisor Marigen Diano and Probe (Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement) officer-in-charge Raquel Arce said in a sworn statement.

The NBI said Arcilla-Bargamento, in a video clip presented by complainants, could be seen and heard demanding payment for stall rights from a vendor who was heard trying to negotiate to lower the amount to P80,000, a plea denied by Bargamento.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has ordered an internal investigation on the alleged illegal activities of Arcilla-Bargamento, saying her actions “might be the tip of the iceberg” and he believes that somebody else is behind her.

A few meters from Cebu City Hall is the Mactan Channel. There is no iceberg as it is only found in cold-climate waters.

Mayor Rama’s tip-of-the-iceberg statement is an idiom in English language. A small part of something (such as a problem) that is seen or known about when there is a much larger part that is not seen or known about is what “tip of the iceberg” means (Merriam-Webster).

In Cebu and other parts of the Philippines, there is an “iceberg” that is difficult to melt: the culture of corruption.