NO ONE can expect reforms in our society unless the meaning of public service is properly apprehended by the people. It is not enough that the president defines and exemplifies it in his behavior. The people must see to it that the entire bureaucracy down to the barangay as well as the people in its neighborhoods, behave accordingly.

In other words, effective reforms must begin with our lives. We must commit ourselves to the task of ensuring that we, our neighbors, and our public servants honor the rule of law and practice the norms of honesty and responsibility in a civilized society.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency  

What is the starting point for everyone? It must be the letter and spirit of the laws. It begins with us because we constitute the community, the source of all government authority. We are the ones who hire the public servants. So it remains for us to put them in their proper place. How? -- by reminding them that:

(1) they are SERVANTS selected by our community for a special purpose;

(2) they are HIRED HANDS, paid to perform tasks in their job description;

(3) it is their duty TO REPORT to us on their performance; and

(4) they have no business resenting us when we express dissatisfaction over their perceived infraction, shortcoming, or failure to perform.

The leaders we elect are our servants. It’s why they’re called “public servants.” This applies to leaders of both the administration and the opposition. They are accountable to us. They must serve according to our expectations and in the manner prescribed by law.

Unless we learn how to hold them accountable for performance and sanction them for bad habits and wrong practices, governance, local or higher, will become unmanageable. Then corruption, like a disease, will metastasize throughout the system -- horizontally among local governments and vertically as it spirals to the upper levels.

But if we are irresponsible, we’ll end up with a mayor who acts as if he’s the Boss instead of the servant. It worsens when we let him draw allowances for tasks in his job description that he does not perform. It spreads when we let him avail of extra perks related to his reporting duties although he doesn’t bother to report. And it becomes institutionalized when we re-elect him, or when we let a slacker of a vice mayor who is AWOL throughout his term become mayor all over again.