(delivered by CSC Chairman Francisco T. Duque III during the 2nd Corporate Governance Month Good Governance Forum
held July 31, 2014 at DBP Building, Makati City)

DBP President and CEO Gil A. Buenaventura, officials and staff of the Development Bank of the Philippines, fellow lingkod bayani, good morning! On behalf of the Civil Service Commission, let me congratulate you for spearheading the 2nd Corporate Governance Month and for holding this Good Governance Forum.

INTRODUCTION OF CSC

Good governance is almost always a contentious topic. The way public institutions manage public affairs and public resources is something that draws controversy and criticism. This also concerns us to the very core. Why? As the premiere human resource institution of the Philippine bureaucracy, our work cuts across human resource management, organization development, national development, and anti-corruption.

Historically, the CSC was created to uphold a merit-based recruitment system. We should take this in the context of reversing the growing culture of corruption in the colonial government, where positions could be bought and officials could be bribed. This means only the best and the brightest should be in the government service. The rationale behind this is that excellent human resource equals excellent public service. From a bureau in the early 1900s to a Commission in the 1950s and onwards, the CSC has assumed many roles in the broad range of HR functions, all in a bid to rid the bureaucracy of corrupt and mediocre practices.

Today, CSC functions as the premiere human resource institution of the Philippine government. It also acts as adviser to the President on human resource management of the Philippine government. As provided under the 1987 Constitution, we are mandated to “establish a career service, adopt measures to promote morale, efficiency, integrity, responsiveness, and courtesy in the civil service, strengthen the merit and rewards system, integrate all human resource development programs for all levels and ranks, and institutionalize a management climate conducive to public accountability.”

Your theme, Ethics, Integrity, and Accountability for Good Governance, is always a timely topic for the CSC. I find it relevant because we are always in the thick of fighting corruption. It is an uphill climb, as proven by what we see and hear in the media, in our offices, on the streets. It seems curbing corruption is a mammoth task that cannot be neatly resolved like one would a simple mathematical equation.

The web of corruption has different layers, many tentacles, and may spread like a virus if not contained. If we all do our little part, however, we create opportunities to nip corrupt practices in the bud. People say it is a hopeless case, but I say it is a work in progress. Let us not be disheartened by criticism. Instead, let us take our jobs seriously, and be responsible and accountable in fighting corruption.

Throughout my talk, let me share with you what the CSC has learned in upholding ethics, integrity, and accountability for good governance.

ETHICS

Ethics has been defined in a variety of ways. In general, it is identified as “the branch of philosophy that deals with issues of right and wrong in human affairs”. The University of Sta. Clara’s academic journal, Issues in Ethics, says that ethics “refers to well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtue”.

In the context of Philippine government, the highest standards of ethics are embodied in Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. RA 6713 also bears the eight (8) norms of conduct – commitment to public interest, professionalism, justness and sincerity, political neutrality, responsiveness to the public, nationalism and patriotism, commitment to democracy, and simple living. These norms of conduct govern the principle of ethics for the lingkod bayani who works in an environment where corruption thrives. The same norms promote the idea that even in the smallest of matters, a lingkod bayani should be able to withstand temptation, reject mediocrity, and protect his or her integrity.

Administrative and disciplinary cases stem from failure to uphold ethical standards. A public servant who does not spend all paid hours in official work is already stealing from the Filipino people. Someone who does not report an anomalous transaction may have just allowed something worse to happen. Sexual harassment in the workplace is also unethical and wrong. Today, we seem to be more and more lax on what we consider as unethical.

It is alright to overlook things sometimes, or to let things pass. We tend to say, OK lang ‘yan, lahat naman ginagawa ‘yan. But as they say, we become what we repeatedly do. Habits soon become lifestyles. By not being vigilant enough, we become participants in maintaining an unethical culture. In government, it is important to care enough so as to stop or stem unethical practices before they become ingrained or systemic. The more we “let things pass”, the more ethical standards get lowered.

 

"As public officials and employees, we have the duty of protecting not only our integrity but also that of the government. We owe it to the Filipino people to have integrity. It means we cannot be bribed, bought, swayed, coerced, or made to do something that does not adhere to the highest moral standards."

 

INTEGRITY

Integrity, also known as moral uprightness and strong adherence to honesty and fairness, is closely linked to ethics. Integrity also refers to wholeness and completeness. This is an important definition and well worth thinking over. We hear expressions such as “the integrity of the exam” or the “the integrity of the document”, which means something remains untainted, and was not tampered with or altered. When a person commits something unethical, in a sense he or she also loses his or her wholeness. There is damage already done to a person’s character.

As much as possible, we would want to maintain our integrity. We cannot afford to do something that would damage it. Some people may think that they maintain their integrity by keeping their wrongdoings a secret. Exposed or not, however, they have already damaged their integrity. After all, integrity involves doing the right thing even if nobody sees you.

As public officials and employees, we have the duty of protecting not only our integrity but also that of the government. We owe it to the Filipino people to have integrity. It means we cannot be bribed, bought, swayed, coerced, or made to do something that does not adhere to the highest moral standards.

As the saying goes, “people may doubt what you say but they will always believe what you do.” Leading hotel management executive, Maria R. Zec, expounds on this and advises people, “Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions.”

Our government may be measured by the history of its words and actions. This is how our people gauge our integrity. I hope all of us here will be part of the best moments of our government’s history – moments that champion integrity instead of destroy it. That is a challenge that I hope all of us will be eager to accept.

ACCOUNTABILITY

We always hear the phrase “public office is a public trust”. Ang ibig sabihin nito, may pananagutan tayo sa taumbayan. Lahat ng ginagawa natin, ginagastos natin, isinasa-katuparan natin ay pananagutan natin sa taumbayan. Sabi nga sa Panunumpa ng Lingkod Bayan: “Ang bawat sandali ay ituturing kong gintong butil na gagawin kong kapaki-pakinabang. Lagi kong isasaalang-alang ang interes ng nakararami bago ang sarili kong kapakanan.”

Working in government is different because we are not only looking out for ourselves or for our organization. Our focus is delivering services for the benefit of our main clientele—the Filipino people. We are primarily here to serve, and not to be served.

Kapag pinag-uusapan ang accountability in the context of public service, laging tutumbukin ang public funds. This is especially a touchy topic in a country like ours kung saan mas nakararami ang namumuhay below poverty line, at mataas pa ang buwis at presyo ng mga bilihin.

Ang isyu ng korupsyon ay damang-dama ng ordinaryong Pilipino sa kanyang bulsa. Kaya napakahalagang maging accountable sa pamamahala ng pondong ipinagka-katiwala sa atin. Ito ay galing sa taumbayan, at nararapat lamang na maibalik sa kanila in the form of public service excellence. DBP is an expert in this discourse, especially since it is a development bank and addresses issues in poverty and social inequality. That is why I trust that it is a financial institution that practices a great amount of accountability.

Needless to say, we will always be answerable to our own actions. When that time comes, I hope we will be able to account for what we have done truthfully and straightforwardly.

 

"The web of corruption has different layers, many tentacles, and may spread like a virus if not contained. If we all do our little part, however, we create opportunities to nip corrupt practices in the bud."

 

TRANSLATING ETHICS, INTEGRITY, ACCOUNTABILITY INTO CSC’S WORK

Now that I have briefly discussed ethics, integrity, and accountability, let me share with you what the CSC has been doing to create a working environment that promotes these three principles.

HR INITIATIVES

The basic idea we have at the CSC is that good people equals good governance. Hence, our focus now is on strategic human resource and organization development or HR/OD, and through this we are able to provide technical assistance and developmental interventions for the optimum performance of government agencies.

After streamlining our programs, we have introduced five (5) HR initiatives. We have the Program to Institutionalize Meritocracy and Excellence in Human Resource Management or PRIME-HRM that aims to upgrade the maturity level of HR systems in government agencies to make them at par with global HR standards. We also have the Competency-Based Recruitment and Qualification System or CBRQS that gauges both applicants and employees not just on the basis of their education, experience, training, and eligibility, but on a set of required competencies as well.

Through the Leadership and Coaching Program or LCP that we have, we adopt the coaching approach to help our human resource get over hurdles and challenges in their career. Meanwhile, the Competency-Based Learning and Development Program or CBLDP directly addresses the problem of competency gaps through trainings and HR interventions, preparing individuals as their agencies upgrade their maturity level. Lastly, we have the Strategic Performance Management System or SPMS – a performance evaluation system that links individual performance to organizational performance.

The CSC’s HR initiatives are meant to help both individual and organization reach their maximum potential. By focusing on HR/OD interventions, we are fulfilling our role as the Philippine government’s premier HR institution and helping agencies nationwide to efficiently reach their goals.

 

"Kaya binabantayan naming maigi ang mga frontline services. Naniniwala akong hindi na kailangan pang ipaliwanag ang konsepto ng “good governance” sa taumbayan – mas mahalagang maramdaman nila ito sa sarili nila, kahit mula lamang sa pagkuha ng lisensya o pasaporte, sa pagbayad ng government fees, o sa pakikipag-usap sa mga lingkod bayan."

 

ANTI-RED TAPE ACT OR ARTA OF 2007

Aside from offering the HR initiatives, we have also been running several programs that address other problems in good governance. The CSC spearheads the implementation of Republic Act No. 9485, better known as the Anti-Red Tape Act or ARTA. Under this law, we battle red tape by checking government service offices and evaluating how fast and efficient they are in responding to the needs of their clients. ARTA requires government agencies to display their Citizen’s Charter—a document that details the process flow of frontline transactions as well as the estimated time and fees involved. It also requires the display of Anti-Fixer Campaign materials as well as the establishment of the Public Assistance and Complaints Desk or PACD.

We remain vigilant in ensuring compliance with the law through monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. One is the ARTA Watch – our surprise visit to government service offices nationwide to check how their frontline transactions are faring. I, together with Commissioners Robert S. Martinez and Nieves L. Osorio, have led different ARTA Watch teams in doing surprise visits in Manila, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. We talk to clients and get their opinion or comment about the quality of service given them. ARTA Watch reports have helped us greatly in determining the areas for improvement in terms of frontline services.

We also have the ARTA Report Card Survey or RCS through which we rank government service offices as Excellent, Outstanding, Good, Acceptable, or Fail based on their performance in frontline transactions and level of compliance with ARTA provisions. Those with Excellent ratings are recognized with the Citizen Satisfaction Center Seal of Excellence award after validation, while those who failed will be subjected to the Service Delivery Excellence Program or SDEP—the CSC’s intervention to help agencies improve their frontline services.

Since frontline transactions are the very basic touchpoint of government and its citizens, we consider this a most important site to focus on. This is where the people’s impression of government is cemented. Here is where the principles of ethics, accountability, and integrity are played out. More importantly, this is where we have the best opportunity to stop corruption.

Kaya binabantayan naming maigi ang mga frontline services. Naniniwala akong hindi na kailangan pang ipaliwanag ang konsepto ng “good governance” sa taumbayan – mas mahalagang maramdaman nila ito sa sarili nila, kahit mula lamang sa pagkuha ng lisensya o pasaporte, sa pagbayad ng government fees, o sa pakikipag-usap sa mga lingkod bayan.

DISCIPLINE (CASES)

We also focus on discipline and rewards as a means to mold a competent and highly motivated workforce. As a quasi-judicial body, the CSC hears administrative cases. We have committed to deciding 70% of the administrative cases within 40 days from the time the case is ripe for resolution. We have exceeded this target in 2013, and we would like to meet or even surpass our target of 95% by 2015. This means disciplinary actions are efficiently imposed on erring officials and employees. As justice is served, ethics, integrity, and accountability are preserved.

We also released the new Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth or SALN form after a series of consultations with various government offices and employee groups. The new form is simpler in order to avoid confusion, and there are corresponding guidelines on how one should fill out the form. We continue to recognize the importance of the SALN as a tool to deter corruption in government. Thus, we deem it necessary to continue fine-tuning the form to make filling it out easier, but still having the needed “alarm” indicators to determine illegally acquired wealth of public officials and employees. We also want it simplified because we don’t want token compliance among public officials and employees.

REWARDS (HAP/PLBi)

Aside from promoting discipline, we continue to enhance our recognition programs. We have the Honor Awards Program or HAP, under which we hold the annual Search for Outstanding Public Officials and Employees. The award categories under HAP are the highest recognition that state workers can get throughout their career. The awards are conferred by the President of the Republic at the Malacañan Palace.

We also have the Pamanang Lingkod Bayan or PLBi program, through which we honor those who have offered their lives for the service of the Filipino people. More than just recognizing the many heroic and inspiring men and women in government who personify the spirit of public service, the Commission also sees the need to acknowledge those civilian public servants who risked their lives, died while in the pursuit of their respective functions, or were killed in the line of duty. Under the PLBi, we are able to give cash assistance and scholarship grants to their loved ones left behind.

Through these programs, we are able to take care of the 1.4 million-strong government workforce, guiding and encouraging them to pursue public service excellence at all costs.

INSPIRING DBP TO DO THE SAME/CLOSING

As the country’s premiere development financial institution, the Development Bank of the Philippines is at the forefront of safeguarding the country’s economic standing. Since development banking is especially needed in developing countries like ours, you have the impetus for exercising ethics, integrity, and accountability in the name of good governance.

Handling development financing, treasury, trust, trade, investment, and deposits may open up opportunities to engage in less than moral activities, but remember that your actions will always echo in the performance of the institution, and in the country’s economic growth.

I have explained in bold strokes how we uphold the principles of good governance. However, this is not something that only one institution can shoulder. If it takes a whole army to fan the flames of corruption, then it will also take a whole army to quench it. Kaagapay namin ang bawat ahensya, kasama na ang DBP, sa pagtaguyod ng isang matatag, tapat, at epektibong gobyerno na mapagkakatiwalaan ng taumbayan. I hope everyone here in corporate governance will likewise be committed in this goal.

I am indeed grateful for the opportunity you have given me to speak with you today and share with you the CSC’s experience in promoting ethics, integrity, and accountability for good governance. I look forward to hearing wonderful achievements of the DBP in the future, but most importantly, how it has committed to good governance. Thank you and mabuhay ang DBP!