Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Speechwriter legally liable

The controversial speech writer of the President, Maria Carmen Mislang (an assistant secretary), can be held liable for violating Republic Act No. 6713, known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for public officials.

While being part of a presidential delegation to Vietnam recently, the presidential speech writer made unsavory, embarrassing comments on her Twitter account by saying the Vietnam “wine sucks”.
As if the presidential visit was also a mate-hunting spree, the speech writer also publicly commented that there are no good looking men in Vietnam.
Worse, as if the Manila traffic is not as bad, Mislang comment that being in the motorcycle-laden streets of Vietnam is one of the easiest ways to die.
As a Filipino, I am very embarrassed because this was made by an official who was part of a high level delegation representing the entire Filipino nation.
When the president goes abroad on official visit, there is no moment that he or any of his officials are on private time.
This is because it is the taxpayers’ money, our hard-earned money, that is being used to fund their trip.

The law’s policy

The statement of policy of the Republic Act No. 6713 is very clear:
“It is the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in public service. Public officials and employees shall at all times be accountable to the people and shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence, and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives, and uphold public interest over personal interest.”
The policy is self-explanatory

Norms of conduct

Public officials are held to observe certain norms while in office.

Commitment to public service

Section 4 (a) requires commitment to public service. It states:
“Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. All government resources and powers of their respective offices must be employed and used efficiently, effectively, honestly and economically, particularly to avoid wastage in public funds and revenues.”
While part of the presidential delegation, did the speechwriter uphold public interest?
Did she use government resources (taxpayers’ money) efficiently, effectively?
If the answers are not “yes” then she is liable under this provision.

Section 4(a) of the law requires, utmost professionalism.
“Public officials and employees shall perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill. They shall enter public service with utmost devotion and dedication to duty. They shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.”
While in Vietnam is the speech writer discharge her duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill?
Did she comport herself with utmost devotion and dedication to duty?
Again, if the answers to these questions are not “yes”, then there is a violation of the law.

Justness, sincerity

Section 4© requires public officials to observe justness and sincerity:
“Public officials and employees shall remain true to the people at all times. They must act with justness and sincerity and shall not discriminate against anyone, especially the poor and the underprivileged. They shall at all times respect the rights of others, and shall refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public interest.”
While in Vietnam as part of the presidential delegation, and posting humiliating twitter comments in between, did the speech writer remain true to the people?
As a public official, did she act with justness and sincerity?
Was she not discriminating against the Vietnamese people where she said their “wine sucks”
Was she not discriminating when she publicly degraded the physical attributes of Vietnamese males?
Did she respect the rights of the Vietnamese people with her publicly degrading twitter posts?
Was she doing acts in accordance with ‘good morals’ and ‘good customs’ with her Twitter posts?

I think, if we base her acts with the high standards required of public officials under Republic Act 6713, she should be held liable.


Under Section 11 the law provides penalties for violations:
“Any public official or employee, …committing any violation of this Act shall be punished with a fine not exceeding the equivalent of six (6) months' salary or suspension not exceeding one (1) year, or removal depending on the gravity of the offense after due notice and hearing by the appropriate body or agency. “

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