Honor: A Key in Honest Public Administration

People always discuss about accountability and ethics when in an argument about public administration or anything that concerns the government. Yet, often forget about the importance of “honor” in public service.

Honor is defined as moral integrity or the esteem accorded to virtue or talent. In Filipino language, it is known as “dangal”, “karangalan”, or “kapurihan”. Without honor, a person has no ethical directions and thus thinks little on being accountable for his actions. According to Shafritz, Russel, and Borick, they stated that:

“Honor comes before ethics because a person without honor has no moral compass and does not know which way to turn to be ethical.”

Honor, in ancient times, was an important characteristic that must be visible to a person if he wanted to involve himself in public affairs because those perceived to be honorable were considered as trustworthy in public operations. Today, the word “honor” or the adjective “honorable” is rarely used in real life. Honorable people can most often be seen or read about in novels or movies but rarely in today’s society. Are the present government officials truly trustworthy? Well, it may be true because the people, who have the power to put them in office, voted for them. Or, maybe everything is all due to power, money, and prestige?

There was once a story about Abraham Lincoln who walked miles through the snow to return a book by a promised date. His word to return the book on time gave the full faith of his whole self to keep commitments. This was truly an act of honor, because he lived up to his word. This is a very important issue when it comes to our modern politicians. Every election season, numerous promises are made. Like a child’s wish list to Santa Claus, that’s how much a modern day politician’s promises looks like. However, once they are in office, where are those promises? Gone with the wind like a child’s balloon.

All who work for the government understand that they have a moral obligation to the people they serve, public trust. Anyone who works for the government must be honorable, in principles, values, and importantly in words. Section 1 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution provides that, “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

References:

  • New Websters’s Standard Dictionary Vol.1, Kimball Enterprise 2006. P.453
  • Shafritz, J., Russel, E.W., and Borik, C. (2013): Introducing Public Administration, 8th ed. Pearson Education, USA.
  • Section 1 of Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.
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