Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Public Office and Photoshop

The first thing we learn about public office is that it is also a public trust; that it must be discharged by the incumbent not for his own personal aggrandizement but for the benefit of the public for whom it is held by him in trust. But like the many other things we learn this does not necessarily translate as true in real life. Last week’s typhoon aftermath just paved an occasion to disprove our legal definition of public office: Three DPWH officials found themselves edited in a picture that depicted clean up and inspection.

I knew for a fact, even as a child, that public officials ought to be omnipresent from beauty contests and fiestas to places of disaster. The need to be omnipresent eventually found its way in countless tarpaulins with either greetings or projects. Then came last week’s picture that sparked controversy and commotion. Feelings of anger transformed into a need for ridicule. The three officials are now everywhere! Pinoy netizens came up with an unofficial contest of best photo manipulation. The three can now be found in Michael Angelo’s Last Supper, Angry Birds, Abbey Road, MacArthur’s landing and other famous photos.

DPWH released an apology saying that the photo was issued without authority and the reason for its release was not known. The truthfulness of such claim can never be verified. Sadly, the damage is done and the public cannot reasonably expect such close inspection from the government. One click, with or without authority, with or without close supervision, is all it takes to publish online.

Whether or not the humiliation caused to DPWH was justified can be the topic of an endless debate. What we know is that the technology, which allowed the manipulation, is the same technology that allowed us to see what was wrong. And no matter the technological changes, our ideals and aspirations for our public office remain the same.

James Anthony Mina #16

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