by Quennie Ann J. Palafox


      Civil servants play a very important role in public administration as the partners of the government in bringing its affairs to the people, such as delivery of basic services and carrying out its day-to-day-functions.  Often, civil servants or the bureaucrats are criticized for being unresponsive to the public needs. Corruption remains a malady in the bureaucracy up to now. There is very little respect for the people in the government. We cannot blame the people for the common perception that corruption is endemic in the government, considering that the Philippines has consistently been on the list of the most corrupt countries in Asia, according to surveys.

       Corruption in the government had its origins during the time of the ancient Filipinos.  These were exacerbated by the abuses of the Spanish friars and officials with the onset of the colonial rule. Jose Rizal, our foremost hero, vehemently condemned and exposed these abuses and cruelties in his two novels the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

       One cause of corruption in the bureaucracy is the lack of adherence to the principle of merit and fitness in the selection process. To curb abuses in the government, Rizal asked that Filipinos enjoy equal rights similar to those of the Spaniards by giving them the same opportunity to work in the government. Rizal believed that the adoption of a competitive government examination will ensure that only qualified individuals regardless of race could serve in the government.

      Today, political intervention and nepotism in the government are very rampant. Many incompetent officials land a career in government service- turning the bureaucracy into an inefficient organization prone to corruption and manipulation of politicians.

       Realizing the negative effect of corruption in the country, progressive legislators have exerted efforts to reduce, if not eliminate once and for all, the occurrence of graft and corruption in the bureaucracy by passing several laws. But these laws have seemingly remained powerless against the persistence of corrupt practices in the government as shown by the public’s acceptance of corruption as part of everyday life. Filipinos have taken notice of the catchphrase good governance through good leadership as a possible solution in solving the problems of the bureaucracy. For good governance to be achieved, however, bureaucrats should not only possess competence, education and skills, but also exhibit a great commitment and integrity to serve the public. While the public has seen its fair share of efforts at reforming the bureaucracy, its continued support remains essential to the success of the government’s program of promoting efficiency in the government service.

       Jose Rizal had known this, and for him, the people are duty-bound to be involved in the task of good government.  In one of his writings, he said: “Peoples and government are correlated and complementary, an aimless government would be an anomaly among a righteous people, just as corrupt people cannot exist under just rulers and wise laws. Whatever social and political environments we are in are products of men’s deliberate choice.” As Rizal emphasized: “There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.”

       Rizal was admired for being a good leader. He gained the respect of his colleagues in the Propaganda Movement like Marcelo H. del Pilar who was once his tough rival for the leadership of the organization. As a leader, Rizal was transformational, charismatic, visionary, and most importantly, incorruptible.  He displayed a kind of leadership that was not motivated by personal interest but the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the good of the majority which he described in his novels as the national sentiment.

      A close study of Rizal’s novels reveals how he stressed the importance of national sentiment as essential in guarding society against all kinds of injustices, and bringing about social change. A character in the novel El Filibusterismo, who lacked national sentiment, was Señor Pasta, a wealthy lawyer.  In a scene in the novel where Isagani expressed his desire to help the students establish an institute for the instruction of Spanish, Pasta expressed his surprise as Isagani had already mastered the language.  When Pasta made it clear to Isagani that he was unwilling to help his noble cause for education and even dissuaded him from pushing through with his plans, Isagani remarked:  “When I have gray hairs like those, sir, and turn my gaze back over my past and see that I have worked only for myself, without having done for the country that has given me everything, for the citizens who have helped me live – then, sir, every gray hair will be a thorn, and instead of rejoicing, they will shame me!”

      Rizal clearly realized the idea of national sentiment and its value that when developed and imbibed by the people, might bring about common good.  The essence of national sentiment is the subordination of personal interests and comfort to the social good.

       Basilio, also a character in the El Fili, demonstrated the lack of national sentiment because he opposed the idea that justice be served to his family.  He feared that all his dreams would be shattered if he would brought the matter to the government officials. Had he had been brave enough to face social alienation, Basilio could have helped prevent the acts of injustice that transpired later in the novel.

       To his fellow propagandists, Rizal advised not to derive personal benefit from their service to the country.  In his letter of gratitude to the members of the La Solidaridad for appointing him Honorary President of the association, he wrote: “No member should expect rewards or honors for what he does. He who does his duty in the expectation of reward is usually disappointed, because almost no one believes himself sufficiently rewarded. And so that there may not be discontented or ill-rewarded members, it is advisable for each one to do his duty just for its own sake and at best expect to be later treated unjustly because in anomalous countries, injustice is the prize for those who fulfill their duties. [London, 28 January].”

         People who seek fortune should not find employment in the government because the biggest reward from government service is the attainment of the common good served with one’s good will, integrity and a clear conscience. Public servants who accept bribe compromise their integrity. Once, Rizal was offered P100, 000, a huge amount that time, apart from a professorial chair at a university and an estate of his own if only he would renounce his two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.  Rizal showed he was made of strong moral fibre for he was not tempted by these bribes, giving up his personal happiness for the welfare of his countrymen.

        With the idea of good leadership that Rizal has bequeathed to us, we can change the negative image of the bureaucracy, transforming it into a more efficient instrument in bringing about social, economic and political reforms in the country, a paragon of administration as well as an agent for social change.



Almonte, Napoleon G. Rizal is My President.40 Leadership Tips from Jose Rizal. Manila: OCCI Publications, 2009

Majul, Cesar A. Rizal on Political Affairs. Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1961