By Manuel Rodriguez
(paper submitted to Edwin S. Martin,PhD, in partial fulfillment to the course of Public Adminstration at the University of Santo Tomas )
A public office is a public trust (Art.XI Sec. 1, 1987 Phil. Const.); it is bound by law, standards, and expectations of impartial, fair, and competent action. To live such a role requires personal integrity, which means that persons can live up to promises they make and can balance commitments to different roles in their lives that often create tensions within the self (Dobel, 1998).
This article is a reflection to the arguments raised by J. Patrick Dobel of The University of Washington on his article entitled Judging the Private Lives of Public Officials  He concluded that citizens need to redefine the boundaries of private and public life and suggested standards by which citizens can judge the private lives of public officials.
Dobel mentioned in his article what Vincent Foster, Clinton's WhiteHouse Lawyer said on his despairing suicide note wherein he is complaining that in American Politics "ruining people is considered sport". Three stories on the article of Dobel demonstrated how true it is.
First is the story of US Senator Robert Packwood who was accused of sexually importuning female lobbyists and members of his own staff. Packwood had served for 20 years as a senator with a very strong public record which includes being a supporter to the advancement of the rights of American women. After 1 year of hearings that proved the allegations against him, he was forced to resign on his office to avoid the expulsion decision by the state.
Another is the story of Democrat future president Grover Cleveland who in his 1884 presidential campaign was accused by the Republicans that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. The uproar over the revelation hurt the Democrat. Ultimately, however, voters correctly concluded that his long and impeccable record as a good governor ofNew York City, coupled with the fact that the affair had occurred in the far past and that he acknowledged the child and continuously supporting her, overrode misgivings about the private scandal. In 1987, Senator Gary Hart was accused of infidelity.
Despite the accusations and the reporters following his every move, he continued his affair with Donna Rice. When the affair was exposed to the public eye, he denied the charges and acted erratic and petulant. The revelations ended his campaign and support. Private scandal, as opposed to abuse of office, can signify great import with someone like Hart and mean little about suitability for office with the likes of Cleveland.
In conclusion of Dobel’s point of view, all officials have a strong right to privacy and at the same time a right to be judged on the basis of their competence and performance. Each private action may or may not illuminate public integrity. He added that when people confront the moral flaws of public persons, they should beware their own self-righteousness. Some people may be saints or prophets, but they too make notoriously bad rulers. We should judge as mortals judging other mortals, one must judge with mercy.
Civium in moribus rei publicae salus
The welfare of the state (depends upon) the morals of its citizens
-An ancient maxim
It is said that the citizens are the ones who are responsible for their nation, however by theory public officials are the ones who perform tasks in behalf of the citizens. Public officials are also citizens of the nation and their responsibility is a lot heavier than private individuals.
The extent to which the media are legally free to investigate and publish details of public figures’ (including public servants) private lives varies from country to country. For example, France is much stricter on protecting personal privacy than Britain is. The debate has recently been given additional importance by the development of Human Rights law within Europe, as privacy is classed as a right under the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as by political scandals in France, Italy, Belgium, etc., which have highlighted the need to scrutinize public figures’ behavior closely. The right to privacy of public officials must not be used to cover their faults as a private individual. Citizens voted them with the thought that they are morally upright aside from the fact that they can perform the job well.
That is why politicians make an explicit or implicit campaign point out of their family values and other aspects of their “private” life, for example by being photographed with their loyal family, and through policy stands on such issues as divorce, sex education, drugs, etc. If the public image such people seek to create is at variance with their practice, such hypocrisy deserves to be exposed. The people voted them because they are morally upright; they must remain that way because theoretically the public owns them. Here in the Philippines, we have a not so wise electoral body.
Most candidates who are winning in our local elections are those who are famous or good looking, most of the time they are from the show business industry vying their chance in politics. Again, this must not be the setting. People must be wise and vigilant in the search for the truth behind the candidates’ façade of good looking faces and promising promises. Setting morality aside, it is still necessary to uncover the private lives of public officials, for the same reason that the public owns them.
President Mitterand of France hid his cancer from the French electorate for years was this a public or a private matter? He also had a mistress and illegitimate daughter, who were secretly taken on some of his foreign visits at state expense; again, is this private or a public matter? The people own the public officials, not just his office but his entire personality. In the case of President Cleveland of the United States, he should not be judged based on what he did wrong in the past. Yet, he must be admired for his courage to admit the wrongness of what he did and moved on with his life taking this time the road of righteousness. A leader must not be someone who is continuously doing the wrong things.
Public officials must realize the cost of their fame. Ideally a person chooses to serve the public because he has the passion for service, a calling, or devotion. Having a strong passion for something means one is willing to pay its cost. In the case of public officials it is their privacy that they must surrender to fulfill the passion, privacy is the cost, the one thing that must be let go to adhere to his calling… serving his fellowmen.
If a public official is not willing to surrender his right to privacy, he does not have enough passion to serve. Most public officials locally and abroad demand for privacy, and we all know that most officials are hypocrites, corrupt, and immoral. If our public officials are morally upright, will they still demand for privacy? If what they do with their private lives is acceptable to the eyes of the people, will they still hide their true selves?
The extent of privacy a public official can demand is only their privacy inside their homes while doing private stuff like taking a bath, sleeping, making love with their spouses and the like for these are irrelevant for the public to know. Aside from these kinds of privacy, the public has the right to see, and the right to know. Their lifestyle, manner they perform their job or any aspect of their life that may affect their public service whether it is directly or indirectly.
Again, a public office is a public trust (Art.XI Sec. 1, 1987 Phil. Const.), we cannot trust someone who we don’t know.
In my opinion people have a right to know things about those in power over them. Their salaries are paid for by the people. The decisions of public political figures affect many aspects of people’s lives; in exchange the people have the right to make informed judgments about the kind of leaders they have. Any attempt to restrict what may be reported about public figures in the press could easily become a conspiracy to keep voters in the dark and to manipulate them. All elections are to a greater or lesser extent about the character of the leading politicians involved. Unless the voters are allowed insights into their private lives they will lack the information needed to make a fair decision at the polling booth. For example, many would think that a statesman who betrayed his wife in an affair was equally capable of breaking his promises and lying to his country. The way a person live their life privately is an important factor that must be considered in order for us to know if he or she could lead a nation.
In the Bible, mistakes made by great leaders were not hidden to us despite its being an ancient manuscript. This makes it an extremely valuable text for teaching moral character. In fact, the lessons learned from mistakes often provide a more lasting and powerful impact than those learned from doing things right. Biblical personalities like Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Saul, David, and Solomon.
Their lives indicate that the purpose of leadership is not fame, power, or fortune but to lead people with truth and righteousness. Leaders must be ethical and should not cover up injustices, even on the part of love ones (private lives). The Christian Bible supports the old saying: "sometimes we may learn more from a man's errors, than from his virtues." Leaders, as well as ordinary people, must be ethical and should not cover up injustices, even on the part of loved ones. They must also realize that no good comes from being interested in vengeance and settling old scores. This means that a nation must have morally upright leaders. Immoral leaders does not have the right to lead a nation, even their immorality does not affect their performance. We must put in mind that aside from doing their task they are role models to their subordinates, their fellowmen and the youth of the nation. Should a public servant be a perfect being then? We know for a fact that such kind of individual does not exist.
If people are the better of angels, no standard is necessary to judge their behavior.
-Yong S. Lee on A Reasonable Public Servant
That being not the case, the courts of justice have been in search for a reasonable person from time immemorial. Nowhere could the reasonable person be found, so the United States Supreme Court constructed a hypothetical reasonable person with a thousand faces. What is this reasonable person?
A reasonable person is a person of ordinary prudence, physical attributes (includes health), mental faculty, knowledge, and skills identical with a reasonable person in his or her place. The reasonable person exercises those qualities of attention, knowledge, intelligence, and judgment which society expects of a reasonable person under the like circumstance. We must know then if the persons who are working on our behalf, our public officials are the reasonable person.
Using the template of a reasonable person the court of justice made must be our standard in judging them. Not just judging with mercy and beware our own self-righteousness.
 Administration & Society, Vol.30 No.2, May 1998 115-142
 Book of Genesis
 Book of Genesis
 Book of Judges
 Book 1 Samuel
 Book of 2 Samuel
 Book of 1 Kings
 Also accepted by courts of justice of many countries (including The Philippines)
 Lee & Rosenbloom (2005), A Reasonable Public Servant. M.E Sharpe, Inc.
Often recalcitrant, but always principled.