The phrase ‘country above self’ became popular several months ago when it was used in a movie about General Antonio Luna. In the film, the general asked this question of Filipino politicians who sided with the colonizers for their convenience and profit.
This week, President Benigno Aquino III used these words again as he addressed the 2016 class of the Philippine National Police Academy. He advised the graduates to shun temptation and put country above self as they perform their duties.
“Crooked ways are a thing of the past,” the President said, as he asked the 253 graduates to ensure clean and peaceful elections. He reminded them not to compromise their principles for the promise of payoffs or promotions.
We find it odd that Mr. Aquino would harp on putting country above self while talking to the young policemen when the most glaring issue involving the police had not yet been put to rest. In January last year, 44 members of the Special Action Force were left to die as they went on a mission to arrest terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. For certain, these men put country above self when they pursued the suspects amid the danger they faced.
But the government which they served appeared to be out for its own interest. The ensuing cover-up aimed to shield those responsible from the consequences of their decisions. The incident remains unresolved, overtaken by the urgency of other concerns such as the need to ensure victory this May.
This administration is known for its frequent reference to the straight path. It likes to portray itself as the personification of enlightenment, while depicting its critics and adversaries as enemies of reform. Everything that took place before the President’s term was an episode in the dark.
We do not know how the PNPA graduates reacted to this exhortation by the President. Chances are, over the course of their careers, some will perform better than others while some will make poorer choices than their peers. However they turn out to be, this next batch of police officers will have to come to terms with mixed signals from their President who proclaims virtue but does not seem so keen on living it.