"For many officials, such words are figures of speech."
The spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., sounded defiant as he claimed he was prepared to step down from his post. Parlade drew flak after his statements linking the organizer of the Maginhawa Community Pantry to communist groups; he even went as far as likening her to Satan. In reaction, several lawmakers called for the defunding of the NTF-ELCAC; he, in turn, called them “stupid.”
“I can resign tomorrow. I can file my resignation, I can call Secretary (Hermogenes) Esperon (Jr.) now and submit my resignation tomorrow if that is what they want, so this problem will end,” Parlade said in a radio interview.
Until today, however, there have been no actual resignations, highlighting the stark difference between one’s ability to resign and the actual act of resignation.
Then again, resignations themselves could still be qualified as being irrevocable or not. Recall that a few months ago, the mayor of Baguio City, who is also contact tracing czar for the government’s COVID-19 response, was seen attending a fundraiser in his city where health protocols were violated.
Retired police official Benjamin Magalong apologized for his lapse in judgment and tendered his resignation. He was briefly praised for being accountable for his actions. All too soon, however, the public learned that his resignation was revocable—and since it was not accepted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, he stayed on.
Such behavior is characteristic of many of our government officials, from the highest level down to the lowest. “I will resign” is a term all too familiar—we hear this as some sort of guarantee that the person “threatening” to resign is not able to deliver on his or her promise.
Of course, we later on realize that such pronouncements are figures of speech. They were not serious after all, even after proof that they had failed spectacularly at their job.
Perhaps they see resignation—the actual, irrevocable act, not the promise, possibility or threat of one—as a form of capitulation, an admission of guilt or failure, or simply a quitter’s habit. In governance, though, resignation is the ultimate act of humility, responsibility and true honor. It is an acknowledgment that the good to be done is way bigger than one person’s ego, that they were fallible enough to commit lapses on the job, or that another person could in fact step up and do a better job.
Alas, there seems to be a dearth of leaders in government who think like this. Instead they see their positions, elective or appointive, as turfs they would not give up at all costs—even when there is a preponderance of evidence that they should go, or that they should not have been there in the first place.