AFTER Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. called for the courtesy resignation of colonels and generals to jumpstart an investigation into the purported involvement of police officials in the illegal drug trade, he again announced that those who had submitted their resignations will have to undergo a lifestyle check.
Immediately some critics pointed out that the courtesy resignations of the top officials of the PNP, along with a lifestyle check, has allegedly demoralized the police force. Some even opined that the call for a courtesy resignation as well as a lifestyle check will only give the perception that the entire organization or its top officers are corrupt and will thus affect the effectiveness of the PNP as a whole.
But as public servants with a pledge to “maintain a high standard of morality and professionalism, as well as live a decent and virtuous life to serve as an example to others,” our colonels and generals should have no fear in revealing their conduct as policemen and putting it under tight scrutiny knowing that they have nothing to hide.
A lifestyle check is in fact a way to tell all and sundry that there is no taint of corruption whatsoever in the person who undergoes the process and serves to validate his morality, integrity, professionalism and honesty as a public servant.
Now exactly what is a lifestyle check?
Basically, per the website of the Ombudsman, it is an investigation strategy that seeks to determine the existence of ill-gotten and unexplained wealth of government officials and employees.
So a lifestyle check is conducted to find out whether a certain government official or employee has accumulated money or wealth that cannot be justified or explained away using the applicable standards of his job and office. And such wealth was accumulated illegally and in violation of the law.
It is actually a regulation that seeks to control and restrain the behavior of a public servant who may be tempted into committing grave irregularities while in office in order to enrich himself or his kin. In fact a lifestyle check should be a mandatory requirement for all top tier government officials, both elected and appointed, particularly before, during and after they have served in office. That way the trust and confidence reposed upon them by the people is not wasted and the taxpayers money is spent properly and for the right reasons.
Obviously a lifestyle check will entail an inquiry into the assets of a public official and will include personnel records, property records as reflected in their Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALN), business and income records, other benefits, expenditures as well as a record of liabilities.
In all of these the investigation is simply to establish that the public official is upholding the standards of public service and is worthy to serve the people. Otherwise should the inquiry discover that the public official is corrupt and in cahoots with criminals like those in the illegal drug trade then he should not only be removed from government service but charged administratively and criminally as well.
Lifestyle checks should be the standard operating procedure for those working in government, especially those who are already in the top echelons of the service. This will most assuredly maintain the trust and confidence of the people not only on those who undergo the lifestyle checks but in the government as a whole. Truth be told only a few, or very rarely, will someone voluntarily undergo a lifestyle check when in public service. During the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte it was only former Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol who volunteered to be subjected to a lifestyle check. To recall he came out squeaky clean.