You can be up to your boobies in white satin, with gardenias in your hair and no sugar cane for miles, but you can still be working on a plantation. —Billie Holiday

Somebody finally blew the whistle on the practice of distributing year-end “savings” as dividends. The response of those exposed by the whistleblower is typical trapo.

The first line of defense is eh legal naman yung ginawa ko (What I did was legal). Laws, the opinion of the Commission on Audit (COA), even constitutional provisions on the separation and independence of various branches, independent constitutional commissions, and agencies of government are thrown up as justifications.

Second, yan talaga ang kalakaran (That’s how things have always been done). Hindi lang naman ang senado ang gumagawa niyan, ganyan din ang Kongreso, ang Executive, at ang Judiciary. Bakit Senado lang ang pinag-iinitan? (It’s not just the Senate that does this, the Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary also do this. How come it’s only the Seante that’s getting the flak?)

The third defense is tied to the second – pinupulitika lang ako ng mga gustong kumuha ng puwesto ko; bakit ngayong lang malapit na ang eleksyon?; tumatanggap naman sila dati ng dibidendo bakit biglang naging isyu ngayon?

Except for four senators nobody in government has said or done one thing to address the anomaly. Maybe nobody sees anything wrong because year-end dividends are deemed legal. But just because Congress passed laws and resolutions allowing itself, and other government agencies, to spend “savings” as they see fit does not make it right. Legal is not a synonym of ethical.

Let’s put it this way: everyone in government is a public servant. Servant is the operative word. They are all salaried employees. They may have fancy titles like Honorable this or Excellency that and all sorts of powers but all of that comes from the public. In other words, mga alila pa din sila kahit ano pa ang suot nila. The public gives them powers so they can serve the public’s interest and whims and not for any other reason. Let us not forget this.

When public servants say we elected or appointed them to represent and lead us let us keep in mind that they are still mere employees. They do not lead, we lead. We give the orders. We tell them where we want to go, they are supposed to get us there and when they fail, we fire them. We own them, we write their paychecks and they have no powers or privileges except whatever we chose and may choose to grant them. They have no rights. It’s as simple as that.

Now to illustrate how utterly dishonest, and stupid, the reason the Senate gave for granting year-end dividends was, suppose you tell your maid to go to the corner store to buy a bottle of suka.

“Bumili ka nga ng suka, hija. Magkano ba yun?”

“Hindi po ako sure pero siguro magkakasya na po ang singkwenta (P50)”

“O heto. Bilisan mo.”


The maid returns from the store with the bottle of suka.

“Magkano ang nagastos mo para sa suka?”

“Treinta (P30) po.”

“Good. Nasaan ang sukli?”


“Nasaan ang sukli ko?”

“Eh ginastos ko na po pambili ng load sa cp ko.”


“Eh akala ko po…”

“Anong akala mo, keep the change?”

Next May, we get to hire and fire servants again. Let’s exercise our prerogative wisely.

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (