Blog Lecture No. 76: Ostentatious Display of Wealth

Just a quick lecture. There’s no recitation involved even.

Like you, I’m getting sickened by the great wealth divide in our dear country, which seems to get wider by the day. There are people who enjoy decadent lifestyles in the face of increasing poverty. Only a few people live in lavish mansions in the face of people being forcibly evicted and herded off like animals.

We see on the television lavish weddings and parties of celebrities in the face of growing hunger.

And we see some of these gatherings involving our very dear government officials.

So let’s do a survey on the “austerity laws” here in the Philippines.

One of the first things a law student learns is this provision in the Civil Code of the Philippines:

Article 25. Thoughtless extravagance in expenses for pleasure or display during a period of acute public want or emergency may be stopped by order of the courts at the instance of any government or private charitable institution.

But as the law states, such extravagance can be stopped by a court order initiated by a case filed by a government or private charitable institution. I personally think a taxpayer should be able to file one of these cases but with the increased filing fees, I don’t think it will be feasible.

For our dear government officials, we have this Constitutional provision (Article XI):

Section 1. Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.

This principle is likewise echoed in Section 4 (h) of Republic Act No. 6713:

Section 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. – (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties:

xxx

(h) Simple living. – Public officials and employees and their families shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.

The operative phrase there is “lead modest lives.” But we see a lot of them in mortally sinful gaz-guzzling cars going to lavish parties and living decadent lifestyles.

Some pubic officials (especially the elective ones) may argue that they were already rich to begin with and as such, they are simply living the lifestyle appropriate to their positions and income. But these public officials should lead by example by living austere lives.

Of course there are remedies to this like initiating a lifestyle check. The Ombudsman now allows for online filing of complaints (or requests for assistance). But of course, there must be some follow-through.

And that, my friends, depends on you.

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