pubad | Privacy | Citizenship

Judging the Private Lives of Public Officials


Summary In the article of J. Patrick Dobel: Judging the Private Lives of Public Officials

discusses four topics; first is the “public claims of public officials,” it merely talks about what the privacy means which the private lives of public officials must be respected also even though they occupied positions in the government. Right to privacy1 is not just a right of individuals; it is their fundamental right2 that granted by the State to them which the public officials are part of it. But there are several reasons why the private lives of public official have been vulgarize to the public. First, the media become an eye of the public interest to know the private lives of the public officials. Second, the media became gatekeepers to the office of political parties that has been decline and to be more people focused. Third, in politics there are always a competition in a certain position which the media is their way to spread scandals of their co – competitor; humiliate other people for their own interest. And lastly, since the public officials have an obligation to serve the public, here is the issue of the public’s right to know about the lives of their public officials that are sat in the offices of the government of their country. The second topic that was discussed is the “office and relevance,” it is about the responsibility of public officials to act on behalf of the citizens of their country. It is their obligation to speak and act for the public. J. Patrick Dobel indicated a theory that
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Right of a person to be free from unwarranted publicity. Those which have their origin in the express terms of the Constitution or which are necessarily to be implied from these terms.

All public officials are accountable to all citizens, and all citizens are principals who have the right to acquire relevant knowledge about the officials’ public performance, most clearly in elections where citizens act directly as principals to elect and delegate3 This means that there must be give and take in a way that the citizens finance the needs of the government through taxes while the public officials must serve them responsively at any time. There are two areas were the public criticize their public officials. First, is about their health conditions. It is truly important to know if they are really capable in that position but people must remember that it is not enough basis to judge them immediately. There are prominent people in government who are smoker but then, they can still manage their responsibility in the government and for the citizens. Second, J. Patrick Dobel pointed out three premises about the economic relations of the public officials; First, economic interests in one’s area of authority can corrupt judgment; second, these interests can tempt individuals, and office should not be subject to undue temptations on people with heavy responsibility; and third, economic conflict of interests can undermine the appearance of fairness and impartiality and hurt the legitimacy of government4. The public has the right to know about the life of their public officers occupied the government but there must be a limitation; if the actions of their public officials affected their right such as their taxes was used by the public officer for private interest but if not, the people must respect issues within the lives of the public officials because they were also like them that has problems must be face on confidentially.


J. Patrick Dobel, “Judging the Private Lives of the Public Officials,” Administration and Society (May 1998): 121. 4 Dobel, 123.

The “erosion of privacy” is the next topic that was explained in this article. This section talks about the media are the way for citizen to know how credible, reliable and truthful their public officials that occupied the government. But there are times that the information from media about the lives of the public officials are not accurate or just making a malicious issue to degrade certain public officer. The media industry does not care whether they need it to be published or not, the important is there is an issue to be judge by the public. And most of public officials’ jobs are affected that they must also put a time and effort for them to explain in certain issues that was published by the media which may further result into resignation or death through suicide of specific public officer. Because of judging the private lives of public officials there are serious harm to civic life stated by J. Patrick Dobel in this article: First, many innocent human beings are hurt as they are pulled into public scrutiny over private lives and relations of public officials. Second, the quality of life permitted to public officials has declined, and this discourages others from entering public service. Third, the focus on private lives and scandal often detracts from serious issues and trivializes concerns over competence and policy. Fourth, this focus hurts the public service by denying many worthy citizens a chance to serve5. The public forgets, one’s they judge a well-known people in the government which also affects the whole family of the specific public officer. Because of this action, others do not want to enter in public service because they were afraid that they may experience what others experienced as a public servant or others does not given a chance to serve the public because they were already criticize about what they cannot do. Having a


Dobel, 128.

scandal is not easy to be solved and it really takes time to gain trust again from the public. “Standards of judgement” is the last topic in this article. It explains that people must set principles in judging public officials not just keep on saying negative things about them. J. Patrick Dobel said: This involves a two-step judgment. First, ask if the information is relevant to assessing performance in office. If not, information should not be sought or should be dismissed. Second, if information is relevant, ask how it should be weighed in judging a public official’s worthiness6. People must judge them in away affects the performance of public officials in their government offices because they deserve a good service from them but if not they must take into consideration of the confidentiality of the public officer. There are eight aspects that must be measured by the public stated in this article: (a) Begin with public performance; (b) examine health and patterns of economic interest and advice taking; (c) distinguish private actions from abuse of power; (d)keep the circle of scrutiny to the lowest possible number; (e) when there cord is weak or inappropriate, look to areas that can illuminate the person’s integrity, honesty, and promise keeping; (f) scrutinize public persona for consistency; (g) examine actions that undermine the ability to live up the symbolic dimensions of office; and (h) place the private action in the context of a person’s character over time and the alternatives in place7. If these standards would really follow, there would be a peace between the citizens and the public officials. People have the freedom to speak but they must remember this freedom must be used wisely and reasonably. The public has the right to know about their public officials but there must be a balance of it. The fundamental right to privacy is also the right of their public officials that must be respected of everyone. B. Reflection
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Dobel, 129. Ibid., 129.

Even in the Philippines, the issue about the private lives of public officials will always be the headline of newspapers even through the internet. Our technology today gives the public a way to know more information about their lives. Every word they speak and every action they did, there would be always a verdict from the public. Public sees them to be perfect and as a model for the recent generation because they are one who trusted by the citizen to hold the government of the Philippines. Like individuals, public officials have the right of privacy that is enshrined in several provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution particularly in the Article III: Bill of Rights8. But the public forget that those people occupied the government has also private lives like them that must be respected. The media will always make a way to address to the public your innermost secret as the public official. There are times that there is no essence if that secret reveals because in reality people are just a digger of other’s life. Once they know something unenthusiastic about you; they will keep on judging which part of reality of life is. Like an ordinary people, you cannot please everyone to believe you. There are prominent public officials that their private lives are become the talk of the town like the separation of Senator Chiz Escudero and Christine Elizabeth Flores9, his wife. Come to think of it, do the public really have to know it? For me, it does not have too. Both of them remained silent about the issue but there are rumors about the separation which anyone of us may believe that Christine was being linked to a member of an all-male dancing group and Senator Chiz to Kris Aquino. Imagine how the media

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Rene B. Gorospe, Constitutional Law (Quezon City: Rex Printing Company, Inc., 2006) Chiz Escudero and Christine Elizabeth Flores available at:

affects other lives of people. As long as they have to tell something about the issue they will keep on persuading the public. Every election in our country, there will always be a debate about the parties that are running for government positions. All of them has an issue about their co – competitor. They will humiliate other people in many terms. They will find a way to know about the scandals of other party. They thought that it would be a great help for their own interest to win for certain position. Also, they believe that public will easily persuade once they reveal scandal about their opponent. But through their actions, they are the one that makes a way to show to the people who they really are. What actually is their intention, whether to serve the public or to gain their own interest? In the article of J. Patrick Dobel stated the eight aspects on judging the public officials. The public must know this aspects first before they verdict other people, so that they have sensible statement. It is not good to keep on giving comment to other person even if we really do not know what is all about and why is it happened. I would like to end this by quoting what Brando Marlon said10, “Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to; it’s an absolute prerequisite.” This means whoever you are; you have the right to privacy.


Brando Marlon available at:

Bibliography Black, Henry. “Black’s Law Dictionary,” Definitions of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern, 5 th ed., Manila, Philippines: Merriam Webster Inc., 1957. Dobel, Patrick. “Judging the Private Lives of the Public Officials,” Society, Vol. 30, No. 2 (May 1998): 115 -142 Administration and

Gorospe, Rene B. “Constitutional Law,” Noted and Readings on the Bill of rights, Citizenship and Suffrage, Vol. 2, Quezon City: Rex Printing Company, Inc., 2006. Lo, Ricardo F., “Chiz Escudero, wife separate: report,” April 19, 2011., (accessed January 6, 2011). QuotationsBook, n.d., (accessed January 6, 2011).

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