2019 Dangal ng Bayan awardee dreams of corruption-free country
posted 1-Oct-2019  ·  
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Viga municipal health officer Dr. Robert John Salvador Aquino, one of the nine recipients of the Outstanding Public Officials and Employees or the Dangal ng Bayan Award this year, dreams of a government that is free of corruption.

“A nation with citizens who have the initiative to become a good citizen, who can inspire others to do the same,” he describes his dream Philippines whose number one asset is a competent workforce.

The 35-year old doctor, who celebrated his birthday just 9 days before the Malacañang awarding rites, thinks the Civil Service Commission, which conducts the yearly search, should look into the hiring mechanism in local governments where the most qualified should be chosen and not just for their political affiliation.

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte conferred the award to Dr. Aquino and other government service exemplars last Sept. 10, 2019.

The Dangal ng Bayan Award is conferred to an individual for performance of extraordinary act or public service and consistent demonstration of exemplary ethical behavior on the basis of adherence to the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. 

The other awardees are Master Teacher II Alvin F. Macalintal of Fortunato Perez High School; Albay Provincial Disaster Management Officer Cedric D. Daep; City Government of Tacurong Administrative Officer V Allan S. Freno; Tangub City Civil Registrar Belen F. Linganay; Iloilo National Food Authority Mechanical Plant Operator Pepito P. Pauchano; Department of Education-Division of Sorsogon Calao Elementary School Master Teacher II Michelle D. Rubio; Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University- South La Union Campus Administrative Aide II Porferio L. Soloria Jr.; and Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center Medical Specialist III Dr. Maria Lourdes M. Trajano.

They received a trophy designed and crafted by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon V. Abueva, a gold glided medallion handcrafted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and a cash prize of P200,000.

In addition, they are entitled to an automatic promotion to the next higher position or, if there is no next higher position, a salary increase equivalent to such position to be incorporated in the basic pay.

A scholarship incentive is also given to the awardee or their qualified beneficiary who will be provided educational opportunities in selected institutions of higher learning, to be availed of within five years from the time they received their award.

The young and still single awardee is the son of FICELCO director Robert Aquino and the former Emma Olfindo Salvador, with the family occupying a modest house in barangay San Vicente, Panganiban. But he was actually born in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya on Sept. 1, 1984 while the family were staying with businessman Hermil Olfindo.

An honor graduate of the Panganiban Central Elementary School in 1997, he took his secondary course at the Catanduanes State University Laboratory Schools where he won 3rd honor.

In 2005, he received his diploma in Bachelor of Science in Biology at Centro Escolar University, after which he enrolled in the medicine course at Far Eastern University, graduating in 2010 with an award as best intern.

Upon passing the board exam in 2011, he immediately applied for the position of municipal health officer of the nearby town of Viga where he has now served for eight years.

In 2016, he enrolled for his Master in Public Management, major in Health System Development, at the Development Academy of the Philippines as a scholar of the Department of Health, graduating last year.

While engaging in his work as MHO, doing volunteer work and attending relevant training programs, he has notched notable achievements in the town he was serving.

Foremost among them is his pet project, the Zero Open Defecation that sought to address a practice that, if uncontrolled, spreads life-threatening diseases.

“It opened up a positive behavioral change among the 21,000-plus population of Viga, despite budget challenges and attitude of the people we dealt with,” Dr. Aquino recalls.

“Within a span of two to three years, with the help of stakeholders like the DOH, the LGU, down to the continuous encouragement and monitoring of the Rural Sanitary Inspectors, Midwives, and Barangay Health Workers in the grassroots, the observance of proper defecation rose from 69 % in 2014 to 87% in 2015,” he added.

 In 2018, based on the 2017 data, Viga was the first in Catanduanes and in the Region V to be declared a Zero Open Defecation Municipality, he proudly states.

He attributes his success in his work to knowing his mandate as a public servant, which is “to serve and not to be served.”

“If we put our hearts and minds into it, nothing is impossible plus with Divine Providence and staying grounded, humbleness and sincerity which showcase our integrity towards work, environment and the community whom we serve,” Aquino stressed.

He pointed out that being a public servant entails a lot of responsibility most of all scrutiny from co-workers, and the people they dealt with every single day.

“What made me strong in public service are the people who will say ‘thank you, you made my child well,’ ‘God bless you’ and hoping that many more people will be healed; the babies and children’s smile and even their cries which are music, not noise, to my ears; and, the acknowledgement whenever I go or even in social media event, if I do not know them personally, because for once in their lives I had touched them,” the awardee shares.

According to his father, Robert John is a dutiful son and so thoroughly immersed in his healing profession that from work, he proceeds to his small clinic beside the family residence where many patients are usually waiting when he comes home.

And he renders his supposedly private practice for free, even giving out free medicines, sometimes to the dismay of one of his two sisters.

While he manages to enjoy whatever little time he is left at the end of a day of serving the public, he usually visits his farm where he keeps some pigs and poultry and at home, he is kept company by family memberd and his pet Siberian husky, Akhi.

The Rural Health Unit choir he organized serves during novena masses for the Viga town fiests and on Simbang Gabi during the Christmas season.

Asked about the changes brought in the civil service by the use of technology and social media as well as issues about workplace inclusivity and diversity, Dr. Aquino replied that it has not affected his work but instead built a stronger relationship between him, his staff and their clientele.

“When co-workers have stronger personal relationships, they often work more efficiently as a team,” he volunteers.

His advice to the younger or newer generation of public servants? Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

“It all begins in oneself,” the model doctor says. “Make a difference by starting in each and every one of us. Take the initiative, make your own improved version.”

He urges them to be good listeners, pointing out that communication helps build an effective rapport for the team to be united and focused on their goals.

“Be adaptable. As a public servant, you must be able to recognize personality differences and work with them rather than against them,” Dr. Aquino concludes, adding that a good public servant contributes in the personal development of the team and progress of the community as a whole.

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