Smile or Be Disciplined, Mayors in the Philippines Warn City Workers


As a candidate for mayor, Mr. Aguirre, 47, pledged that the smile mandate would be one of his first actions in office. It was his first political campaign; Mr. Aguirre said he was his family’s “last hope” to beat a rival political clan in the province. An occupational therapist, he had returned to the Philippines in 2016 after living with his wife and children in New York for 10 years.

“The funny part was I worked in the Bronx — one of the toughest neighborhoods there,” he said. “So I am used to people not smiling.”

When Mulanay residents go to the municipal hall, he said, “they encounter a lot of disappointments because the services are so slow, and sometimes the government employees are not that friendly. One of my battle cries during my campaign was to change that behavior.”

Mr. Aguirre joined another newly elected Philippine mayor, Alston Kevin Anarna of Silang, a city of 296,000 in the province of Cavite, in dictating smiles all around. Mr. Anarna, 37, another first-time public official, also vowed during his campaign that all civil servants in City Hall would be taught to smile.

“Public servants need to smile,” Mr. Anarna said in an interview, “especially since those who normally go to the municipal hall are people who have nothing, people who have big problems. Imagine if those who will greet them are unsmiling and ill-tempered people, then what? But if they are treated nicely, with people who are visibly smiling and willing to help them, they’d feel a little better.”

The Silang mayor prohibited frowning among municipal workers — even as he wondered, during a speech, if some of them had been “conceived out of resentment,” according to the local news media. Under civil service rules, Mr. Anarna said, those who flout his order can be fined or suspended.

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