The Business of Government

Speech Before the Philippine Insurers Club

I want to thank all of you – most specially President Jaime Eduardo Villanueva – for your very kind invitation. He asked me to share with you those issues affecting national interest; and therefore, should be brought to the public for consideration. One such public is the insurance industry where you all work.

The most affective issue – then and now – is government and those who govern. Anything that comes from Malacañang is news. So does anything that emanates from Congress. So does the constitutionality of the plunder law from the Supreme Court. So does a sensational murder like that of the late actress Nida Blanca. All of these haunt media people who are in the business of hunting for the news that sells.

Let me first do a short treatise on governing. Thereafter, I shall link it to what government is supposed to deliver – that of the condition of peace and order. Also, as to the organization that delivers such condition – specifically law enforcement. 

I do not like politics and politicians. This is a statement I made when I was still Chief of the Philippine National Police. It was one single statement that gave me all kinds of trouble when, in February, I decided to run for the Senate. My critics started to bash me. They also decided not to listen to whatever explanation I made. As they say: to those who do not believe, no explanation can ever be enough.

Be that as it may, the context was that – and still is – the difference between a politician and a public servant is not something; it is a whale. It is in fact an ocean. Let me draw what separates the two.

A politician makes promises with every intention not to keep them. He takes the national interest to serve him. On the other hand, a statesman – real public servant – is elected to deliver on his pledges. He makes himself at the service of the nation. I want nothing more than to become that kind of a public servant, of a statesman.

No less than our own language makes the word politician a pejorative. Try looking at Roget’s thesaurus which lists politician as grafter, spoils monger, influence peddler, wheeler-dealer, and wirepuller. In the United States, for example, only 22 per cent of Americans would like their children to enter the dirty field of politics. It should be interesting to survey how many Filipino parents would want their sons and daughters to become politicians.

On the other hand, many people admire statesmen. Some people, however, describe those they like as statesmen; and those they dislike, as politicians. Some pundits, in fact, have defined a statesman as a dead politician. That is – of course – the lowest form of cynicism we have no right to bear and suffer.

In my mind, the generation of statesmen to govern us exists in everyone’s heart. And so we ask the question: What is the business of government? I think its business is to deliver the basic services society needs to maintain sanity. One such basic is peace and order which is public safety.

The other is freedom from graft and corruption.

Before Congress opened, I met with the prospective members of my Senate staff. I gave them a very clear instruction – nobody, including myself would accept, much less demand rebates or commissions from contractors of development projects out my countrywide development funds – be it farm to market roads (a congressman loves to call it farm to pocket roads) or school buildings and whatever. I am thinking of going farther on this. I will prevent the conduit agencies – local government units, public works engineers, even COA representatives from fleecing helpless contractors who naturally would pass it on the beneficiaries – the taxpayers. At least as far as my own CDF.

There are two others: liberation from everyday traffic and garbage. Perhaps, we can help each other with your wisdom on how to ease traffic and release our garbage to a far-away destination. We have been helpless hostages of both. We need not be.

We are afraid of many things on this earth. Many people are afraid to reach imbecility during old age. Many more are afraid to die. But modern life has added two other fears. Today, we are afraid of crime, afraid to be the next victim. Probably, some of you might even be afraid of the police.

There is always wisdom – pragmatic wisdom – in facing realities. One such reality needing to be altered immediately and drastically is the organized abduction of people for profit. We call it kidnap or ransom. KFR, in short.

These are the facts.

According to the PNP, 88 kidnap-for-ransom occurred from January to November 10 this year. 33 of these were committed right here in Metro Manila.

The figure from two NGOs – the Citizens Action Against Crime and the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order – are much more. The number is 105 throughout the country. In Metro Manila alone, it is 55.

According to PNP, out of the 88 cases were 158 victims. According to the NGOs, out of the 105 cases were 225 victims. In Metro Manila, there were 54 victims according to PNP. According to the NGOs, there were several more.
We are not safer this year. We were safer last year. This is not to indict anyone. It is only to tell the truth, pursue wherever it leads, whoever it may hurt.

There were 37 KFR cases from January to November 10 of year 2000. Compare that with the 88 of this year. The rise is 137.83%. Between the Estrada and Arroyo presidencies, you are the better judge who is the better public safety practitioner.

In Metro Manila, there were only four cases last year. Yes, only four cases. Compare that with the 33 cases this year. The rise is 725%!

The KFR-crime wave has been analyzed. One reason given is the transition of government from President Estrada to President Arroyo. That does not wash at all.

Another reason is remarkable for its spin. This government is saying that more KFR-victims are reporting to the police. This is false for two reasons. First, the discrepancies of the figures by PNP and the NGO’s show that more have not reported. Second, there were more people who trusted the PNP last year that this year.

I have told you the facts and figures. What shall we do now?

In August, 1986, officials of Insurance Group trooped to Malacañang and sought an audience with then President Corazon Aquino. The reason – they were losing heavily in motor vehicle insurance. Carnappers were stealing at an average of 8 vehicles per day. Then, Chief, Philippine Constabulary, Maj. Gen. Renato de Villa summoned me to his Crame office to help out. I was on floating status after the ’86 EDSA revolution. My new assignment was the PC/INP Anti-Carnapping Task Force. My mission – immediately reduce carnapping incidents. In December of the same year, or four months after the marching orders were given, the number of motor vehicle being carnapped per day was dramatically reduced from a daily average of 7.8 to 1.8. In hindsight, I am thankful, Col. Victor Corpus was not the intelligence chief then. If that was so, I could have been accused as the King of Carnappers who would instruct the carnappers to lie low. Joking aside, the strategy employed was quite simple – constrict the market of carnapped vehicles and increase the risk of the carnappers. The practice among police officers of soliciting or even accepting offered reward money from car owner and insurance companies who benefited out from recovered and returned vehicles was immediately stopped. Likewise, the malpractice of misappropriating or cannibalizing recovered vehicles was checked.

In 1992, kidnapping for ransom was a brisk business. It was almost a cottage industry. Then President Fidel Ramos organized the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, appointed his Vice President, Joseph Estrada to head it and organized task forces. I headed Task Force Habagat.

After the leaders of the dreaded Red Scorpion Group were neutralized culminating in the killing in action of their leader Alfredo Joey de Leon in February 1993, the kidnappers scourge disappeared – reduced to zero. The very first incident of KFR reported was three months later when in May 11, 1993 the group of now Chief Superintendent Reynaldo Berroya snatched Taiwanese businessman Jack Chou and ransomed him for PHP 10M. Task Force Habagat was disbanded in 1995 after the neutralization of a group of notoriously dreaded robbers more popularly known as the Kuratong Baleleng Group.

In 1998, kidnapping was again on the rise. Again it was checked in 1999 up to the early part of 2001 largely due to the efforts of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.

The rest is public knowledge.

Last year, I helped organize Philippine National Police Foundation, Inc. This is a business-led, a business-funded foundation, headed by the Distinguished and Honorable Tarlac Congressman Gilbert Teodoro. Into this foundation, many businessmen put their money. The interest earned, I was told has amounted to P15 M and is now being used to procure some of the PNP equipment. But it can only do so much. It needs more time.

To improve our condition of public safety is not an impossible task. It is a doable task. We only need more resolve from those in the government.

I have one last question: What are you committed to do as a community?

We are looking too much at government. It is time to look deeper within the community itself. There is where the real power against crime lies.

Whatever it is you are resolved to do, let us do it together as our business. Together with the government. Together with the police.

For us. And for all mankind.