Take a Break!

Speech delivered at the 2002 PMAAA Homecoming (Overseas Chapter), LA, California

On my way to the United States, while on the plane, I was reading the speech prepared by my staff for this occasion. The tone was too political I had second thoughts of using it. Not that this audience would not welcome to hear about the political developments in our country as an interesting subject matter, but I feel we are here on a fellowship gathering so I have chosen to tone it down a bit.

Quite frankly, I am having butterflies in my stomach even as I face you tonight. Having subscribed with our group websites namely plebe and cavaliers as well as the academy cavaliers’ forum, I can more or less draw my own conclusion on what kind of audience I would have here.

Basing such conclusion on the postings I read, let me venture a guess – one third would be cynical at the outset or even before I open my mouth, another third would be non-believers and the remaining third would be unmindful of the things I will say. Never mind. At the end of the day, it is the cavalier spirit that I hope I can bank on to finish my day unscathed or maybe I’m hoping too much. 

Nevertheless, I want to thank all of you for your kind invitation. Not every “boogoo-boogoo” gets the chance to be in front of overseas cavaliers to address them. It is indeed a rare privilege that I am standing in front of you right now. I am equally thankful and proud that another Senator of the Republic of the Philippines has found time to be here with us as a very special guest. I would like to acknowledge his presence- The honorable gentleman from Ilocos Norte, Cavite and the Philippines, Senator Rodolfo “Pong” Biazon ’61. Senator Biazon and I have few things in common. Both of us belong to the same political party, of course both of us are graduates of our beloved PMA, both of us retired as four-star generals, he as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and I, as Chief of the Philippine National Police. Of course, both of us are “magan” albeit, for our principles.

And, imagine that several months ago, overseas cavaliers were having problems looking for a second choice induction speaker after being “deadmanized” by former President FVR, you now have not one but two incumbent nationally elected officials of our Republic in this hall- “Ping-Pong”. With due respect to my distinguished colleague, there is no better choice for the billing, otherwise “Pong-Ping” won’t ring a bell.

I won’t allow the opportunity to pass without congratulating my classmate, Ariel Domingo for being elected as President, PMAAA overseas chapter (Let’s go ’71). The same goes true to the other newly inducted officers. Congratulations likewise to Cav Pitong Heredia’70 as SOCAL Chapter President. (Talagang Mas Magaling ang ’71 sa ’70).

Our camaraderie and fraternity are imbedded in our system. They have become borderless and transnational.

Distance is no longer a problem. Geographical separation among Peemayers has only made us grow fonder of each other. Again, I am basing on this observation on all the “kayahizings” I read in PnC and ACF postings that transcend boundaries. Perhaps I can say we have grown even closer to each other and more informed of one another.

I am also glad to have meet in person cavalier email/group subscribers like outgoing President Rolly Cabanban, Benzie Patron, Lucio Tan@Singkitan, Butch Moreto, Marathon Finisher Gabby Dizon, Jami Jaramillo, Pepo Chanco, who looks and acts like his older brother Paco’69 to mention a few. I am likewise excited to see my favorite yearling, Cavalier Pitong Heredia a.k.a (Never Mind).

I am sure you know everything that happens in the Philippines more quickly than we do sometimes at home. When President GMA decided to become “ATE GLO” you knew it not an hour later but sooner. I bet when she decided to replace her decorative title to “INA NG BAYAN”, you had called up your relatives back home to confirm it.

Then, when former President Erap ran berserk and attacked the people running the judicial system you were closely monitoring what could happen next.

Likewise, when some indigenous people in our beloved country chose to prefer a Federal Republic by planting some unbelievable bombs in the Metropolis, and when the Lopezes who own Meralco want to pass on to their electric power consumers the interest rates on their loans and added costs instead of absorbing some losses for a change, you are as worried and concerned like any Filipino back home.

About two weeks ago, some established institutions lost face in the recent national sincerity rating survey conducted. While I don’t necessarily believe in the integrity of these survey groups, the sincerity rating of one institution nearest to my heart struck me the most – The Philippine National Police suffered heavily with a net -51. GOOD GRIEF! And to think that some eighteen months ago when I was heading it, we stood proud with a net +56 trust rating coming from a -13 just when I took the post on 16 November 1999.

It pains me that a police force that was slowly gaining public trust and approval and was well on its way to restoring its “OLGD GLORY” could suffer such a humiliating setback. Unabated resurging kidnap for ransom incidents, “Kotong Cops” back with a vengeance, jueteng money flowing as if there is no tomorrow – These are but some of the reasons for the net -51 rating.

Of course, I believe you are all aware of the absentee voting and dual citizenship bills that we are working on in both houses of Congress.

In the Senate today, we have the rare distinction of having three cavaliers in the opposition. No, it is not true that the three of us are always opposing each other- perhaps only most of the time. But even if we inevitably disagree sometimes, the common river in us that is the Philippine Military Academy runs. We are like three small rivers going to and fro the same ocean that is the Academy.

Rightly so, Senators Pong Biazon, Greg Honasan and I are trying our best to do well as Senators of the Republic. Both of them have their pet legislative obsessions. I have mine. Since I am not here on their behalf, I will discuss only my obsessions as a Senator, or to put it more aptly, as a public servant.

We have our own respective challenges at the PMA, we learned to be equal to them. At the Senate, our colleagues have learned to treat us equals. They better do.

I came to the Senate not by design but by fate. I had repeatedly said when I was still in the uniformed service that I hated politics, and to put it more bluntly, I hated politicians. I still do. I will always do. When my time in government services is finally up, I wish to be remembered not as a politician but as a statesman and a public servant. Make no mistake about it. There is a whale of difference between a public servant and a politician. While a politician places the nation at his own personal service, a statesman or a public servant places himself at the service of the nation. While a politician thinks of himself and the next election, a public servant thinks of the nation and the next generation.

Being a tyro legislator, I am coping to learn not from my colleagues and peers. No one is in a tutoring mode. Right now, the composition in the Senate is a mixture of several political parties- Lakas-NUCD, Lapian ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), Partido ng Masang Pilipino, PDP-LABAN, Nationalists People’s Coalition, Reporma Party, not to mention the independents. For easier arithmetic, make it twenty four(24) Republics in the Senate. In the House of Representatives, there are more than 200. Yes we smile each other a lot. But never commit the mistake of blinking, or turning your back, or you might end up with twenty-three stab wounds on you back. Of course, the three cavaliers in the Senate are luckier than the others in that we are confident to get only twenty-one knives on our back.

I learned of this reality the moment this present administration started unleashing its vicious black propaganda machinery to wipe out selected opposition personalities from the face of Philippine politics, with this humble representation at the frontline and therefore receiving the volleys of fire. No one, even my party mates wanted to sympathize or even at least to conduct their own investigation of the issues at hand so that appropriate positions could be made.

Everyone was busy minding his or her own politics. Then, when Sen. Nene Pimentel interpelated Sen. Noli de Castro on his opening prayer, which we do in alphabetical order, I thought it was the height of partisan, individualistic politics . I do not blame Sen. Nene for his eagerness to do so. He felt he would never have the chance to engage Sen. Noli in a debate since he doesn’t see a privilege speech coming out of Kabayan Noli.

When the investigations on the wild and poorly scripted accusations hurled by Cavalier Vic Corpus ’67 but with a lot of help from other cavaliers namely, Rey Berroya ’69, Rey Wycoco ’68 and Bobby Lastimoso ’67 started, I did not have a hint on where it was coming from. My own sources later identified the direction and support as coming from Malacanang. Using elongated chin named Angelo Mawanay a.k.a. Ador the unadorable (I wonder where he is now and how he is doing with his cellular phone sting business) and a woman scorned by another cavalier, John Campos ’87 named Mary Ong a.k.a. Rosebud against me started in the Senate, the PNP, AFP, NBI, Ombudsman, DOJ and what have you (even the House of Representatives at one point wanted to join the fray), I started wondering if an “old Boys Club” indeed exists in the Senate. In fact I could not distinguish who were party mates at that time.

Now that the anti-Lacson forces engaged in fabrication and manufacture of evidence have taken their natural course of dissipated and diminished energies, I have more time to think of how things really are in our country.

For the record, I co-authored the anti-money laundering act of 2001 in the Senate. Likewise, the amended dangerous drugs act and the ROTC law. My pending legislative acts include the bill on anti-terrorism, the anti-trust act, PNP trust fund Act among others. I also represented the Senate as member of the Bicameral Conference Committees when these bills were discussed jointly by both houses prior to their enactment.

Yes sirs. You heard me right- in spite of the vicious media assaults made possible by Victor Corpus on my supposed illegal drugs and money laundering activities, I was the very first legislator to push for the enactment of these bills’ into law. In fact, I made them part of my campaign pledges even at the time when I was not yet aware that they were cooking up something vicious and sinister against me. I was not made its principal sponsor only because I am with the minority bloc and that is a reality in the legislature.

One major thrust that I want to push through is the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) formerly Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) but more notoriously known as “Pork Barrel”. Last month, I filed graft and corruption against two-members of my Senate staff for violating a very simple and clear policy- the “No-Take Policy”. This is one policy that I had consistently and strictly enforced and implemented when I was still in the uniformed service which I want to continue in the Senate and for as long as I am in the government service.

But, as Sir Winston Churchill once said, “It’s gonna be long and hard, full of ups and downs, bloody and without withdrawal.” Of course, he was not referring to a newlywed couple’s honeymoon night but to World War II.

I believe public service in our country is a living covenant with the people. Government was invented precisely to give hope to the hopeless and grant help to the helpless. The people may not be our masters but we must act as their servants.

My dear cavaliers, you have chosen to live your own lives away from a decaying place. Sad to say, our country suffers from poor and bad governance. Corruption by Public Officials as well as in the Private Sector has become ubiquitous that sometimes we wonder if the practice was regular. Peace and order has never been bad, tourism is dying if not dead already. Uncollected garbage stinks everywhere and traffic going haywire a daily ordeal. We begin to wonder if we can still hope to survive the next decade.

What shall we do? There are no ready answers right now. I would like to believe that Peemayers like you and me might still have the Courage, Integrity and Loyalty to bond together and save our country. As everyone I presume, would unanimously proclaim, not one cavalier based abroad would be willing to give up on our beloved country, the Philippines.

Again, I thank you very much. And as we would “bolanize” our favorite and not so favorite upperclassmen, I would like to bid everybody- GOOD NIGHT, Sirs. SWEET DREAMS SIRS.