This Empire of Darkness

Commencement Exercises of Sultan Kudarat Polytechnic State College

Nothing in this world gives parents the highest sense of achievement than to witness the graduation of their children. When children graduate from school, we know that parents have arrived.

Show me your parents and I will tell you who you are. Congratulations to all the parents of our graduating students.

The next class of people I want to congratulate are the teachers. They are our extended parents. 

Show me your teachers and I know what you can become to be. Congratulations to all our teachers. Congratulations to the Sultan Kudarat Polytechnic State College.

And now to all the graduates, my first message is very simple. Feel the presence of your parents and say thank you. If they have already passed, visit them in their graves and offer to them a prayer of gratitude. For they are your parents forever.

Look at your teachers. Make them feel they are a part of you, of your success.

Forget those failing marks. To fail is to learn. To succeed is only to learn some more. They made you learn and helped you succeed.

You are now on your own. You should be.

Develop a can-do attitude. Grow a win-win life.

What is right must be kept right. What is wrong must be set right. No more, no less.

Let me express and explain what I mean.

In his Second Treatise on Government, published in 1689, John Locke devoted focused attention to the two powers of man. One, the power to do that which he thinks is fit to preserve himself and even other people. Two, the power to punish crimes committed against the law.

Such is the law of nature. Such are the powers of man.

These natural powers of man as an individual, however, are given up when he joins a society or community of men. For we must agree to a set of laws to govern our lives. And to govern our relations without exception. Thus, in a democracy, government is one of laws and not of men.

First, there is a people’s constitution. Second, there are laws and rules by which members of a society are to live with one another. All these, according to Locke, to be directed to no other end but to the peace, safety, and public good of the people.

I thought I heard President Gloria Arroyo loud and clear last year. She clearly defined her vision of good governance. Let me share her definition to place my message in context.

First, her belief system is molded along four core values, namely: to fight poverty and win the fight, to fight low moral standards and win the fight, to fight politics of personality and patronage and win the fight, and to lead by example and remain a winning leader.

Second, this belief system has been translated into eight standards of public service, namely: trustworthiness, results-orientedness, poverty alleviation, citizen empowerment, constituency feedback, continuing professionalization, respect for others, and simple lifestyle.

Third, if her good governance were to be kept well as a house, there are three pillars that must support it in good times and in bad, namely: sound moral foundation, transparency, and effective implementation.

These beliefs, standards, and pillars – she said – must be ingrained in our politics, economics, and rule of law. They must be internalized by everyone, specially by the public servant elected or appointed to serve.

I have no room for doubt as to her vision of governance. In fact, I share it, I care for it. But definitions are at best rhetoric. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

There has been a lot of eating without the pudding. Only motherhood words. So far.

You are graduating today into a place where your safety from the lawless is an impossible dream. Into a place where good government is a rare delight. Into a place where the empire of darkness holds court. I refer to the dark empire of drugs.

Thirty years ago – a few years before our graduates were born – there were already 20,000 drug users in our country. A drug lord by the name of Lim Seng was even executed. It was to convey the message that Filipinos can not be lorded over by the dark empire of drugs.

We, however, failed to set right what was wrong. For today – after the passing of thirty years – we are starting to have a demonic plague in our hands. There are now 1.8 million regular illegal drug users. 1.2 million of them are the future leaders of this country; they are our youth.

I said regular illegal drug users. We also have chance or casual users. And there are 1.6 million of them.

Incidentally, the figures I am citing come from a survey by the Dangerous Drugs Board made still in year 2000. The number should be higher now.

Many people say that the drug problem is a world phenomenon. It is. And that makes it very alarming.

Other people say that 1.8 regular users and 1.6 chance users are insignificant compared to the greatest majority who are not. This is like seeing one house on fire and saying there is no need for alarm because the other nine houses are not on fire. That is insanity at its worst.

If there are any among you in this audience who are regular users, my advice is: get into a rehabilitation center. It works.

To those who have had a chance to use drugs once or twice, my advice is: stop. It also works.

And to those who have had no experience, my advice is: Don’t. It works even best.

In this dark empire of drugs, the biggest role to play is expected from government. It must restrict the supply side, it must constrict the demand side.

In short, enforce the law. At all costs and by all means under it.

I was once a Chief of the Presidential Anti-Organized Task Force and Chief of the Philippine National Police. We then viewed the problem as our Enemy Number One. We restricted the supply and constricted the demand.

In 1999, we arrested 37,305 persons. We did better in year 2000. We did not only arrest 36,292 persons, we locked 103 foreign drug traffickers, 75 of whom are members of the Hong Kong Triad Syndicate.

The work goes on. But the problem cannot seem to go away. It is now demonic.

But we must not be discouraged. In the Congress today, the Bicameral Committee is now putting the finishing touches to a new law that adds more teeth to punish drug lords and drug users. On my own, I intend to focus the resources under my command – such as the countryside development funds – for use against the dark empire of drugs.

It would be a good idea for other members to do the same. I hope they will. Either we terminate the drug empire now or we all get terminated.

The war, however, cannot be won by government alone; and certainly not by the police alone. It must be the community – meaning, you – that must go to battle. First, by not taking drugs yourselves. Second, by reporting drugs peddling and use to the police. And third, by testifying against drug lords and peddlers.

Perhaps, you and I can create the necessary movement right here. This will be your advance gift to your children and grandchildren.

And where do you start? Let me answer that question with a story that occurred in the past. It is recurring today.

I will read to all of you a very touching letter. This was written by a young drug addict in 1977. Before the young boy died, he sent this letter to a columnist, the late Jess Bigornia who published it in the papers in the same year. The letter reads as follows….

Dear Mr. Bigornia,

By the time this letter reaches you, my physical body may have either been buried six feet below or laying in state in a funeral parlor or church receiving empty and hollow words of a necrological service.

But my death will not be in vain if you just print this letter as it is in your column…..

I was the teenage son of a ranking government official and, like most children of high government officials and business executives, I was left alone to manage my young life.

My Dad was an honest, dedicated, and able public servant. There was no question about his integrity. Every knows about that. To show his loyalty to the public service, he worked from 6AM to 11PM everyday from Monday to Saturday. He was, indeed, a model.

My Mom, on the other hand, may have been bored of not seeing my father except during the curfew hours. Or, maybe she was out to prove something. So she joined a women’s group and engaged in civic activities, public service, all sorts of ceremonies and social functions.

And nobody was left at home. Except us their children, the maids and the dogs.

As a young boy, I almost had everything in life one would have dreamed and cherished. Except for that one thing that I needed most: parental love, care, and concern.

Nothing in this world can replace a parent’s love and I was absolutely and completely denied of that. My father never found time to take me out for vacation where we could freely talk with each other. I needed him very much but he was too busy indoctrinating his subordinates and proving to his kind what a fine example of a public servant he was.

Without that kind of love, what is there to live for?

So….I joined a group of young boys and girls similarly situated like myself. Yes, there tens of thousands like us.

Our parents never forgot a single speaking engagement, birthday party, official or social ceremony, courtesy call and many others. They had secretaries and reminders. Yes, they remembered everything and every occasion.

Except their own children and family.

Slowly but surely, I turned myself to drugs to forget how unlucky I was. I committed petty crimes to sustain my addiction. I engaged in sex orgies with similar and opposite sexes. I did almost everything conventional only to attract the attention of my parents.

But all these efforts were in vain.

My father bailed me out when I went to jail. He fixed all the criminal cases in which I was involved. And he gave me money, car, and a bodyguard.

He asked me several times what was wrong with me. But he never realized that it was his affection that I needed most and not the earthly things like power and money.

Hopeless as I was, I decided to wake him up from his endless dream of loyalty and dedication to the government service. But it must be in the manner of the young but lost generation: death by means of drugs.

I still have a living sister, though. And I dedicate my death to her. May she be given the happiness that I utterly missed from my parents.

Mr. Bigornia, please print this letter for the sake of my sister and the rest of my kind….

Farewell…….”BOY”

A drug-free Philippines is the highest expectation of the Filipino People. They will not settle for anything less.

Once more, congratulations to all of you!

Thank you very much.

*****

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