Speech before the Question Mark Club, Hagonoy, Bulacan
This is my first time to come to Hagonoy to deliver a speech after last year’s elections. I am greatly honored.
Hagonoy has become the home of titans. One of them is my esteemed mentor at the Senate, the Honorable BIas Ople. He has taught me a lot. I have yet a lot to learn from his vast wealth of experience and intelligence. I hope to ripen into a statesman of his stature someday.
Hagonoy is blessed because of Ka BIas. In fact, the entire nation is.
But behind the greatness of Senator Ople is the woman who made my visit possible today. To Mrs. Susana Ople goes my undying gratitude for this opportunity. She remains to me an elder sister with more wisdom to impart than I can ever imagine. Thank you very much, Ma’am.
Hagonoy has helped me to become a Senator. I can never begin to say how grateful I am for your trust and confidence.
I come today to say my thanks. I also come to assure you of my fidelity to the kind of work you expect me to do. The commitment has become a resolve.
Likewise, I want to thank your Club for your very kind invitation and for your attendance. In return, I would like to deliver my report card to you as an II-month old Senator. Perhaps, during the open forum if you wish for one, we can cover those concerns not taken in my speech.
I was in Baguio two weeks ago to deliver a message to the city press club. During the open forum, the mediamen’s most urgent concern was my Priority Development Assistance Fund. In fact, somebody asked if I would be willing to share something for their planned club building. I told them what I am going to tell you now.
My report card begins with the urgent commitment to do away with pork barrel under whatever name. Senators and congressmen were elected to make good laws for this country, not to build roads. Otherwise, we become, as a result, the donkeys of grease, greed, and graft.
In January 1998, no less than the Secretary of the Ramos Department of Budget and Management, Mr. Salvador Enriquez, blew open the lid of corruption. He said then – and he still says it all now – than an average of 45% of the pork barrel funds sinks and bulges in the pockets of Senators and Congressmen.
Mr. Enriquez should know. He was the indispensable party who made the corrupt releases. That he looked the other way, should bother him no end. It should.
In my book, here is the factory of the pockets of corruption:
1.25% of every project cost goes to the national office of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
2% serves as SOP for the Commission of Audit.
10% is given to the District Engineer.
10% is delivered to the governor or mayor.
15.20% constitutes the overprice take of the contractor.
And – hold your breath – 20% of project cost is earmarked for the Senator or Congressman, as the case may be.
I am ashamed to tell you that two of my staff became corrupt themselves. Today, they have been dismissed.
Tomorrow, they may yet become the prisoners they have been afraid to be. They are in agony. And they feel it.
That some Senators and Congressmen are reported to collect in advance their share of corruption is bad enough. That their relatives become their own contractors is worse.
We can pretend all day that it is not there. But deep in our soul we know it has been happening all these years.
We must stop pretending. That may yet be our best contribution. At least, for a start.
Senators are elected to pass good laws. We do not execute or interpret laws. We make them. In so doing, we remain a co-equal branch of government. Let it be that way – come hell or high water, with or without glory.
I have sponsored some legislation’s to improve our condition of public safety and our system of criminal justice. Let me enumerate them now.
One, Senate Bill No. 1338, the Anti-Money Laundering Control Act of 2001. This is now a law. To make the law universally rigid, I already filed Senate Bill No. 2040 to lower the threshold level of covered transaction from P4 million to P500,000.
Two, a companion bill is. Senate Bill No. 1599, Amendments to the Bank Secrecy Law.
Three, Senate Bill 1458, Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001.
Four, Senate Bill 1600, Anti-Trust Act of 2001. This is a consumer protection bill.
Five, Senate Bill 1820, Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2001.
Six, Senate Bill 1857, Anti-Firearms Smuggling Act of 2001.
Seven, Senate Bill 1842, National Card System Act of 2001.
To help our Philippine National Police access more funds for its professionalization, education, and modernization, I have filed Senate Bill No. 1939 and No. 1748. We need more than ever a truly professional, deeply dynamic, and highly motivated policemen and policewomen. Likewise, I have filed Senate Bill No. 1336 to establish a Philippine Air Force Academy.
One of the proven ways to create jobs and distribute the fruits of capital is a cooperative. Under my Senate Bill No. 1749, the promotion, organization, and development of cooperatives go through a holistic system. This is for the: good of our people who, otherwise, remain helpless and hopeless on their lonely own.
Our barangay captains help society in more ways than we can ever expect. Senate Bill No. 1746 provides additional insurance: P200,000 death benefits, P50,000 burial expenses, and P100,000 reimbursement of actual medical expenses.
Our youth must always be helped. Senate Bill No. 1358 makes ROTC optional without in anyway diminishing the training of our youth for responsible citizenship and leadership. This is now a law.
The relevant education of our young is a must. Under Senate Bill No. 1747, computer literacy becomes a mandatory part of the curriculum for both elementary and high school students in both public and private schools.
One result that may arise from our exchange today may be your suggestions for innovative legislation. Yours is a Question Mark Club. Before the answers are the questions. Before the fact are the dreams and visions.
I think I have complied with my duty. Now is your turn to interpellate me.
Thank you very much.