Strong Government

Speech During the 2nd Globalaw Asia-Pacific Regional Conference, Manila Polo Club, Makati City

In my official capacity as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, I am very happy to welcome all of you to our country. I hope that you will enjoy your short stay. You must.In my official capacity as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, I am very happy to welcome all of you to our country. I hope that you will enjoy your short stay. You must.

We all are delighted at the degree of importance you place to your second conference as a global organization. That you selected our country to be your venue delights us no end. Let it not be the last. With Fortun, Narvasa, and Salazar Law office, you are in the best company, certainly and absolutely.

Incidentally, I happen to be one of the most celebrated clients of this law office. I honestly do not know whether the celebrity status belongs to the law office or mine. But I can tell you I am being taken care of very properly. Of course, I am also paying my legal fees very religiously. 

Now that I have paid my respect to Fortun, Narvasa, and Salazar Law Office – the sole Philippine member of GLOBALAW – let me thank all of you for your kind invitation. It is one invitation I have long prepared to honor. This I should do by sharing with you what you have long wanted to know. I shall be telling you the truth to guide you and your clients wisely.

The Philippines is – like any other country in this valley of tears – not a Shangri-La. We are a host to many kinds of problems just like your country and your clients’ country. This should not mean we have become a helpless hostage. We can never be, we will never be that helpless.

In short, ours is one country that can be very hospitable to business, commerce, and industry. Entrepreneurship is always a risk. Entrepreneurs – by nature – never shun away from risks. Risk-taking is their first nature.

The question in the last decade and this decade has been: Which should come first, the ideal condition of public safety or the bullish risk-taking of the businessman? Ideally, it must be public safety. In the real world, however, both the public safety officer and the businessman must come in and together. In their unity, public safety can be maintained and commerce sustained.

I want to give you a picture of public safety – or peace and order if you will – of the last twelve years. It is to show you that our country has never been a helpless and hopeless hostage to the authors of crime and violence.

There are two categories of crime all over the world. These are index and non-index. The first are more reliably reported and, thus, they form the index of public safety anywhere. In the Philippines, we further subdivide index crimes into crimes against person and crimes against property. I want to focus on the three index crimes of murder, rape, and robbery.

Flashed before you are a Table of Murder, Rape, and Robbery Volumes from 1990 to 2001 or for a period of twelve years. I must mention that our population growth rate is 2.5% annually. We are today 78 million Filipinos.

Table 1 Index Crimes of Murder, Rape, and Robbery

Year       90      91      92    93    94    95   96    97    98    99   00    01

Murder    9291   8707   8293 7758 6339 6096 6141 5766 5913 5703 5735 5860

Rape       1814   2026   2149 2285 2494 2346 2505 2913 3031 3177 3145 2607

Robbery 15545 13817 11164 9856 9169 7042 6428 5795 5519 5740 5884 6165

You can see the huge decline of murder and robbery. The murder volume in 1990 dropped by 40% while robbery dipped by 60% in 2001. Unfortunately, Filipinos have become more morally depraved. Rape dramatically went up by 43%.

Why the murder-robbery drops and the rape surge, is something we have yet to analyze. It is a good food for thought for both government and the community it serves and protects. For you, too.

It is worth mentioning that the above period covers four presidencies. Year 90 to first half of 92, President Corazon Aquino second half of 92 to first half of 98, President Fidel Ramos second half of 98 to January 2001, President Joseph Estrada whom I served as the Chief of the Philippine National Police from November 1999 to January 2001 and the rest of 2001, President Gloria Arroyo.

It should not be difficult to see the performance of the four presidents from the above table. President Estrada succeeded against crime more than his predecessors and his successor. We were more fearless. And there is no question about it.

The next table shows you how the Arroyo administration performed in the first quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year. To be (air, the Arroyo government is responsible only for the last week of January last year up to March. It is, however accountable, for the entire first quarter of 2002.

Table 2 Public Safety 1st Quarter 2001 and 2002

Year 2001      2002             +            /-%Murder            1252      1765             +            41%Rape                 658       670             +            1.8%Robbery           1355      1883            +             40%

Crime went up in all three categories. I hope this will not be the pattern in the next three-quarters.

There is one crime that has shamed our country no end. It is the organized crime of kidnap-for-ransom. This is the crime I fought against very, very hard during the Estrada administration. Table 3 gives us a comparative picture of years 2000 and 2001.

Table 3 Kidnap-for-Ransom, 2000 and 2001, and 1st Quarter of 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Year                              Volume             President2000                                48                   Estrada2001                                93                   Arroyo1st Quarter, 2000          15                 Estrada1st Quarter, 2001      26                 Arroyo 1st Quarter, 2002      20    Arroyo

As you say in your circles, res ipsa loquitur.

The huge increase from 48 cases in year 2000 to 93 cases in year 2001 is most unfortunate. Everything must be done this year to reach the 2000 level or even go lower.

This year’s first quarter volume of 20 is definitely lower than last year’s first quarter volume of 26. That is a 23% drop.

However, the unofficial numbers on kidnap-for-ransom incidents culled by non- government organizations are more frightening,

In the first five months of this year, at least 49 kidnappings were staged with a total of P51.95 million in ransom paid to the kidnappers.

Also worth noting is that, out of the 75 victims in these cases, majority, or about 67 percent are Filipinos; around 14 percent are Chinese or Filipino-Chinese and the rest are multi-nationals.

But why the huge disparity in the figures? It is for the simple reasons that less and fewer victims are reporting these incidents to the police, Why? Perhaps we all know the answer.

How can we minimize kidnap-for-ransom? My mind is simple, We must have a strong government. I will deal with this later. In the meantime, let me share with you an overview of kidnap victims.

The most vulnerable targets are businessmen, professionals, and moneyed people. In the past two decades – from 1980 onwards – 38% of victims have been of Chinese descent, 12% of other foreign origin, and the rest Filipinos.

By the nature of the heinous crime, it is committed by highly organized syndicates. Today, however, it has become a cottage industry targeting every vulnerable citizen. The need for supreme vigilance is now more urgent than ever.

I said vigilance not fear. Vigilance is a good antidote while fear is what makes evil flourish. We must not fear evil, we must fight it. Vigilance is the starting point.
Every crime is committed under three converging conditions, One, motive of the offender. Two, object of crime. Three, opportunity. We can not divine everyone’s motive but we can do away with both object and opportunity. Let me offer some measures of vigilance.

One, be informed and updated on activities and incidents within your immediate environment. Here, ignorance can make you vulnerable.

Two, provide yourself a security system wherever you are, wherever you may go. Do not take unnecessary chances.

Three, hire only people you have every reason to trust. Trust requires your actual verification of the background of your employee.

Four, avoid ostentatious display of wealth, big or small. Nowadays, people with very little ATM account have become fair game to kidnappers.

Five, when inside your car, take all necessary precautions. Sleeping is good for your health. However, kidnappers prefer to abduct victims who sleep too much and too long.

Six, do not stick to a route pattern. Also vary your schedule.

Seven, stop your car only in places where there are people; or better, where there are policemen.

Preventive vigilance is a continuing mode of existence and survival in this valley of the universe. It should be. A strong government gives us that sense. And this is what we need more in the real war on crime.

Such kind of government is today felt in the United States of America, which has given no quarters to terrorists. You feel the great resolve of the administration. As a result, you see the active cooperation of the American citizens. Cynicism – even in American media – has vanished.

There are four other problematic phenomena in my country, namely, the world-infamous Abu Sayaff, the 30-year old Communist Party of the Philippines, the secessionists in the southern part of the country, and the drug lords. You must know all these enemies who are now terrorists.

Again, only a strong government can deal them a lethal blow.

For lack of material time, let me briefly narrate the history of one of these phenomena; that of the Abu Sayaff.

Two decades ago, two Muslim scholars, Amilhussin Jumaani and Abe Dalogan, received training in the Middle East. As part of their development, they could not help but experience the jihad against the Russians during the Afghan war then. After their studies, they returned to Mindanao and formed an organization called Jamia-atul AI Islamic Tabligh.

Deep inside the heart of these two Muslim scholars was a very humanizing belief. That is, Muslims and Christians have enough room to live in harmony. Membership grew to 300,000.

Then something evil happened. A small group broke away and formed the Mujaheedin Commando Freedom Fighters in Basilan. This breakaway group espoused violence to promote Islam. This is the Abu Sayaff Group, as we know today. And we know it to be an international kidnapping and terrorist syndicate using religion as its angelic front.

Every time we argue for a strong government, the local communists rise in protest. So do the secessionists. So do the drug lords, kidnappers, and carnappers. They are all afraid of the violation of their human rights. They panic because a strong government can impose one system of criminal justice, the very system they detest to their last breath. I am today a victim of that subversive panic.

Not too long ago, a former communist now disguised as an intelligence officer tried and convicted me by publicity. He chose media to be his court of justice. He used government resources to do me in. He almost succeeded.

This kind of kangaroo system occurs only in the Philippines. All because of soft and little government.

I have had but one message throughout this speech. It is only a strong government that can protect us from crime and violence. Only a strong government call respect our basic human rights – civil, political, and social. And we know that government can only be as strong as it can impose – without fear, without favor – the system of criminal justice under the laws of the land.

We need a strong government also to create wealth and satisfaction to the governed. Here is your great opportunity to make a difference. It is not government that creates employment, it is commerce and industry. Jobs are what people need to overcome and conquer their misery.

But not just any job. In this world of high technology and information, business requires skilled workers. Our schools must teach the skills that entrepreneurs require in their enterprises. And only a strong government can inspire such enterprise-oriented education to our people.

I know that entrepreneurs – like your clients – have basic expectations. One is public safety. Second is continuity of government policies. Third is infrastructure. And fourth is an honest and efficient bureaucracy.

Let me tell you something: Only a strong government can deliver these requirements. A pilgrim government can not.

I go back to my early question: Must you take the risk of investing in the Philippines? You must. Not because of the problems but because of the opportunities.

This pragmatism was best expressed by an 18th century philosopher by the name of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Let me close my remarks by quoting him:

What made the establishment of societies necessary was, if you like, the fact that the interests of individuals clashed. But what made their establishment possible was the fact that these same interests also coincided. In other words: it is the overlap among different interests that creates the social bond, so that no society can possibly exist save as there is some point at which all the interests concerned are in harmony.

If that gives you enough optimism, then I want to say from the bottom of my heart –

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Have a good day!

*****

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