What We Have Is Now

Speech Before the Members of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative, Tulunan, Cotabato

I cannot begin to say how grateful I am to be invited to your 21st Annual General Membership meeting. 

Unfortunately for me, I cannot make it today. I hope you understand. But I am sending my Chief of Staff. He is a lawyer. He is young. He is articulate and he is handsome. Please tell him what you want me to know and do for COTELCO. He will be doing the spadework.

It has been a year since you elected me Senator. Today, I want to acknowledge my debt of gratitude to all of you. I am your Senator. I am your protector and benefactor.

The 12th Congress has just opened its 2nd Regular Session last Monday. Today I would like to render to you my report card. It covers what I did during the 1st regular session.

I will also be baring my mind on the state of the nation as I see it from my vantage point, as I see it through the eyes of the poor.

Why did you elect me your Senator? And for that matter, the other Senators? You want us to make good laws to govern our nation. You want us to be independent from both the Executive and Judicial Departments of government. You want us to be co-equal with, and not an adjunct of Malacanang. You gave us that worth and it is our obligation to prove we deserve all of it.

I have sponsored some legislation 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. The Arroyo administration wants to fight terrorism and it needs a law to add more teeth to the campaign. Strangely, it never made this bill an administration bill. Until last Monday, is it because the opposition has initiated it?

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.

We all know that government is in a strong position to raise the quality of life of the greater majority of Filipinos who are poor. To do so, it must attract and maintain investments. Through investments, jobs can be created. Only through jobs can a people raise their quality of life.

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 own.

Our barangay captains – who were elected only the other Monday – actually 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.

And now on the state of our nation.

A year ago, President Arroyo declared her war against moral turpitude in government, against lack of transparency and accountability in government, and against low efficiency in government. She declared war against poverty and probably against everything that she could ever imagine.

True to form, she held summits after summits. She went from town to town. She was a promising President and there is no doubt about that.

Today, after a year and a half of endless summits and peregrinations, I am afraid her declarations were all empty rhetoric. Many more people today feet things have gone a lot worse.

According to the latest Social Weather Stations survey, nearly 1.8 million Filipino households nationwide suffered from hunger – at least once – in the last three months. Now you realize why many more Filipinos want to leave their country as confirmed by the latest survey of Pulse Asia.

We do not want to see hunger in our native land. Nobody does.

The quality of life under the administration of President Arroyo has now become worse. It can even become worse than worst. We can only hope that after her recovery from termite bites, she will begin to finally govern.

Her government announced early that it wound contain in the first semester of this year a PHP 78.26 billion. That was all empty rhetoric. Today’s deficit has already ballooned to PHP107.54 billion. There seems to be no stopping it.

With a runaway deficit, she does not need any more termites from within. And no amount of public relations can bury the truth of her dismal failure if not negligence. It is not only political mistakes she must confess to, her economic mismanagement is showing naturally.

The President’s failure – dismal as it already is – is no reason for us to give up. Governments and their administrations come and go. We can always change the leaders.

Let us, however, make sure that we go the way of elections – such as the other Monday. And never, ever again, through EDSA.

That is something that people must not keep changing. This is the spirit of the community. Let us become a socially responsible community. We must move on. Even in spite of a weak government and administration.

There is one community to whom you and I must sow all the seeds of love. I am referring to our countrymen who are – or wil1 be – under the spell of dangerous substance and drugs.

It is time to attend to the needs of our young. If we lose them, we lose everything, including our humanity. Let us make Cotabato drug-free!

In closing, let me strongly suggest to everyone to keep on working. Here and now.

The past is gone. Tomorrow may never come.

The only time we have under our control is the NOW. Let us make the best out of it – for us and especially for our children.

Thank you very much.