Hope and the Filipino

Speech delivered before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines
Mandarin Hotel, Makati City

First of all, I would like to thank the officers and members of FOCAP for inviting me to this forum.

I am here to speak and share my views on the current political, economic and security situation in my country.

Except for the political situation which serves as a source of amusement if not entertainment for our people at times, the economic and security fronts are very depressing and frightening to most of us. 

Sure, it is tough to be a Filipino these days. The stark reality of one’s living conditions smacks the great majority of Filipinos right in the face as soon as they wake up in the morning.

The thought of another day of fighting congested traffic, pollution, and the ever-increasing fear of crime – incidents of kidnapping, robbery hold-up and other petty crimes, not to mention the fear of a possible terroristic attack, only to finally endure another back-breaking day of performing menial work in exchange for miniscule pay is enough for anyone of us to lose the faintest of hope.

Let’s face it – hope is all we have these days, a hope for a brighter future, not so much for ourselves, but at least for our children.

Worse, the Filipino is a living witness to a national leader whose Russian roulette style of governance makes it more precarious for the citizen of this country as he develops the feeling that he is one of 80 million gambling pieces.

Every day that passes, the entire nation slips deeper and deeper into misery and despair. There is no focus, no vision, and no sense of direction. One day she’ll be posing for pictures with arrested criminals or corpses, which, by the way is demeaning to the corpses as well as to the presidency; another day she’ll be surfing in the blue waters of Siargao in Mindanao. Then, she’ll talk of a Strong Republic, but the budget deficit is unmanageable at P180B and still counting, 1.8 million households are living below poverty line, many are losing their jobs each day, investments are down 49%, criminality is rising and so with smuggling, tax and tariff collections are likewise down.

He sees and hears of anomalies involving the highest people in government and their relatives. The ubiquity of commissions of graft in high places of government makes him feel helpless and angry.

The state of our nation these days reminds me of the time when I took over stewardship of our national police force less than three years ago. Then, I described the ills that bugged the Philippine National Police in three words: Inept, Corrupt and Undisciplined police officers, ICU, for short.

Nobody but the propagandists of the present administration will dispute the reality that the state of our nation is in similar health-worthy of the ICU, the intensive care unit. Whether it is the security situation, the breakdown of law and order, or even the economy, which is supposed to be the academic expertise of the present Malacanang occupant, the nation is gravely ill, and some say, in extremis.

When I took over the PNP as its Director-General in November 1999, public esteem for the institution was at net negative 13% as rated by highly rputable pollsters. When i stepped down after the mutiny in EDSA on Jan. 20, 2001, we were enjoying a net positive 58%. In fact, distrust of the police was at its lowest at 11%, which means only one out of ten Filipinos distrusted their police. Eighteen months after I left, the trust rating slid to a dismal net negative 51%. How sad.

My antidote to the ICUs was simple as it was straightforward: AID. Aptitude, Integrity, Discipline.

Police efficiency was hampered by mismanagement of resources. Police commanders were pocketing most of the funds. Very little was devolved to the field operating units. So, i made a simple rule – only 15% of maintenance and operating expenses and other logistical resources must be retained at headquarters in all levels, natonal, regional and provincial; 85% must be downloaded to the police sations and field operating units. We were continuously monitoring. Everybody was complying. My reputation as a no-nonsense and feared leader helped somewhat. Fund and logistical support to the lowest units tripled if not quadrupled. Morale was high, efficiency soon followed. Sadly, it is now back to where it was before 15-85.

My comptroller had informed me I had millions in confidential funds under my absolute discretion. This was likewise downloaded and put to good use by beat policemen.

And then, integrity. It was almost common practice that policemen would not return recovered stolen motor vehicles. Instead, these vehicles would be kept for personal use. When I gave these officers one week to return all misappropriated recovered vehicles, the national police headquarters parade ground was filled with more than 600 vehicles that would soon be returned to their rightful owners.

Suppliers and contractors transacting business with the police stopped giving rebates and commissions to some unscrupulous police officials.

I relentlessly fought what are known as kotong or mulcting street cops. These are policemen who were extorting money from poor passenger and public utility vehicle drivers and even fish and vegetable transporters. I enforced a “no-take” policy against the age-old illegal numbers game called jueteng and other illegal activities. Eventually, everybody complied.

I would soon find out, these fish and vegetable dealers, passenger jeepney and taxi cab drivers would deliver the votes that gave me a seat in the Senate.

My philosophy in leadership is simple. A leader cannot impose on his men what he cannot impose upon himself. Hence, how can we cleanse society of its criminal dregs when we cannot cleanse or ranks of its own derelicts?

Because of EDSA II, I stayed in office barely 14 months. But the short-lived tenure would reduce kidnapping cases to nil. We managed to remove the tag of the Philippines as th kidnap capital of Asia. We fought syndicated crimes and illegal drugs without let-up. Which is why it particularly pains me that the black propagandists of this administration have concocted so many lies to picture me as a demonic criminal. I am only comforted by a clear conscience and the public knowledge that under my watch, peace and oder was something that a law enforcer could be proud of.

What ailed the police, what ails it now, is what likewise ails this government. Power is too concentrated at the top, and in the hands of a politician obsessed only with her electoral chances in 2004. Resources are not put to good use, nor serve proper social and economic ends. The result is a mind-boggling budget deficit that is likely to hit 90% above the target deficit. And if 2002 is bad enough, we haven’t seen the worst yet. 2003 is likely to be worse.

A government cannot be “moral” by preaching integrity. It must live integrity. When whispers of kickbacks and commissions become noises, and the noises are coming from your own allies in government, or those you yourself appointed, you canot sweep the dirt under the rug. Only a no-nonsense leadership can begin to change a long history of corruption in governance. This present leadership, sad to say, has neither the sense to run government efficiently, nor the will to fight corruption in real terms.

Finally, a word on discipline. To me, discipline means having laws that are followed. Not exceptions, high or low. Discipline can be imposed only if the citizens see that leadership is serious, that it is willing to take it upon itself and its officials the same strict measures that it requires of them. No ifs, no buts, other than the compassion that social justice and equity require in an unequal society such as ours.

This present government, dedicated by self-proclamation at the EDSA Shrine on January 20, 2001, to “morality” and “good governance” is a total failure, an unmitigated disaster. It is in the ICU, and no amount of aid, foreign or domestic, can cure the fact that leadership has neither the right aptitude, nor the requisite integrity, to insure discipline and a sense of national purpose among our 80 million Filipinos.

Thank you very much. I am now ready to answer your questions.