Speech Before USA Student Council of Iloilo, Iloilo City
Last October 23, I had the opportunity to address the newly-organized confederation of student leaders from our state colleges and universities. I saw something common to all of them. It was the driving force to lead.
Today, even before I begin, I am the one who feels inspired. Your generation is our country’s next best hope. The same driving force obtains among you.
Let me start with some personal circumstances.
I graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1971, some 31 years ago. You were not yet born. At that time, activists and militants were already a frequent sight in the streets of Manila. They looked upon us in the military as their enemy. We, in turn, regarded them as negative activists if not destructive militants.
The rest is history. We only need to learn its lessons, painful though they may be.
As future leaders of our one and only country, the duty becomes yours to discharge. It is your destiny to live with a burden you had no way of choosing. Transform that burden into a blessing and only then will you know for the first time what it means to lead.
For only burdens can create their own guts. And only guts can lead to glory. Just be sure you do not become MIB or Men in Black. Or too plenty of sex.
As a young cadet in the Philippine Military Academy, the first lesson I learned was this: Principle first before anything else. It is principle that can make you into a positive activist and a constructive militant. But before I proceed further, let me tell you how I got to study in the Academy in Baguio City.
I am from Imus, Cavite. After high school, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I went to Manila to enroll in a pre-law school. I really had wanted to be Atty. Ping Lacson.
One day, a friend of mine asked me to accompany him. He was a positive thinker, a CAN DO human being. He wanted to be a General. On that day, he was taking the PMA entrance examination.
I accompanied him, all right. In the process, I found myself taking the exams with him. Again, the rest is history. My friend failed and I passed.
I had not seen my friend since then. I only hope he is doing well and not wearing black. Or indulging in to plenty of sex.
I was saying that principle is what informs the character of anyone. Your elders must have told you this: If you lose your wealth, you lose nothing. If you lose your health, you lose something. If you lose your character, you lose everything.
The first principle I learned in the Academy is simple. It says: What is right, must kept right. What is wrong, must be set right.
Our country today is ranked number 11 in a new list of corrupt countries in the world. In our country, even roads that bear the name of a deceased but honest president have become sources of graft, grease, and greed. Only in the Philippines.
It is the height of irony that a former NPA and now chief of the AFP Intelligence Service would accuse me last year of money laundering, drug dealing, and kidnapping. His main cause was to destroy me by painting a picture of a corrupt and crooked Ping Lacson. He made media his court.
Fortunately for me, the truth was on my side and not on the side of Col. Victor Corpus. Today, his track record remains untainted by any kind of victory- be it over terrorists or his former comrades in the dissident movement. But he has staying power as the Gibraltar of this administration. And there should be no further doubt about that.
As a person, we need principles to govern our lives. If we are to excel as professionals, we need principles to rule or decisions. If we are to lead this nation, we need principles above everything else. Without principles, even the power entrusted to us will be lost, very much sooner than later.
To lead is to do what is right. Your positive activism must be built on that principle. Since we are a government of laws and not of men, it is the majesty of the law – and not the might of the powerful few – that must kept right.
Might is never right. Wherever it resides.
The contemporary citadel of enlightenment, if you ask me, is not Malacanang. It remains to be your college or university. Your council must explore that reality. And where it is missing, you must rediscover it very soon.
All too often, some people use the campus as a kind of human laboratory for advancing the latest politically correct and fashionable thinking. Is it little wonder then that many young people fall prey to counterculture shams, bohemian poses, narcotics, and other deviant behaviors? Just asking.
In every civilized society, the pursuit of truth is what gives soul to human dignity. Hence, every democracy installs a criminal justice system to uphold the innocent and punish the guilty. No matter what weaknesses our criminal justice system suffers from, a kangaroo court remains the domain of the barbarians.
Today, this kangaroo court is trying no less than the First Gentleman. We must not allow this form of dementia to afflict our society. Civil society must protest this barbaric hearing. Otherwise, it deserves its pejorative as evil society.
The college or university must not hedge in its pursuit of the truth. If we are to facilitate order in the soul, we must pursue the truth. This calls for institutional renewal. You must demand for it.
Many questions have been raised as to whether moral and ethical instruction is a central mission of the college or university. If it is, what set of values must be taught as essential without compromising academic integrity. Let me now discuss this matter.
In many speeches and messages – then and now – I had developed the value of moral courage as the ideal product of education. Students can have all the skills and knowledge and still remain uneducated. Worse, the same skills and knowledge could be used solely for selfish ends and wholly pragmatic ambitions.
To transform students into adroit practitioners of success strategy does not make the world a better place to live in. What can transform it is a regime of moral courage.
Moral courage means that the student learns to think for himself and raise questions that matter and count. Without moral courage, there is no faith. Without moral courage thee is no self to assert. Without a self, everything is a collective kangaroo.
The second value is gnothe seauton or know thyself. This is not a platitude from ancient Greece. It is a modern-day necessity. We must now allow the crowd or the mob to drain our unique individuality. We are on our own. Our best friend is us.
The third value is reverence for life. There are more things to admire in men than to despise, according to Camus. We must criticize because we must. But the bottom line should always be to enjoy, and not destroy, what is possible and noble.
These values must first be ingrained before you dream of public service. In the domain of pubic security, they are no less required.
I am now a regular speaker before various groups of public servants. And I always speak about our Constitution. That is the fourth value. If there is one fabric that holds our national unity as a people, it is the Constitution.
We have been tyrannized too long by a minority called civil society. It is time to examine ourselves again. It is time to purge this nation of this evil society.
In 1987, the people’s will was clear when we approved a new Constitution. It was our will to respect the Constitution. It was our will to respect the results of any impeachment, if any.
But in January last year, that will was subverted by the minority. They called it people power even if it was only the power of the minority. Worse, both AFP and PNP chose to take side with the evil minority. This incident should make the lady in black nervous aplenty.
Sometimes I ask the question: if Claro M. Recto were alive last year, would he have allowed the process of impeachment to be bypassed and trespassed by the so-called People Power II? It is a serious question. It is a food for thought.
On April 17, 1960, the University of the Philippines conferred on Senator Claro M. Recto the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa. He was never a UP student or alumnus, a fact that made the distinction even more meaningful. In his address – which was a commencement address – he delivered probably his best treatise. It was his last major speech, too.
After years of independence, Recto said, it is certainly time we developed a political leadership whose sole allegiance is to the people, whose sole concern is the welfare of the people, and whose desire is an unquestioned obedience to the people’s will.
Then he added this challenge which I must quote:
And the people must be vigilant and profess loyalty only to the leadership that best expresses their will and only for so long as such leadership continues to express and obey that will.
What we have seen so far is the unmitigated empowerment of a minority. People power should mean the empowerment of the majority who are poor and without hope. It should also mean the humility of the powerful minority to see the difference.
I hope I have expressed my mind in all candor. I want to thank you for your leave.
Thank you very much.