The Lions in Service

Speech Before the Manila Regency Lions Club

Every anniversary is always an occasion for jubilation. When that anniversary means 30 years of service and commitment – such as your anniversary today – then the world must pause and take notice. Let me, then pause and greet the Manila Regency Lions Club a Very Happy 30th Anniversary! 

I also would like to greet and congratulate all your newly-inducted officers. This comes at a very fitting time when you are celebrating your anniversary today.

When I received your invitation, I knew at that moment that I must thank all of you for that kind invitation. I am told that your festivity is free from spooks and spies in the likes of my many detractors. I hope not one of them is a Lion.

It is not for me to philosophize on the motives of these people to demonize me and send me to hell. Almost everything has been written about even before my first day as a Senator of this country.

I will not fight the way how my detractors are doing – using the media to destroy my reputation. Media is not the police. Media is not the prosecution. Media is not a judge. Opinions are just that – opinions. They are never a substitute to a judge’s decision and verdict.

What happened to the likes of Ador Mawanay and Mary Ong? They have long been discredited. What happened to the published bank accounts with US$700 million that I allegedly have? They have long been established as non-existent. They are quick to make press conferences and photo ops before conducting a thorough investigation. Kung kaya nilang gawin yan sa isang senador, papaano pa ang mga mahihirap. Isa na po riyan ang kaso ni Acsa Ramirez.

But there is one thing that is sure to happen – I am not going to vanish into the night without a fight.

I will fight the way of the Lion. I will fight inside the lion’s den itself.

In the den of our criminal justice system. In the den of civilized and civil society where guilt must be proven and innocence first presumed.

Friends, this not the time for a government official like me to merely concentrate on how to win an election which is still far away from reality. It is time for a government official like me and the others out there to concentrate on how to help ease our country’s pressing problems. And one such problem is our country’s ever growing budgetary deficit.

Let me tell you about the grim state of our economy. The Peso plunged to a 16-month low of P53.825 to the US dollar. Government debt is up by 17% and has reached P2.715 trillion. Our budgetary deficit may reach P223 billion by the end of this year according to Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin. We do not have any short-term or long-term relief in sight. What we hear though are cases upon cases of corruption in government.

It would come as no surprise that the delivery of basic services to our people will suffer greatly. Our people will have to rely on support groups or non-government organizations to assist them in their medical needs and livelihood projects.

Remember, the government cannot deliver all the basic needs to us especially in the presence of this budgetary deficit. We NEED the help of many Non-Government Institutions, Civic Organizations and others that would help deliver these basic needs to our people. We need to work and combine our strength towards the realization of this goal.

The Lions Club is one of the noted forerunners in philanthropic contributions in the Philippines. 30th anniversary na po ninyo ngayon. Through the 30 years of your existence, there are countless grateful Filipinos who have been beneficiaries of your charity. Lalong-lalo na po ngayon na naghihirap ang gobyerno natin, higit na kinakailangan kayo ng ating mga kababayan.

I was informed of the many projects and programs you have extended to our needy countrymen. With our medical missions, doctors’ services and medicine found their way to our needy kababayans. Your food and medical assistance in calamity-stricken areas have staved off hunger and safeguarded the physical well-being in their moments of critical need. I salute you for these and hope that you will not stop helping our people. Because by doing these, you are living with what you have promised and those before you, being a LION is to SERVE – to SERVE for the betterment of your communities and the world at large.

And as for me, your Senator and most of all, your Friend, legislation now is my business. I am looking at possible bills to strengthen good governance, public safety, consumer protection, and fiscal and economic management. I would be very grateful if you could share with me some of your ideas.

The making of laws, however, is not possible without investigations in aid of legislation. This has become a tradition in Congress which is co-equal with, and independent from, both the executive and judicial departments. I intend to contribute my share to such investigations in every bill that is going to be passed.

In closing, let me clear one last point. Until now some quarters love to rebuke me for entering politics. I still do not like politics. But I love public service more than I hate politics. I hope I share this distinction with the LIONS.

Once more, Happy 30th Anniversary!

Thank you very much.