Peace and Order: The Key to Sustainable Foreign Investments in the Philippines

Speech Before the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Valle Verde Country Club, Pasig City

First of all, I would like to thank all of you – most specially Chair ROSALINDA D. EVANGELISTA – for your very kind invitation. Likewise, let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New year. Come hell or high water, we all will celebrate a merry Christmas. We all will welcome with hope the New Year of 2003. 

This is my first time to address your Association. I am profoundly grateful. And I prepared a very long speech.

You asked me to talk about peace and order as the key to sustainable foreign investment in the Philippines. That gives me the honest impression that you want to help both in the campaign to suppress crime and in the campaign to sustain foreign investments.

Let me start by reading the following observations by a great leader:

I sometimes think that we are too much impressed by the clamor of daily events. The newspaper headlines and the television screens give us short view. They so flood us with the stop-press details of daily stories that we lose sight of the great movements of history. Yet it is the profound tendencies of history, and not the passing excitements, that will shape our future.

These observations were made 40 years ago before the students and faculty of the University of California. They were made by no less than the President of the United States, the late John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy was talking about his country and his people. The short view, he said, gives us the impression as a nation of being showed and harried, everywhere on the defensive. He described it as an optical illusion.

In our country, we are never short of optical illusions, in all forms, sizes, and shapes. Consider the best actress this country never had, Madame Rosebud. Consider the greatest crime investigator this country never had, Mr. Matillano. These and their ilk are the best creators of every optical illusion even a Houdini would fail to understand.

And where do you think our nation suffers the short view in greatest abundance? In malacañang itself. And that reminds me of the following commentary which, with your leave, I would like to read verbatim.

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo blamed politics for making our country’s weak Republic, she was pointing to herself. Never has a sitting President been as obsessed as she is with the highest official in the land… and wants to be retained as such by direct vote of the people. Toward this end, she as been campaigning vigorously although the campaign period is supposed to begin under the law 90 days before the presidential election on May 10, 2004.

The commentary was made by former Supreme Court Justice Isagani A. Cruz in his December 8 column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It is true – when a president takes the short view, she can never lead. And when a President fails to lead, we go in different directions. Ultimately, we become divided against each other.

The condition of peace and order is what should unite us together against all forms of violence and crime. But even here, we seem to be falling apart. Take the criminal justice system as our only best weapon against crime. We are ripping it apart. Let me explain.

Last year, the ISAFP chief, former NPA Victor Corpus accused me before the court of the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a money launderer. I was shocked.

What aggravated my misery was the indifference of Malacañang to my cry for innocence and its presumption. Now that DOJ Secretary-on-leave Hernando Perez is being accused directly by Congressman Mark Jimenez, Malacañang presumes his innocence sealed with a kiss. In fact, it has challenged the accuser to come forth with his charges before the proper court. If this is what a strong republic is all about, then we all have been had.

Here comes Madame Rosebud accusing me as a murderer of a police officer, Police Superintendent John Campos. Is Malacañang telling Rosebud to come up with her charges before the proper court? Is Malacañang telling anyone that I should be presumed innocent until proven guilty? Malacañang is deafeningly silent.

Rosebud’s hallucinations do not disturb me. She has every right to be insane. What disturbs me no end is the selective application of the criminal justice system by the very person sworn to preserve it and protect it, the President.

If peace and order is the key to sustainable foreign investments, the pillar of the rule of law is the criminal justice system. Where Malacañang chooses the kangaroo court for its political enemies, what kind of strong republic is President Arroyo talking about?

There is no strong republic – to borrow the language of former Supreme Court Justice Cruz – where the Malacañang tenant appears on television commercials, and there are billboards announcing even minor public works as her priority project, as if she were a municipal mayor claiming credit for every esquinita.

There is no strong republic – to borrow the language of the Supreme Court Justice – where the Malacañang tenant exhibits arrested suspects as if they were already convicted criminals, ignoring due process and the constitutional presumption of innocence.

There is no strong republic – to borrow the language of the venerable justice – where she refuses to act as President and continues to act like a barangay huckster.

Mr. Matillano has perverted crime investigation by adopting his stupid destabilization theory. Congressman Ted Failon is right to ask for the replacement of Mr. Matillano who seems incapable of doing a good police work.
Notwithstanding all this confusion, I must tell you that something good has happened in the last five months about peace and order. The credit goes to Chief, PNP Police Director General Hermogenes Ebdane. He has been able to reduce substantially the crime of kidnap-for-ransom. Ebdane has effectively focused his wherewithal against KFR. On that aspect, he deserves our admiration and support.

But I am afraid a lot more has to be done to improve our Philippine National Police. If we are to enjoy a better condition of peace and order, this is the organization we must rely upon. It must remain truly professional in the investigation of crime, deeply dynamic in crime prevention, and highly motivated in community relations. It makes no sense to make PNP a political lapdog of Malacañang. A divided PNP may yet be the worst enemy of any commander-in-chief.

How do we discipline the police? First and foremost, every police officer must avoid corruption. That is exactly what I demanded from the police when I became Chief, PNP in November of 1999. I remember telling our police officers then that with some little imagination and effort they could live an economically adequate life.

They need not steal from public funds.

They need not extort from the private sector.

They need not share from illegal gambling and vices.

Some police officers, however, remained deaf. They continued mulcting drivers and viajeros. Others continued using car-napped vehicles they recovered. Still others were piling hay from jueteng. Today, they nurse nothing but regrets.

I have a little story to tell.

I was once assigned as commander of Metro Cebu. In spite of a relatively peaceful condition, a kidnap-for-ransom occurred during my watch as Metrodiscom Commander. We went to work, safely rescued the victim and arrested the kidnappers. The victim’s family was profusely grateful and deeply relieved.

But that is only a part of the story. Immediately thereafter, the victim’s father came to personally thank me. Without meaning any malice, he offered an amount of money to express his gratitude. I gently refused. And he wisely understood.

That no less that the ISAFP Chief, Col. Victor Corpus, would last year accuse me of making money through abduction, remains to me incomprehensible. What gall. I can only pray that in his pray that in his old age he will be man enough to repent of his folly.

Let me digress some more.

In November last year, Police Chief Superintendent Reynaldo Berroya accused me of plotting against the Arroyo government. His destabilization theory is no different this year from that of Police Chief Superintendent Matillano who is now Director of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detective Group.

It is not in my blood to plot against any government. Not during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos. Not during the time of Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada. And certainly not against the Arroyo administration.

Let me say it for the umpteenth time: I do not see any reason to stage a coup.

I criticize the president. This is only to keep what is right and to set right what is wrong. If I have you will understand.

You all believe that crimelessness is the key to sustainable foreign investments. I wholeheartedly share in your belief. Let me now share with you some insights.

In a thoroughly-researched work, Mr. ELLIOT CURRIE of the University of Berkeley in California concludes that where private gain becomes the dominant organizing principle of social and economic life, then we need to expect high level of violent crime. The dominance of private gain is what makes society vulnerable to violence and criminality. The operative term here is dominance.

To prevent and eliminate crime, is easier said than done. Murder has not stopped since Cain killed his younger brother. Robbery and theft have not stopped since somebody stole something from the tree of life. And begun enjoying it.

What we can do at best is to comprehend those mechanisms that contribute to our vulnerability to violence and crime. In so doing, we hope to maximize our defenses.

In the work of Currie, there are seven such vulnerability-contributing mechanisms. Let me briefly comment on all of them.

One, progressive destruction of livelihood. You and I know that crime and the labor market are intertwined in multiple ways. Unemployment offers no rewards. It only brings temptations to commit crime and violence.

For example, street peddlers of drugs are first idle and unemployed. Because of misery and frustration, they then become easy prey to the poisoned carrots of narcotics.

Two, growth of extremes of inequality and material deprivation. You and I know that a hungry stomach knows no law. When poverty is what welcomes and attends the birth and growth of children, we can be sure that crime will be their easy company. This is most experienced in urban blighted areas.

An equalizer would be to catalyze the growth of the middle class. What is happening is that the few rich people are dwindling, the many poor people are getting poorer, and the middle class can not seem to make any difference.

Three, the withdrawal of public services and supports. This is most humanely unfortunate if not altogether lethally tragic.

Government was invented precisely to support and protect the weak who are many from the few who are strong. The wealthy few can take care of themselves. But the poor majority must be taken care of.

Public money must be spent for the poor and not stolen from them. Otherwise, the poor and unemployed and unwashed will do nothing but rebel and revolt.

The late American President John F Kennedy once said it best: A government that can not protect the many who are poor, will not be able to save the rich who are few. He is right.

Four, the erosion of informal networks of mutual support. What continues to keep us sane is the network of informal supports – from our traditional family, friends, schoolmates, fraternal clubs, professional associations, and the like. All these must not be co-opted by the evil society.

For if we do not nourish enough this network, we may see the day when the law of the jungle takes over. We all become barbarians once more. This time, with unparalleled virulence.

Five, the spread of a materialistic and neglectful culture. Somebody many years back came to the Philippines. He visited the Smokey Mountain, went back to his country, and wrote of our damaged culture.

We never learned to like the article. Neither did we forgive the writer. Whoever he is.

Today, my friends, it is not damaged culture that disappoints us. We are now hearing of the culture of callousness. This is worse than Fallows’ damaged culture.

Six, the deregulation of the technology of violence. Let me deal on the technology of violence from my experience as police officer.

Until today, many people do not like me. These are the people who would like to own and use a gun under the guise of self-protection. As such, they would like government to ease up the regulations and restrictions on gun licensing, including permit to carry firearms outside residence.

When I was Chief, PNP, I gave an order: only those who could validly justify ownership, possession, and carrying of firearms should be allowed. The principle is simple: the technology of violence – guns, for this matter – must not be deregulated. It must, instead, be religiously regulated and restricted.

I held on to that principle. And people held on their hatred.

Question is: has private gain and commerce anything to do with the deregulation of the technology of violence? Yes, it has. Not only among entrepreneurs but also among government regulators who are corrupt.

The best way to degrade the technology of violence is to regulate it some more. If government means to govern well, here is where it must show its power. Even America is having a change of mind on gun proliferation. Why can’t we?

And seven, the weakening of social and political alternatives. If we are afraid of alternatives, we should at least be less afraid to discuss them in the open. Otherwise, we remain stuck.

Our political values must be changed from electoral victories to building leader institutions. Those who are vested with the authority to govern, must vest themselves with the audacity to serve.

To help us prevent crime, we need the police. To bring criminal elements to justice, we need the police even more.

You tell me that we need police officers who have aptitude to do their work well. I agree.

You tell me that we need police officers who have integrity in their hearts, honesty in their minds, and humanity in their hands. I vigorously agree.

You tell me that we need police officers who have enough discipline to follow their superiors, respect their peers, and honor e chain of command. I most vigorously agree.

Cleansing the police was my first agenda when I became Chief PNP. As a result, the people spoke during my time as Chief PNP and gave the PNP the highest ever Net Approval Rating of +58. Sayang, this nosedived after January 2001.

Be that as it may, hope springs eternal. That applies not only to crime prevention and elimination but also to sustainable foreign investments.

But crime prevention and elimination, my friends, is not all police work. It is a community effort. It calls for you and me. For us together.

Thank you very much.