Current Challenges

Speech before the Philippine Councilors League (Bohol Chapter)
Bohol Tropics Resort Hotel, Tagbilaran City

First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your very kind invitation. This is my first time to address your Chapter. I understand you represent all of Bohol’s 47 towns and Tagbilaran City. I am profoundly grateful. Indeed, I really am. 

Likewise, let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a 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.

Next week, I will also be addressing your colleagues in Region 2. I hope to share my mind to your regional chapters in other areas, too. I can never be too busy for you.

Before I take my main topic, let me first dispose of the recent accusation. A little background could help.

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 Malacanang to my cry for innocence and its presumption. The tenant in Malacanang was very happy with Corpus’ kangaroo performance. She was all along the patron of Corpus’ travels and experiments.

Today, the shoe is on the other foot. DOJ Secretary-on-leave Hernando Perez has been accused directly by Congressman Mark Jimenez. And Malacanang presumes Nani’s innocence.

In the meantime, Corpus sees nothing, hears nothing, says nothing. It is unthinkable that Corpus, who is ISAFP chief, does not even know what made the Canadian and Australian embassies close shop. He does not care, either.

Here comes Madame Rosebud accusing me as a murderer of a police officer, Police Superintendent John Campos. Is Malacanang telling anyone that I should be presumed innocent until proven guilty? Malacanang’s tenant 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.

Where Malacanang chooses the kangaroo court for its political enemies, what kind of strong republic is President Arroyo talking about? She is only frothing in the mouth.

There is no strong republic – to borrow the language of former Supreme Court Justice Cruz – where the Malacanang tenant appears on television commercials, and there are billboards announcing even minor public works as her priority projects, 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 Malacanang 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.

Here comes another jerk by the name of Mr. Matillano who is Director of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detective Group. He has perverted with both authority and finality the meaning of crime investigation.

Congressman Ted Failon is right to ask for the replacement of Mr. Matillano who seems incapable of doing a good police work. I think Matillano should go back to school and re-write his stupid destabilization theory. Be sure you do not get him as Regional Director of Police Regional Office 7.

The former Vice President – who happens to be now in Malacanang trying hard to be president – has preached the gospel of a strong republic. In her tortured lecturettes, she says that evidence of such strength can be gathered from the following indicators:

One, the government serves and protects those who are weak.

Two, the government serves and protects those who are poor.

Three, the government serves and protects those who are jobless.

Four, the government serves and protects those who are hungry.

Fifth, the government serves and protects those who are imperiled.

Sixth, the government serves and protects those who are aggrieved.

Seventh, the government serves and protects those who are downtrodden.

The above seven objectives – of characteristics of a Strong Republic – can be broken down to the following:

One, delivery of justice to the weak, imperiled, aggrieved, and down trodden. Or criminal justice system and crime prevention or public safety.

Two, delivery of basic needs to the poor and hungry. Or shielding the poor.

Three, delivery of employment opportunities to the jobless. Or employment.

What is the score?

Since day one, the Arroyo administration has successfully failed. It has failed to sift through the many political demands constantly besieging it. It has failed to blend demands into public policies. It has failed to enforce those policies in such a way that no major group of Filipino citizens feels compelled to tear the nation apart.

Today, national survival is the ultimate test of the Arroyo government. Today, the nation has gone to the dogs. It will soon go to the wolves if we do not care enough to be bothered.

The test of national survival as regards public safety has not been passed. No need for statistics. Just go out at night and find if you feel safe.

And look at where the economy is heading to. The Gross National Product does not mean anything. One million jobs have been created? Whoever said so is now Secretary of Agriculture.

There are no new investments. Even privatization has become an endangered policy by the current administration. No wonder, it seems to find its adrenalin in takeovers.

What we feel is a quiet and raging despair among the people. But the people do not want another insane people power. They want only an election – honest, orderly, peaceful election.

The biggest challenge now is to get an entire society to initiate and activate its own progress and preservation. No government – no matter how well-mentioned, no matter how hard-working – can ever have a level higher than its source – the people. Only the people themselves can do it.

Good citizenry makes for good government. The formula stays. For good.

We are a Third World country – or a developing country. This means that majority of our people are poor by international standards. In fact, 30 million Filipinos do not only live a life of poverty, they also live blighted lives. Poverty is bad enough. Blight is very much worse.

In the first quarter of this year, a foreigner who has been doing business in the Philippines for the last three decades, Mr. Peter Wallace, wrote a comprehensive article entitled real solution to poverty. There are only two ways, he said to get people out of poverty. Give them jobs – not houses, not meals, not free medicines. Second, slow the rate of population growth.

The experience of developed countries when they were developing points to a three-pronged combination. One, job creation. Two, education. Three, reasonable population growth.

Who create jobs? Only businessmen, local and foreign, can create jobs best. They are the engine of growth. Without, poverty remains to stalk the biggest number of people.

If entrepreneurs are the engine of growth, then by all means their requirements must first be met by government. And what are these requirements? They are:

One, a safe environment. We can never be safe where the Malacanang tenant breeds opportunities for breaking the chain of command in the Philippine National Police.

Two, stability, consistency, continuity. Regardless of the succession of governments and administration, the playing field must remain leveled and the rules of investment honored. Businessmen are never afraid of changes. They are, however, afraid of instability and unpredictability.

Three, efficient infrastructure. There are enough funds from BOT projects without need to drain the treasury that can be used.

Four, simple bureaucracy. It has been said that bureaucracy is the art of the impossible and complicated. It ought not to be. On the contrary, it should be the art of the simple and possible.

All countries that graduated from developing to developed countries adopted the four measures cited above. China is adopting them. Japan adopted even more of them. The Philippines must adopt them religiously.

Job creation is but one of two wheels of poverty reduction. Our 2.4% annual population growth eats up any GNP growth in our economy. This is simple to understand.

In the past 25 years, the Gross Domestic product Growth rate averaged 3.1%. The population growth rate was 2.5% on the average. This means an improvement in the lives of only 0.6% on average per year.

Foreign investors and even donors take the hard view that economic development can never take off without a lower and more manageable population growth. The Catholic Church does not like me for my bold review of existing population growth policies. I can understand. But I ask the Church to be more understanding.

Man can not be sociable by himself, he seeks the company of others. He is born in a family. He lives in a neighborhood. He goes to school where students, teachers, and parents meet. He attends church. He works in a factory or company. He lives as a citizen of a nation. He is never alone.

Social development is the challenge of the hour. And the community is where social development begins.

The influence of local government units to social development – at least in their defined areas of jurisdiction – are thoroughly captured under Section 1 of Republic Act 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code.

The world today is significantly – if not already entirely – affected by globalization. This means the breaking down of national barriers in order to be integrated into one single international economy. Along with it is democratization which means the diffusion of democratic ideals to replace totalitarianism and military dictatorships.

Question is: Can development be sustained in a globalized nation? If so, does it lead to poverty reduction and more democracy?

Development can not mean just any development. It must be a development where man respects the environment and natural resources.

Can democracy sustain development and reduce poverty? Yes, provided the poor become our primary focus. They have little voice or no voice. Sometimes, we do not even care to see their human faces. They are even called names.

Let me now go back to where Mr. Matillano is leading to – destabilization. Let me say it for the umpteenth time: I do not see any reason to stage a coup. I am supremely incapable of it – anyway.

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

I criticize the President. This is only to keep what is right and to set right what is wrong. If I have to be framed-up for doing both, so be it.

I know you will understand.

Thank you very much.