This is my second time to speak before Freemasons. In November last year, I had the distinct honor of addressing another group of honorable and principled brotherhood in Manila.
I am equally if not more privileged to be with you today here in Davao. But first, please allow me to greet one and all a Happy and Peaceful New Year ahead.
For this, I would like to thank very worshipful Romy Yu for masterminding the move to invite me to attend your inauguration. I was deeply touched by the solemnity of the installation of officers this afternoon as I was impressed, maybe amazed should be the right word at how… you presented me the installation of officers.
Hindi ninyo naitatanong, Mason din po ako. Hindi nga lang Freemason, mason-urin lang. Katulad din ng marami sa inyo rito – masunurin sa misis, lalo na kapag may kasalanan.
On Rizal Day, in Baguio City, the President stunned the nation y announcing not to run in the 2004 presidential election. She said she did so to unburden herself from the destructiveness and distraction of politics in governing this country.
Many applauded. Others remained skeptical, still not a few began speculating upon hearing the unexpected policy statement.
People claiming to be in the know say the President feared most of all the possible dire consequences of an investigation by the Senate into the financial transactions of Lualhati Foundation and the Ginintuang Makabayang Alay Foundation. There are suspicions that the hundreds of millions or billions of pesos that found their way into these two foundations’ accounts would be enough to impeach and indict her and the First Gentleman for plunder. Making such a pronouncement, they say could very well diffuse any move to attack the First Couple and other personalities linked to both the foundations to them.
Then there’s the much talked about Charter Change being pushed in the Lower House of our Congress that will shift the present presidential form of government to parliamentary with the terms of office of all elected officials extended up to 2007.
If there would be no election in 2004, making that pronouncement could not have been easier.
The wildest speculation of them all is a report about a signed manifesto by a powerful multi-sectoral group that would force her to step down from the presidency and was supposed to be presented to her by the end of January. Getting prior notice of such move from her own source, she chose to preempt them by making that historic announcement.
Personally, I prefer taking the announcement at its face value. The President has spoken and she should be lauded for that daring and courageous act. She has set a goal towards uplifting the lives of Filipinos and we must all support her on that expressed advocacy.
In the meantime, I trust her word for the simple reason that history will be very unkind to her if she would renege on the pledge that she made. And she knows it.
Likewise, I enjoin my colleagues in the opposition to heed the call of the President to set aside politics and face together the challenges that confront our country. If we want our country to at least have a chance to move forward, there is no other option left except to follow the President’s call for a concerted effort and not allow politics to get in the way of rebuilding the nation.
If this is the antidote to the poison of politics that is killing our nation, we must all take it.
Our country has, for almost two years been overwhelmed, eve held hostage by political bickering and ugly infighting. Looking back at the time when I was pilloried and maligned without letup by this administration with fabricated charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and every crime they could ever imagine, I could not help but think of the day when my detractors would see the light and find compunction in what they were doing.
Now that the President no less has set a different tone and injected the poison for that sad condition is now immaterial. What matters is a renewed call for reconciliation and unity, at least among people in government. I hope it lingers. I hope it holds.
After all, regardless of our affiliations, we all have but one nation to serve and save from the perils of a bad economy, not to mention the failed law and order and the ubiquitous graft and corruption in government. Their common culprit is the politics in governance.
It is therefore to the credit of the President to have openly announced the removal of politics in the equation.
Our people will now watch her. They will judge if her future actions could match or at least be consistent with her pledge before the nation and the whole world. Any suspicion of politicking on her part will necessarily cast doubt on the integrity of her December 30 promise to our country and people.
After all, deception provides the cloud in anyone’s ability to distinguish right from wrong. And if one fails to determine what is right or wrong, he or she will falter in making decisions. A leader who makes wrong decisions becomes detrimental to the people. Then he cannot live with his conscience.
Where does the opposition stand now? Let me digress a little.
They say beating a dead horse will never have a political gain. Does this mean that the opposition will stop to criticize and even desist from pointing out faults and misbehavior in government?
The opposition operates on a deeper current than many people suspect. We have a strong point to make. More importantly, we must have the courage to go against the grain – at will and on our own.
The history of Freemasonry has never been filled with bystanders and fence sitters. Your predecessors went against the current and currency of convenience. They were never afraid to be uncomfortable. They sought the truth out.
Let it therefore be the guiding principle by which we in the opposition must conduct ourselves in the advent of the President’s famed announcement. The truth must always be pursued regardless of the political cost.
I am also told that masonry is a friend to everyone, regardless of creed, color and country. You are all brothers under the Fatherhood of the Almighty Father in heaven.
Masonry is humanity. Humanity is the supreme object of every global leader. And every Freemason must aspire for such object.
Let me end by congratulating the newly installed officers of the Toril Lodge 208 as well as all Freemasons for all the good things you have done and still doing for our country and people.
Again, a Happy and Prosperous New Year to all!