Challenges to Leadership

Speech Before the Junior Chamber of San Juan, Inc.
San Juan Pinaglabanan Jaycees

Last Saturday, I was with the Greater Davao Jaycees for their induction, and today with you for your own induction, too. When it comes to the Jaycees, Davao is never too far for me to go, and San Juan is never too familiar to be taken for granted. It is always an uplifting experience to see the vigor and enthusiasm of Jaycees. Thank you for making me a part of Jaycee life. 

I know this is a happy occasion for you with your new set of officers being inducted today. I do not wish to dampen your spirit, but please allow me to add some reminders to our celebration today.

If we have our appetizers for our food, let these reminders be appetizers for our thoughts.

The Jaycee movement has been in the forefront of nation-building since it came to the country. It has dedicated itself in leadership training for our young professionals, businessmen and employees.

As Jaycees, the subject matter of leadership is your daily bread. Once again, and even more than ever before, leadership in our society and the whole nation faces great and formidable challenges.

I know you feel this in your heart. I know you have your fears as I have mine.

Despite the mounting calls for peace all over the world, war in the Middle East remains a possibility. We cannot even fathom how devastating it will affect us when it breaks out.

Our overseas workers in the Middle East are getting jittery each day. The peso is already threatening to breach the 55-to-a-dollar mark. And there seems no end to the rise in the prices of petroleum products. The toiling masses are feeling the pinch hardest as they see their hand-earned income crumble under spiraling prices of basic goods.

I was in Mindanao last weekend and the war was not even remote… Power lines are being blasted at will sending most of the island into darkness, literally and figuratively! You watch it on TV and your read it on the newspapers.

Meanwhile, criminality in the streets continues to rise, prompting no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself to take over spot-checking police stations. She must have a good reason for doing that with all the media coverage, but it made people wonder what ever happened to the many police generals manning the Philippine National Police. No doubt, the President had other more important matters to do in this time of crisis and they are allowing her to waste time doing someone else’s job?

People are taking a hard look at what the government is doing and not doing. From the government, people are looking for leadership to allay their fears. Finding none, more and more are getting desperate and disillusioned, a condition more destructive than war itself. For such a condition, if left to deteriorate, can lead not only to specific losses but to the loss of the nation itself!

This is a time when our people must find inspiration from our leaders. Our problems are gargantuan and cannot be solved by a few. It will take the whole nation to solve them.

Neither can these problems be solved by foreigners for us! Yes, we need assistance from friendly countries. But we cannot just allow our Constitution and laws be disregarded and violated. We cannot just accept every term that donors require or even dictate. Assistance is not help if it leads to bigger problems. Pictures of foreigners doing what Filipinos should be doing in the first place are sending our people the wrong message on nation-building.

Filipinos must lead in their own country. As Jaycees and Filipinos, your commitment to leadership excellence and dedicated service to our society has become a valuable asset for the nation. You are one proof that this country is not lacking in good leaders. It is only a question of building that bonding among us and between the people and the government to tap the great resource called the Filipino.

Now let me share to you some thoughts on the issue of leadership that I shared with your fellow Jaycees in Davao.

I know you will all agree if I say there must be relevance for our quest for leadership excellence. Leadership excellence for what or for whom?

I encountered something of this question deep in my mind and deeper in my heart when I assumed the post of Chief of the Philippine National Police.

Looking back, I do not remember dreaming of becoming a soldier or a policeman. When I was young I wanted to be a lawyer.

I entered the Philippine Military Academy more because of need than desire. It was a chance for me to get free education. It was an opportunity that also introduced me to the mission of public service.

While in the PMA, we were made fully aware that we were being trained not only as future leaders in uniform but leading members of the society as well. But it was during my stint as top law enforcer in the Philippine National Police that I started reflecting hard on my role as a leader. I knew I was being closely watched by the public. I knew people were wondering if I deserved the appointment.

What I did first was talk to people closely associated with me. I reminded my family and close relatives not to involve themselves in something that might put my office in the bad light. As before, they gave me their full support and stayed away from trouble.

Then I talked with my batchmates in the PMA and told them to stay away from the golf courses during office hours. They grumbled a little but they complied.

You see, we used to have sports days in the PNP and some officers used that for playing golf. I explained to them that golf had to be replaced by in-camp sports activities. The twice-a-week sports activities in the camps reinforced comradeship as officers and men worked out together. A few months after, even the hopeless and lousy looking bellies turned trim and good to look at in police uniform. Policemen started gaining back respectability.

If things turned out well, then excellence in leadership starts with leading by example.

I called on my fellow officers to make a pact on a “No-Take Policy”. No one was to take money from jueteng and other illegal activities. The practice of kotong was subsequently eliminated. Kotong cops disappeared to the delight of drivers and other victims. The toiling masses once more felt that the police was there to serve them and not harass them.

I stopped the malpractice of policemen of misappropriating for their personal use recovered carnapped motor vehicles. Two weeks after I assumed office as Chief, PNP, Camp Crame was filled with more than 600 motor vehicles previously being used by errant police officers. They were soon returned to their rightful owners. The public once more felt that the police was on their side.

If things turned out better, then excellence in leadership is attainable by serving the interests of the people.

We downloaded 85% of the PNP budget to the operating units that substantially removed excess privileges of top police officials. Disciplining the police rank and file was easier because they had more resources to do their job. Police work improved. We managed to remove the tag of the Philippines as the kidnap capital of Asia. Bank robberies stopped.

When I assumed office in November 1999, public trust towards the police was at a low net negative 13%. When I stepped down in January 20, 2001, we were enjoying an all-time high net positive 58%.

If things turned out excellent, then excellence in leadership entails sacrifice and demands dedication to duty.

Recently, I once again proposed the abolition of the pork barrel to help the cash-strapped government. Pork barrel has its benefits, but I feel doing away with it is the right thing to do at this time.

I was not really sure what excellence in leadership was when I started, but doing the right thing seems to be what it is all about.

I follow a personal credo for my work, “What is right must be kept right; what is wrong must be set right.”

This is a time of crisis that will try our will and determination as a nation. The more that we should not go wrong.

Peace and order is right. Lawlessness is wrong.

Good governance is right. Corruption is wrong.

Justice is right. Poverty is wrong.

First things first.

We cannot have progress and development if we do not have peace and order, if we do not follow the law and if we will not discipline ourselves before we discipline others. This is the right thing to do at the moment.

And definitely what you are doing in the Jaycees is right. It is right to pursue leadership excellence for dedicated service to society in our common quest for peace and order and progress for our country and people.

It is through this common effort that we will all become relevant leaders ourselves worthy of the affection not only of our families but our fellow Filipinos as well. And when we have this bonding we shall overcome our common fears and anxieties that have real bases or none.

Now let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a poor couple deeply obsessed with sending all their eight children to school, all the way to getting their college degrees.

Their philosophy was, since they did not have the material things to leave to their children when they perish from this earth, good education was the only thing they could provide them. After all, they believe that nobody in this world can take away that precious inheritance that they thought of bequeathing to their children. They themselves did not have decent education, which explains why they were poor.

Amazingly, they were very honest human beings; they would work extra hours everyday of the week but were never tempted to earn extra money from less honest means. They did mind having decent meals or not even enjoying the normal three-meals-a-day-reward of back breaking hard work just to save a little for their children’s education.

They were likewise very religious. Never a Sunday would pass when they would skip attending mass in the town’s parish church.

They never quarreled, or at least would not show their children even their most minor misunderstandings.

With the help of God, or, as they used to say, “May awa ang Diyos, makakaraos din tayo”, the children finished their schooling. They have become professionals in their own field of interest.

The fourth child has since become a public servant.

He promised himself never to allow his own children to experience the same poverty that he saw in their midst many, many years ago, but he likewise vowed never to lose sight of the honesty and the other simple virtues that he saw in his parents as he grew up in his hometown.

Beloved Jaycees, my friends – the poor couple are my parents, my best teachers in leadership by example. I am the fourth child who is now a public servant.

Maraming salamat po at magandang tanghali sa inyong lahat.