Speech Before the 39th Collegiate Commencement Exercises
First of all, please allow me to thank you all for inviting me to the 39th Collegiate Commencement Exercises of the Masbate Colleges.
Certainly, graduation is one victory that we all must achieve in life to realize our dreams. For the ordinary Filipino, graduation is often a hard-earned victory over illiteracy in the midst of poverty. It is often viewed as a victory in spite of the countless frustrations and challenges not to mention obstacles that both parents and children have to face and endure.
Sa mga magtatapos sa taong ito, maituturing ninyong mas mapapalad ang hindi makayanang magpa-aral ng kanilang mga anak.
Dahil na rin sa malawakang kahirapan, mas maraming pamilya ang hindi makayanang magpa-aral ng kanilang mga anak.
Considering the present conditions in our country, only about 65% of high-school-age youth manage to enroll. And only some 66% of those who manage to enroll eventually complete the secondary course. Those who manage to enroll in college and eventually graduate are far, far less in number.
Those who manage to enroll in college and eventually graduate are far, far less in number.
To all of you, consider yourselves the luckier ones. Hence, my congratulations.
I was once a graduating student like each and every one of you. More than 30 years ago, I stepped out of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City wondering what the future would bring. One thing was clear in my young mind, though – I chose a profession of public service.
I had always dreamed of becoming a law enforcer when I was a young boy. I wanted to become a lawyer to qualify as an NBI agent. So, I enrolled in a pre-law school after high school.
But it was not meant to be. A high school friend asked me to accompany him to take the entrance examination for admission to the Philippine Military Academy. I ended up taking the entrance exams with him. I passed. He failed.
I did not become an NBI agent, but I became the top law enforcer of the land. I realized then that dreams are fulfilled not exactly how we want them for ourselves, but rather what our roles had been in pursuing them.
My stint as Chief of the Philippine National Police was an eye opener for me. I did not have sophisticated plan to implement. I simply followed a dream of discipline and dedication to duty.
I had a simple obsession – to bring back the lost glory of the policeman.
When I assumed command of the police organization, I remembered how as a young boy in my hometown, the barrio policeman was accorded the same amount of respect reserved for the school principal. Sadly, over time, the respect disapperared. Even the policeman’s self-esteem was gone.
I thought then and I still believe now that the best way to pursue that dream for our police is through leadership by good example.
There is no way one can impose on others what he refuses to practice himself.
And so, I went to work.
I stopped the practice of street policemen of extorting hard earned money from helpless public utility drivers and vegetable and rice dealers. They complied. Soon, the “kotong” cops disappeared.
I ordered police officers who misappropriated for their personal use recovered carnapped motor vehicles to immediately return them to their rightful owners. They followed. Two weeks after I gave the order, Camp Crame was filled with more than 600 motor vehicles.
I stopped the practice of accepting, much less demanding commissions and rebates from suppliers and contractors doing business with the PNP.
I disciplined the police to a point that the badge they wore on their chest shone again with respectability. When their waistlines were reduced to 34 inches, they felt proud of wearing their uniform once more.
I showed leadership by example when I consistently refused to accept huge sums of bribe money from illegal gambling operators and all other illegal activities.
I never attempted to misuse funds of the police organization, as misuse of resources is no different from stealing government money.
When I assumed office in November 1999, I discovered that most of the budget of the PNP was kept in headquarters. Very little went to the stations and other field operating units. The result was low morale and inefficiency in fighting crime in the towns and barangays.
So, I made a hard and fast rule. Only 15% of funds and resources, including the Chief PNP’s own intelligence fund was to be retained by headquarters, while 85% went down to the field units.
The result was gratifying enough. Before I assumed as Chief of the PNP, public regard toward the police was at a low net negative 13%. When I resigned in January 20, 2001, we were enjoying the highest ever-recorded trust rating from the Filipino people at net positive 58%.
We succeeded in removing the tag of the country as the kidnap capital of Asia.
We scored heavily against the pernicious problem of drug trafficking and abuse when we embarked on a two-pronged strategy in combating the drug problem – market constriction and supply reduction. We recorded 35,000 to 40,000 arrests with a sustained, no nonsense monthly weeklong simultaneous operations in all barangays all over the country with the help of the Barangay Anti-Drug Councils or BADAC.
Kaya nga nakalulungkot para sa akin na isipin na sa kabila ng lahat ng aking matapat na paglilingkod bilang tagapagpatupad ng batas sa mahigit na tatlumpung taon ay walang habas at malulupit na paninira at pagbatikos ang aking tinaggap mula sa mga taong mapaglinlang sa kapwa na ang pangunahing layunin ay wasakin ang aking pagkatao sa kadahilanang political.
Just recently, on the Senate floor, I called for the scrapping of a very corrupt and corrupting system in our political institution – the pork barrel system.
I pointed out before my colleagues in the Senate by way of a privilege speech that under the pork barrel system, less than half of the taxpayers’ money actually goes to the projects. The rest goes to the many deep pockets of corruption.
The Filipino people lose billions of pesos every year under the pork barrel system.
This is absolutely immoral. How can we support our youth to build their dreams in the right direction with this?
Building dreams is a commitment that asks for concrete steps to be taken. For a start, I yielded my P200M 2003 pork barrel allocation in favor of the national budget to help ease the burden from a ballooning budget deficit projected to hit P300B by yearend, not to mention the corruption attendant to the pork barrel fund.
To this date, I have filed corruption charges against several public officials who did not heed my call to stop corruption in the pork barrel system.
I would like to end my speech by sharing with you – first, a letter and a second, a story.
Both occurred when you were not yet born. Both involved parents and their children. One is despairing, the other, inspiring. The letter reveals a shattered dream, the story depicts a dream fulfilled.
The letter was written in 1977 by a drug addict to his parents and to all parents who cared to listen. In fact, it was published by the late columnist, Jess Bigornia in his newspaper column. Let me read it to you by way of showing you how illegal drugs can destroy a young life. It is also my way of telling you how blessed you and your parents are.
Dear Mr. Bigornia,
By the time this letter reaches you, my physical body may have either been buried six feet below or laying in state in a funeral parlor or church receiving empty and hollow words of a necrological service.
But my death will not be in vain if you just print this letter as it is in your column…
I was the teenage son of a ranking government official and, like most children of high government officials and business executives, I was left alone to manage my young life.
My Dad was an honest, dedicated and able public servant. There was no question about his integrity. Everyone knows about that. To show his loyalty to public service, he worked from 6am to 11pm everyday of the week from Monday to Saturday. He was indeed, a model.
My mom, on the other hand, may have been bored of not seeing my father except during the curfew hours. Or, maybe, she was out to prove something. So she joined a women’s group and engaged in civic activities, public service, all sorts of ceremonies and social functions.
And nobody was left at home. Except us, their children, the maids and the dogs.
As a young boy, I almost had everything in life one would have dreamed and cherished. Except for that one thing that I needed most: parental love, care and concern.
Nothing in this world can replace a parent’s love and I was absolutely and completely denied of that. My father never found time to take me out for vacation were we could freely talk with each other. I needed him very much but he was too busy indoctrinating his subordinates and proving to his kind what a fine example of a public servant he was.
Without that kind of love, what is there to live for?
So, I joined a group of young boys and girls similarly situated like myself. Yes, there were tens of thousands like us.
Our parents never forgot a single speaking engagement, birthday party, official or social ceremony, courtesy call and many others. They had secretaries and reminders. Yes, they remembered everything and every occasion. Except their own children and family.
Slowly but surely, I turned myself to drugs to forget how unlucky I was. I committed petty crimes to sustain my addiction. I engaged in sex orgies with similar and opposite sexes. I did almost everything unconventional only to attract the attention of my parents.
But all these efforts were in vain.
My father bailed me out when I went to jail. He fixed all the criminal cases in which I was involved. And he gave me money, car and a bodyguard.
He asked me several times what was wrong with me. But he never realized that it was his affection that I needed most and not the earthly things like power and money.
Hopeless as I was, I decided to wake him up from his endless dream of loyalty and dedication to the government service. But it must be in the manner of the young but lost generation: death by means of drugs.
I still have a living sister, though. And I dedicate my death to her. May she be given the happiness that I utterly missed from my parents.
Mr. Bigornia, please print this letter for the sake of my sister and the rest of my kind.
If you were moved by the letter, which I just read, please listen to this short 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 that they could 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 not mind not having decent meals or not even enjoying the normal three-meals-a-day reward for back breaking daily 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, mga anak”, the children finished their schooling. They have become professionals in their own field of interest.
The fourth child has become a public servant.
He promised never to allow his own children to suffer the same poverty that he saw in their midst many, many years ago, but he 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.
He grieves when he sees his aging parents cry and agonize when they see him pay the price for his avowed commitment to pursue his dream for his country and people. He grimaces in pain when his enemies and detractors trample upon his honor and reputation, but each time, he stands up to pursue that dream.
Graduating members of Class 2003, dear parents, members of the faculty of the Masbate Colleges, my friends, the “BOY” who wrote the letter was the son of a former BIR Commissioner whom I had admired in his time for his honesty and competence.
In my short story, I am the fourth child who is now a public servant.
Thank you all very much and congratulations.