Past, Imperfect/Future, Tense: The Road Ahead For The Philippines

Speech before Filipino-Indian Chamber of Commerce

I am very honored tonight to address your chamber. But the real honor belongs to the new leaders of the chamber. Tonight is their night. Tonight begins the first night of the rest of their lives. To them I convey my best wishes!

The invitation of President Ram Sitaldas was very forthright. In fact, he asked me to cover the subject he bluntly described as Past Imperfect, Future Tense. He made no reference to the present. Thus, I assume that the present is both imperfect and tense…

President Sitaldas is right. The imperfect past is a reality made permanent by history. Our most reasonable response can only be this: there is no saint without a past. Time to leave our past to God’s mercy. 

As to the tension of the future, we are being threatened by its possibility. Our most reasonable view should only be this: there is no sinner without a future. Time to bring the future to man’s ingenuity.

As to these present trying times, we must first learn from the past. Only then can we earn the present. Then the law of karma will begin to work: What you sow now, you reap later.

In November last year, the business community asked me to speak my mind on current issues then. There were no jueteng investigations then. The Hello Garci tapes were not yet in the air. There were no impeachment complaints, too.

On the occasion of your induction ceremony tonight, let me re-state what I said to the captains of commerce and industry –

The most basic ingredient for governance to be good is the courage of the governor to govern and lead by example. When people see honesty and integrity in the leader and his family, they cease to be hostile. Where they are not hostile, they cease to be indifferent.

We talk of moral ascendancy almost always. In governance, this can only mean that a leader can only demand from his followers what he demands from himself first. He can never expect his subordinates to be incorrupt when he himself is corrupt. Or perceived to be corrupt.

Are there corrupt subordinates where the leader is honest and upright? There are but not for long. First, that leader will be feared. Sooner than later, he will be emulated.

Does a leader’s capacity for moral ascendancy need sacrifice? Not at all.

I came to realize this fact when I was Chief,PNP. To punish the kotongeros, juetengeros, hulidapers, golfers, and users of recovered vehicles did not require extraordinary will. I only did an ordinary duty as a leader.

When should a leader introduce governance by example and by what test? On day one, make sure that you as the leader and your cabinet actually sign a waiver exempting you from the coverage of the Bank Secrecy Law. The signed document, to me, constitutes the best evidence of your commitment to be incorrupt and incorruptible. That requires no pious sacrifice either.

With such waiver, will there still be takers of sensitive positions in government? There will be more. And governance will be stronger.

There is no substitute to a morally ascendant and politically-willed government. This is the best kind of government that can meet head-on the challenges you have identified.

This the kind of government that sows fear on the spine of kidnappers and drug lords. It can enforce the penalty of death as mandated by law.

Under this kind of government, there would be no IMPSA deal involving US$14M bribery; no Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard overpriced by PHP700 million; no PIATCO extortion totaling $20m; no Judiciary Development Fund misuse of PHP2 billion; no AFP-Lockheed deal overprice of US$6 million.

And certainly no Pidal, no Grneral Jueteng Mosqueda, and no Commissioner Garcillano…

Now you may want to ask – will there still be pork barrel under that kind of governance? There will be neither pork nor barrel called Priority Development Assistance Fund. There will only be the best of laws. There will only be conclusive and definitive investigations.

Just a few questions –

What could possibly happen if all the pork barrel funds were to be forfeited by us, your lawgivers? Will poverty be substantially alleviated? Will education be drastically improved? Will population be meaningfully managed? Will basic infrastructures – yes, basic only – be built? Will our country be a safer place in which to live, work, do business, and even die?

My friends, the answers are not difficult to know. You all know them.

Ours is a country in a heavy mess. Who has failed to be in charge? Who is responsible?

Business knows this to be true. But in fairness to the captains of commerce and industry, they had prepared a roadmap for economic recovery. There, the challenges are clearly defined on poverty alleviation, education, infrastructure, peace and order, population management, and good governance in the public sector.

What happened? Government simply failed to make it happen. It simply failed to help.

Good governance in public sector is the gut issue today. Let us do good governance and everything will fall into place. We are today in bad shape because of bad and poor governance.

I am a reformer and a doer. What is right must be kept right and what is wrong must be set right. What are to me the things that are right and need to be done right?

One, good governance that makes graft and corruption the enemy of the people.

Two, peace and order that makes violence and crime the enemy of the people.

Three, consumer protection that makes deception the enemy of the people.

And four, fiscal and economic reform that makes government excessive spending and wastage the enemy of the people.

These objectives are what politicians should take if they are to mature into public servants and statesmen. A politician places the nation at his service; a statesman places himself at the service of the nation.

It is my vision to create good governance against graft and corruption by means of the creation of an independent Citizens’ Commission Against Graft and Corruption. Also, a Government Re-engineering and Modernization Commission. In addition, new laws must be passed against racketeering, useless holidays, and unreasonable use of land and similar resources of the country.

It is my vision to formulate a national peace policy that makes territorial integrity non-negotiable and freedom of religion universal, without fear, without favor. If it is a safe place we all want, our criminal laws must be given more teeth; and our police and military, more resources and benefits.

It is my vision to ensure the safety of food and the efficacy of drugs and medicines. Those who have less in life, have every right to have more in safe food, medicine, and drugs. They have every right to have better public service utilities and communications, too.

And finally, it is my vision to make foreign investments a partner, not a bystander; medium-scale business stronger, not weaker; domestic enterprise a first priority, not last; and human resources development global, not parochial.

Without a vision, according to the Bible, the people perish. I presented the Lacson Vision in 2001 and also last year. Perhaps, it is time to present it again………

You will recall that New Zealand was at a dead-end 21 years ago. Defeatism was in every New Zelander’s veins. New Zealand was looked down then as a moribund society.

But all this started to disappear with the election of the Lange Labor government. Every conceivable market reform was conceived. In every conceivable way, the government made sure to implement the reform programs.

And the nation was transformed.

New Zealand was not the usual protectionist economy we know. It was a very protectionist economy. But it went anyway to be its own, to be in charge of its destiny.

And the nation succeeded.

Once upon a time, we were the apple in the eyes of Asia. Now is the time to relive that splendor. We did it before, we can do it again.

But we can do it only with a government that leads by example. This is the only kind of government I know that can claim moral ascendancy and exercise political will. If there is any government we need least, it is a motherhood government.

Your question is: Government leaders, where are thou going or Quo Vadis? I have told you my mind hoping I have answered your question one way or another. If I have not, please invite me again…