In the Service of Equal Opportunities for All

Speech before the Cebu Jaycees, Inc., 61st Chapter Induction and Turnover Ceremonies, Cebu City

Good evening.

There are three big, commonly repeated lies on earth: When a delinquent American tenant tells his landlord the check is in the mail, when a Japanese lover tells his friends he is more romantic than a Frenchman, and when a Filipino politician tells his audience he is about to deliver a short speech.

Permit me to thank the organizers of the JCI Cebu for making my homecoming possible. 

As a former commander of the Cebu Metrodiscom, I always have a vested interest in Cebu and would like to congratulate the Cebuanos for making sure this city remains the Queen City of the South.

While reviewing the origins of the Jaycees, I was struck most by your mission on social responsibility.

For me, social responsibility means that those who are in a position of power, wealth or influence have a greater responsibility to create equal opportunities for others – what I term as, Patas na Laban, Para sa Lahat.

As all of you know, I am a vocal supporter of reforms in our governance.

But I don’t want reform for reform’s sake.

There is an obvious moral bankruptcy in our leaders and policy makers that must be addressed.

We have leaders of our anti-corruption agencies such as the Ombudsman who would rather wash their hands off the World Bank mess rather than use the powers of their office to ensure investor confidence in our country.

Also, we are once again faced with loads of information that somehow highly placed individuals are involved just as they were involved in scandals like the P728-million fertilizer scam and the ZTE deal.

These are notwithstanding the ongoing corruption being perpetrated by some of our local and national leaders. All of which will take more than my allotted time to discuss.

I must tell you that the road towards sound leadership will be bumpy and protracted at best but it will not be impossible.

Let me share with you my experience.

When I became Chief of the PNP, I inherited an organized system where it was practically every man for his corrupt self.

From the superiors down to their subordinates, almost everyone in the organization was either perceived or actually tainted with the stench of corruption.

So I cleaned up shop, so to speak, in the only way I knew how, by leading with example.

My men could not cheat because they saw that I was not cheating.. They refused to accept payolas because they saw that I didn’t.

What the newspapers eventually reported was how corruption was at its lowest and public trust on our police force was at its highest during my term.

These are success stories, but stories like these do not happen overnight.

They need principles, discipline and leadership to make them happen.

When I became Senator eight years ago, the need to uphold principles, discipline and leadership was equally clear.

There was the pork barrel fund, just another fancy name for corruption that once again favored the few and victimized millions who had to suffer with half-baked even ghost projects.

Since 2002, I have consistently refused my pork barrel allocation and have been actively encouraging my fellow legislators to do the same.

After all, we do not become corrupt through commission but also by omission.

Up till now, I am still trying to lead by example, by demonstrating that public service is an immutable value that cannot be bought and sold like a common commodity.

And this is because I still remember the lessons from my childhood.

Unlike some of the people in this room, I came from very humble beginnings.

I had seven other siblings and my parents were not working professionals. Yes, my parents were poor but they were honest, hardworking and honorable.

Lacking anything of substance to pass on to their children, my parents scrimped and saved to put all of us to school.

You see, education was once the passport of the poor for a better life. If you had education and you were in good health, you had all you need to be successful.

But those were kinder times when opportunities were bountiful for anyone who was willing to render hard work.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would not be here before you today if not for the opportunities that the leaders in government during my time offered my parents and me.

I would certainly be not in this position today if the government then did not have the principles, discipline and leadership to be socially responsible and attempt to bridge the gap between rich and poor by investing in quality health and education.

Equal opportunities for all, Patas na Laban Para sa Lahat, this is what this country should be about.

That was the country my parents raised me to believe in.

It is the same country I am sure you want your generation and the next to know.

I understand that servicing the Filipino community is often a frustrating and thankless job. But I would like to share with you a passage I read from a few days ago. It is about change.
It goes like this:

“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.”

Thank you very much.