Serving Others by Creating Equal Opportunity

Speech during the Phaltra National Conference and Seminar, The Manila Hotel

If I am not mistaken, this is the third time that I am speaking before this audience.

Not only that. I am sure I have met many of you either in Naga City or Cebu Provincial Capitol Building during the public hearings on the Land Valuation Reform Bill, as well as the discussions on the RESA bill, where a group of officers of the Philippine Association of Municipal Assessors, the Philippine Association of Provincial and City Assessors, and the Association of Treasurers and Assessors of Metro Manila visited my office last year.

The combined intrepidity of Ching Agcaoili, Pearl Segovia, Lina Isorena and Nino Alvina among others, not to mention the strong endorsements coming from PHALTRA, ASTRAMM, PAPCA and PAMAS will certainly leave the 14th Congress no choice but to pass these two important bills, hopefully before Congress goes on sine die adjournment on June 6. 

The RESA bill was passed by the Senate on third reading last month, after I sponsored the same on the floor in my capacity as Acting Chairman of the Civil Service and Government Reorganization Committee. The VRA bill on the other hand is undergoing discussions around the country to gather inputs from local treasurers and assessors and other stakeholders.

Once again, I thank you for your invitation.

Let me now deliver my speech.

For the past eight years, since this government came to power, I have been the subject of unrelenting vilification. I have been persecuted no end and all sorts of lies have been thrown my way. All of these have been proven false, including alleged money laundering, illegal drugs, kidnapping, and even being gay.

Why is this? It is because I have been consistent and unflinching in my crusade against corruption in all forms and at all instances. Whether it’s about jueteng, IMPSA deal, Telecoms scam, Jose Pidal controversy, Hello Garci election cheating scandal, the ZTE-NBN broadband deal, the Joc-Joc Bolante fertilizer scam, and the latest, the World Bank bid-rigging scandal. The whole government bureaucracy has been infected by the cancer of corruption, and Filipinos are suffering because of it.

But none of these lies or black propaganda will stop me. I will fight corruption without end as I did when I was Chief of the Philippine National Police about 10 years ago, whether in the smallest forms of “kotong” which victimized lowly drivers and vegetable dealers, or crime syndicates including illegal drugs and illegal gambling.

Kaya ako palaging sinisiraan at kung anu-anong kasinungalingan ang ibinabato sa akin ay dahil hindi nila ako kayang pakiusapan o bilhin para manahimik at makisama sa kanilang masasamang gawain sa taumbayan. Ang pinakahuli nga ay itong pilit akong idinadawit sa Dacer-Corbito case.

Pardon my asking – how does one respond to innuendoes? But should I choose to remain quiet, people might perceive the lies as truth.

I will repeat what I have said time and again – I had nothing to do with the Dacer-Corbito case.

And I will not be deterred. I will continue to inform our people of the corruption and shenanigans in this government whenever there is corruption to be told to the people because they have the right to be informed where their hard-earned tax money should not have gone.

Ours is supposed to be a democratic system where protection is promised to all citizens, where justice is for all. But what good is democracy where justice is denied to many, while twisted for some?

Hindi patas ang laban. Bakit pa kailangang ang hustisya ay namimili ng aapihin at kikilingan?

Recently, I have defined my advocacy on fighting corruption to reveal its applicability in our daily lives – fighting corruption is about restoring fair play for all. For it is corruption, more than anything else, that distorts the systems enshrined in a democratic order. If those of us who have a stake in the system want it to prevail against alien ideologies, we must make certain that it affords equal opportunity and fair play.

Sa payak at madaling pananalita, patas na laban para sa lahat.

Bakit ba sa ibang bansa, kapag nagkasakit ang kanilang mamamayan, hindi nila kailangang mangutang para sa pagpapagamot? Bakit sila ay pinag-aaral ng kanilang pamahalaan ng libre at maayos?

Dito sa ating bayan, kapag mahirap ka at magkasakit, bibilang ka lamang ng araw bago mamatay; at kapag may kaunti kang naipon para ilaan sa hindi inaasahang pagpapaospital, ay malamang mabaon ka pa sa utang.

Ang kasagutan ay korapsyon, katiwalian, at katakawan ng mga ganid na namumuno na tila mga palaging gising na buwayang walang kabusugan sa perang pag-aari ng mga mamamayang Pilipino na dapat sana ay maibalik sa kanila sa pamamagitan ng serbisyong sosyal tulad ng libreng edukasyon at kalusugan man lang.

I was born of humble origins. My parents never finished school. Hence their obsession to see all eight of their children finish school. They would often forego their share of the day’s meal in pursuit of that dream.

But despite our poverty, my parents kept faith with government, and most of all, they believed in the goodness of God. To us, they would often say: “May awa ang Diyos, makakaraos din tayo, mga anak.”

I learned from my parents that poverty is a mere accident of birth, and success is dependent on your will and abilities.

But my youth in Cavite went through better times.

Government provided basic social services, accessible to all, rich or poor.

Medical care through the public health system, where hospitals had medicines and doctors attended to all.

From primary school in my hometown in Imus, Cavite to the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, it was the public school system that brought me where I am now; where we had enough books, enough classrooms, and our teachers were as good as those in the private schools.

We could compete. We had equal opportunity, thanks to government.

From school or from work, one could walk to the comforts of home safe and sound. Rare were cases of rape, or killings, or robberies in band. The policeman was a person of real authority, respected by all, and feared by transgressors.

Modesty aside, when I was Chief of the PNP, I sought to return that old glory of the police that I saw and felt as I grew up, that respect and that fear of the law, and in a short 14 months that I served as the country’s police chief, we in the institution achieved that.

When basic services like health, education, peace and order can be taken for granted, for certain, by even the lowest in society, then the governors serve above self. And that is what we ought to recapture.

Government has to weigh in, so that the poor are assured of the basic tools needed to improve their own lives, not by dole-outs, but by equal opportunity.

That is what social justice means. And social justice is what the institutions of democracy are all about, and what democratic leaders are elected for, in pursuit of their sworn ideals of service above self.

Presidents, senators, congressmen, governors and mayors have come and gone. Elections have only succeeded in creating great expectations, dashed by greater disappointments. Disillusionment with the system has set in, dangerously – into a sense of hopelessness.

Public service on the part of those who were elected to serve has become a sick joke for those at the receiving end of service most selfish and governance most bad.

In its stead, we have corruption most gross – worse with each passing leadership. For public servants, elected or appointed, it has become a way of life, but for an exceptional few. The higher the position, the bigger the cost of corruption, while those in lower positions justify their own take because their superiors have become immoderately greedy.

From kotong paid by lowly workers to policemen and traffic aides, to outright bribes given to generals and prosecutors, judges and justices to perpetuate impunity, to commissions and kickbacks given to legislators for their pork barrel, all the way to the top, for huge contracts and monopoly privileges – corruption sucks the lifeblood of our economy, and distorts the principle of equal opportunity.

Little wonder that our infrastructure is substandard, because the tong-pats corrupt the quality of materials and design. Worse, ghost projects and ghost deliveries have spooked almost every agency of this government, or fake fertilizers with thousand-percent commissions, courtesy of Joc-joc and his bosses.

Since 2002, I have consistently declined to avail of my pork barrel allocation and have seen to it that the same P200 million is deducted from the national budget, year in, year out.

Since 2002, I have also been actively campaigning against its misuse, even encouraging my fellow legislators to do the same.

I do so for a simple reason – I choose to uphold the principles, discipline and leadership that my poor parents taught me and my siblings when we were in our formative years in my hometown in Imus, Cavite, which I observed and followed when I was in the military and police service and will continue to uphold no matter what the cost. As my parents would often tell us, “What is right must be kept right; what is wrong must be set right.”

Transparency International ranks our country among the most corrupt. Not only is that a crying shame; it makes us a pariah in the international community. Investors are wary; capital becomes even more scarce. And the recent World Bank report blacklisting contractors due to collusion among themselves and with the powerful, is likely the last nail on the coffin of our moribund economy.

We keep asking ourselves – what must be done?

We keep thinking of new laws and new rules, new systems even, in our desire to fight corruption.

We keep thinking of new ways to entice investments, to make our economy produce more, and create more jobs for an ever-increasing population.

We keep calling for moral revolution, exhorting all in a crusade for change, forgetting that change must begin with the leaders, that good example is the most powerful agent of change.

And the first step is in choosing among us those who can lead by the power of good and selfless example, with unwavering determination to reform government, discard the politics of compromise and unseemly transaction, and instead enshrine service beyond ourselves at the cornerstone of democratic governance.

Nothing less will suffice.

Nang sa ganun, muling maging patas ang laban para sa lahat; mayaman man o mahirap. Tulad noong araw ng aking murang kabataan.

As I was about to finish writing this speech, I came across a beautiful passage on my desk calendar which I thought I should share with you. It is about change. Thus, “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 and good day.