Ipaglaban ang Patas na Laban Para sa Lahat

Speech during the induction of officers of the GSIS Retirees’ Association

Atty. Alfredo Pineda, EVP Leonarda Perez, newly inducted officers, members of the Board of Directors, ladies and gentlemen:

No ifs, no buts. We live in a time of increasing insecurity.

The greatest challenge facing us today is how to guarantee a society that is just, fair and treats each other with respect, rich or poor, influential or not. 

Pantay pantay sa paningin ng batas.

Pantay pantay sa oportunidad.

Patas na laban para sa lahat.

I came from very humble beginnings. Neither of my parents finished school. Lacking anything of substance to pass on to their eight children, they were fanatical in ensuring we all finished our studies.

Sukdulang hindi sila kumain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw, higit pa doon ang ginawa nila, makaraos lang kami sa aming pag-aaral.

But despite our poverty or probably because of it, my parents believed in the goodness of God and, most of all, they kept faith with government.

And with good reason.

I think most of you in this room can still remember a time when government willingly provided basic social services, accessible to all, rich or poor.

Our public schools had enough books, enough classrooms, and our teachers were as good as those in the private schools.

The poor can compete with the rich. We had equal opportunity, thanks to government.

From school or from work, one could walk to the comforts of home safe and sound. The policeman was a person of real authority, respected and more importantly trusted by all.

When our politicians govern above self-interests, don’t steal, act like real public servants and serve well, basic services like health, education, peace and order become givens that can be taken for granted, especially by the lowest in society.

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.

Unfortunately, the face of public service has changed from the better times of my youth.

Whereas government used to cater to our needs equally, rich or poor, our present government is likened to a family corporation run by thieves and opportunists.

Today, we have gone from a nation that adhered to the time honored principle that all men are created equal to a country where some are more equal than the others.

Our so-called social equalizers – education and health – are now a constant reminder of what sets the privileged few apart from the poor and the downtrodden.

Our public hospitals are understaffed, under-equipped and lack the proper medicines to attend to indigent patients. Our public schools are often in constant states of disrepair while a great number of our teachers are going overseas in search of greener pastures.

We now rank among the poorest of the poor. Public trust on our so-called democratically elected government has eroded due to years of too little efficiency, too little effectiveness but too much corruption.

Ngayon, kung ipinanganak kang mahirap, lalo kang maghihirap. Hindi na pwedeng umasa sa pag-aaral ng mga anak, sa sariling pagsisikap at pagtitiis upang balang araw ay makamit ang mabuting buhay.

Even our lives as retirees are in peril.

Patas ba ang laban ng maliliit kung mismong ang pamahalaan at mga matataas na opisyal nito ay kakampi ng malaki at makapangyarihan? Patas ba ang laban kung ang karapatang mamuhay ng marangal at walang takot ay ipinagkakait sa mga kapus palad?

Hindi. Hindi patas ang laban.

I believe, as all of you believe, that Filipinos are tired of a political process that is only open to those with the cash and the right connections.

We are also tired of being used to enrich the few hence I understand your recent proposal to execute a genuine separation of powers between the three branches of government.

But let me tell you of my first few days of office as Chief of the PNP.

By tradition, the position of Chief was a plum position for those who were willing to exchange virtue for a quick buck at the office.

Before I took over, hardworking pedestrians, motorists, jeepney drivers lived in constant fear of kotong cops. Whereas other cops were involved in protection rackets for jueteng lords and in bid rigging when it came to agency contracts and transactions.

When I left the agency, the PNP was enjoying its highest public approval rating to date.

I achieved that not by instituting new policies but by leadership by example.

I disciplined our police officers because I also disciplined myself.

I stopped kotong in the streets and highways because I, their Director-General, never stole and pocketed their funds, never accepted bribe money from jueteng and other illegal activities and never received bribes or commissions from suppliers and contractors doing business with the police force.

I entered the Senate with the same discipline and the same no-nonsense approach to leadership, as my poor parents had consistently taught us while we were growing up in my then sleepy hometown of Imus, Cavite – “What is right must be kept right; what is wrong must be set right.”

To be honest, it is my work in the Senate that has opened my eyes to the problems of this country on a grander scale.

We keep thinking of new laws and new rules in an effort to revive a crusade of change.
But change must begin with our leaders.

And the first step is in choosing among 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 reproach at the cornerstone of democratic governance.

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

As I was about to finish writing this speech, I came across a beautiful passage on my desk calendar that 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.