Message at the Senate’s flag-raising ceremony

Bilang mga kawani ng gobyerno, tuwing Lunes ng umaga, kapag tayo’y nanunumpa ng katapatan sa watawat ng Pilipinas, sana lagi nating isinasapuso ang diwa ng awiting Lupang Hinirang at pati na ang panunumpa sa ating bandila.

Subali’t sa araw na ito, ilan kaya sa atin ang habang bumibigkas ng mga katagang inuulit natin sa naatasang manguna sa atin sa panunumpa ay inaantok pa o kaya ay binabagabag ng mga problemang iniwan nila sa kani-kanilang mga bahay o dili kaya ay nagngingitngit pa sa galit sa nakagitgitan sa traffic o kaya ay nakasiksikan sa LRT at jeepney kaninang papunta sa Senado? Sino-sino naman kaya ang hanggang ngayon mga nangangarap pa sa mga naka-date kahapon na Araw ng mga Puso?

Not too long ago, somebody said, ‘the legislature cannot be effective when facing public scorn.’ Hindi na rin iilang beses na dumaan sa madiin at malalim na pagsusuri ng publiko ang Kongreso, partikular na ang Senado.

Sa ganang akin, ang mas mahalaga ay kung apektado ba ang trabaho natin o hindi, sa tuwing magkakaroon ng pagpula at pagbatikos mula sa iba’t ibang sektor ng ating lipunan na ang ilan ay talagang tila ata kinareer na ata ang pagbatikos at pambubuwisit. Marahil ay dahil galit sa mundo o dili kaya ay di mabubuo ang araw nila kung walang inaatake o inaasar.

I would like to thank the Senate Tax Study and Research Office for inviting me to join you in your flag-raising ceremony and speak before you this morning. I must admit, when I was informed about the request, I said ‘yes’ without hesitation. Why? Because simply put, you cannot say ‘no’ to an invitation from your family and your home.

As I entered the gates of the Senate premises, I had a strong feeling of nostalgia. Instantly, I was reminded of the days and the long hours I spent in the halls and corridors of this institution. Truly, there are rare moments in our lives when we will be asked to take a break, recollect the events we have been part of, and see how much we have done to make a difference for our fellow Filipinos.

I believe today can be one of those moments.

My years here in the Senate had been committed in matters of public interest and against various forms of graft and corruption, particularly the pork barrel and the venom it brings.

Yet, perhaps, no other senator has had the displeasure of being vilified repeatedly and for the longest time for taking a stand against wrongdoings, especially during the past administration than this representation. If this is the price to pay for my fearless and steadfast resolve against corruption, being able to stand here, let alone be your inspirational speaker, I have no regret.

But let not my bittersweet memories in the Senate discourage more than encourage you to side with what is right. After all, as someone who has spent 12 years as a member of the 24 strong Philippine Senate, I aspire to speak more of wisdom and inspiration in this memorable morning.

To most of you here, I hope that I left a lasting impression when I left in 2013. At a time political irregularities marred our public institutions, I frequently stood in the Senate floor to blow the lid off anomalous transactions. In some cases, as Theodore Roosevelt said and I quote, ‘When they call the roll on the Senate, the senators do not know whether to answer Present or Not guilty.’

Humbly, such legislative inquiries placed a premium on transparency and accountability in public office. My fight against pork barrel since 2002 is with similar tenacity. I consistently refused my pork barrel allocation and had actively encouraged my fellow legislators to do the same.

For some of you who were not yet here to witness, let me impress my scathing privilege speech on March 11, 2003, entitled “Living without Pork.” In that speech, I called for the scrapping of the pork barrel system, which to this day I consider a very corrupt system in our political institutions.

Thirteen years ago, I was alone in my lonely crusade. At that time, you may say that it was impossible for anyone to be more sad than Senator Ping Lacson. But all of you would agree that 13 years later, it was equally impossible for anyone not to regret ignoring my call.

Amid such challenging times, I have had fond memories as a member of the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th Congresses. Still vivid in my memory are our productive gains for our fellow Senate employees.

As then chair of the Committee on Accounts, I worked closely with then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Ms. Perla Mayor, hindi yan tumitigil, lobby ng lobby, to improve not only the benefits, but most importantly, the working conditions of our Senate workers, especially those in the rank-and-file. Through time, we institutionalized the 35,000-peso educational assistance and 10,000-peso monthly benefits for all Senate employees.

I have always believed, then and now, that while we are keen to the interests and welfare of our employees, we are strengthening the very foundation of this revered institution. To this end, I will be with you should I be given the trust to hold a Senate seat again.

As the Senate marks its 100th year, may we be reminded of the many histories we love to relive, the downfalls we endured, the triumphs we work very hard for, and fundamentally, the mandate our countrymen entrusted to us.

Again, magandang umaga at mabuhay ang Senado!

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