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Speech before the Rotary Club of Manila

I feel honored today. It is good to be with you again. After all, it is not every week that one is given the chance to speak before the oldest of the country’s Rotary Clubs – certainly not the kind that Spokesman Toting Bunye has insulted. I mean that to be the truth – not the truth that Malacanan Palace speaks and expresses each time we, Filipinos seek an explanation on Garcillano, on impeachment, on Venable and what have you.I feel honored today. It is good to be with you again. After all, it is not every week that one is given the chance to speak before the oldest of the country’s Rotary Clubs – certainly not the kind that Spokesman Toting Bunye has insulted. I mean that to be the truth – not the truth that Malacanan Palace speaks and expresses each time we, Filipinos seek an explanation on Garcillano, on impeachment, on Venable and what have you.

The invitation of President Cesar made through fellow Rtn. Art to be your guest speaker today brings back good memories. This is the group to whom I delivered my first major address when I became Chief of the Philippine National Police in November 1999. I remember that was upon the invitation of a good friend and mentor and now a Senator and a distinguished colleague, the Hon. Alfredo S. Lim.

It was easy then to deliver my speech. There was a strong clamor for reforms in our country’s police force. In that address before you, I defined my response and vision. I remember talking about the ICU’s among the police – the inept, corrupt and undisciplined. At that time, I was already thinking of my antidote against the ICU’s. It was AID – aptitude, integrity, discipline. 

Now that I am a Senator – and a member of the opposition – the task is definitely not as easy. But I like the challenge to do the difficult. Thus, I thank all of you for this opportunity – an opportunity to say the truth as I feel and know it. It is the Rotarian in me, I must say.

In November of 2003, the business community asked me to speak my mind on current issues then. There were no jueteng investigations yet that time. Boy Mayor was still collecting his daily fortune in Bicol. Sandra Cam was still baglady for Gen. Mosqueda. The Hello Garci tapes were not yet discovered. Michaelangelo Zuce was still busy with Oplan Gloria. There were no impeachment complaints, too – not so many knew there was a Congressman Marcoleta, or an Amang Magsaysay.

On this occasion 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 leader 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.

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 kotong cops, jueteng protectors, hulidapers, weekday golfers, the gluttons and users of recovered stolen vehicles did not require extraordinary political 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 Act. 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.

This is the kind of government that is never double-faced, does not double-speak and never engages in double-standard practice. It does not have a leader who will refuse to face the people when they want the simple truth. It does not allow a leader to say “I am sorry” then lie for what he or she is sorry about.

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 AFP-Lockheed deal overprice of US$6 million; no Northrail project overprice either. I can go on and on with many more anomalies that will not be allowed to happen under the kind of government that I described earlier.

And certainly no Jose Pidal, no Commissioner Garcillano, and no Norberto Gonzales… no cheating, lying and stealing.

Now you may want to ask – will there still be pork barrel under that kind of governance? There will be neither pork nor barrel and certainly not under another name such as Priority Development Assistance Fund or Countrywide Development Fund. There will only be the best of laws. There will only be conclusive and definitive investigations.

Now, just a few questions –

What could possibly happen if all the pork barrel funds were to be given up by us, your lawmakers? What could it mean to the eighty million Filipinos if graft and corruption in government were to be reduced to the minimum, or eliminated? Will the government’s budget deficit be wiped out? Will there be budget surplus instead? 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? Will the value added tax law still need to be expanded?

My fellow Rotarians, 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. In fairness to the captains of commerce and industry, I remember 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 respond. 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 may sound too pessimistic but this beloved country once proud to be known as the Pearl of the Orient can never re-shape under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She needs credibility to be able to carry out her programs of government. She needs the people’s trust to get their support and cooperation. She needs respect from the governed to get things done. Unfortunately, she has lost all three.

She is the biggest problem this benighted land has to tackle. She is likewise the solution. The only way for her to go is GO!

What is right must be kept right and what is wrong must be set right. What are 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.

Where do we start? Where must a leader start? I believe it must be with government. A leader must scorch the earth beneath government officials and employees, from the highest official to the lowest clerk to exact adherence to good and effective public service. No ifs, no buts. Government must be the exemplar of honesty and dedication, of discipline and integrity, of aptitude and competence. Those who do not live up to the standards set for them must have no place in public service. Many more will be willing to take their place. Incentives must wait. Rewards must be earned, not dangled.

It should be a leader’s vision to create good governance against graft and corruption by means of the creation of an independent Citizens’ Commission Against Graft and Corruption patterned after Hongkong and Singapore. In addition, new laws must be passed against racketeering, useless holidays, and unreasonable use of land and similar resources of the country.

A leader must have a 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.

The leader’s vision must be 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, a 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 this Vision in 2001 and also last year. Perhaps, it is time to present it again…

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.

I hope I was able to speak my mind.

I am now ready for your questions.

Thank you very much.

*****


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