Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.
It’s a great pleasure and honor to be here in this wonderful forum which I think will open the minds of many of our countrymen, and to allow us not to be bludgeoned by advertising or by positioning that they are pro-poor, and really try and make the Filipino more analytical insofar as electing the best president that we can have in our country, not the best president money can buy.
I would like to point out that, perhaps, it is relevant to begin our discussion this afternoon by citing a favorite quotation of mine from the late Robert F. Kennedy when he said
“A revolution is coming, it would be peaceful if we’re wise enough, compassionate if we care enough, successful if we’re fortunate enough, you can affect its character, but you cannot alter its inevitability.”
That revolution I speak of could be peaceful or violent. But in reality, when we start looking at our country, we used to be Southeast Asia’s number one. Today, we have become Southeast Asia’s used-to-be. We used to have the highest literacy rate in Asia. Today, we’ve come down to about no. 4 or no. 5. We used to have the best Air Force in Asia, we had the blue diamonds, which flew in the Congo and got an award from the United Nations. Today, our defense is woeful, and our Air Force has become all air and no force. We sent troops to Korea; and Korea has overtaken us. President Ramos went there, and he also went in Vietnam; and again, Vietnam has already overtaken us. Today, what do we have? A country, as Marietta Goco said in her prayer, a country that appears to have been broken.
I do not believe we are broken. We may have lost our confidence, but we are not a broken country. And so today, I can only say that what we need is the confidence to get back the initiative. Gandhi once said: “Man is the center of a circle, the circumference of which is self-imposed.” We are the once who would master how far we can go. The trouble is, we have presidents who keep insisting that they are the ones who can take us there, without motivating our people, without drawing the best in us. Leaders are supposed to uplift the level of dignity, the level of behavior of our people.
I can only think of one or two leaders in the past, one of them is President Ramos, who had vision, who encouraged us to think of Philippines 2000, kept thinking of a future, but also demanded the highest kind of work ethic. I did not vote for President Ramos, and yet I could go around in Asia and say the Philippines is a sincerely changed country under President Ramos, because although I did not vote for him, he put me in Subic Bay. I can tell you, that is an achievement by itself by any president, because you need to unify our country.
You have to draw out the best in our people when you become president. You have to demand volunteerism, you have to motivate them, you have to get everybody to get all hands carrying the load of our country; not the hand-out, because as an African saying goes, “The hand that gives is higher than the hand that receives.”
That is why today I speak as a proud Filipino. And I can say we can all talk about our promises for the country, we can all come out with the best powerpoints, I can do that, I have a powerpoint here. But I don’t want to do that right away. Why? Because I would like you to believe that we can effect change in our country—unity, stability, transformational leadership versus transactional leadership. Transactional leadership that is borne out of the sayings of a, certainly one of our most severed president’s statements, “I’d rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos, rather than a country run like heaven by Americans.” It became a self-fulfilled prophecy.
And so today, we need to rediscover ourselves, to reinvent ourselves, so to speak, and to find out what would be our vision in our country. I can talk to you about golden cities or cities in the hill. I can talk to you about many other things. But simply put, I would like to go back to Rizal, because I am a preacher of history and government. I would like to go back to our history before we can talk about the future. I would like to talk about the first Asian to beat the colonial invader, Lapu-Lapu. Today, the Koreans had given us, like the New York, a gift of a statue of liberty in Lapu-Lapu 40 feet high, beside another statue of liberty, Mr. Jose Rizal.
Lapu-Lapu, the Visayan-Muslim, stands with Rizal who created the idea of making the Philippines the first Asian nation to go beyond the colonial yoke. Today, we should look back at that past instead of calling Lapu-Lapu a murderer or a fish. That is why we are unconfident of ourselves, we are unhinged, we have been painted by the colonial forces, they put walls like Intramuros in our minds. When you’re inside Intramuros you cannot see beyond the horizon. And that is why it’s important for us to have vision, because vision is a mental picture of something that is better of what is today and what could be the best for us. I see that vision as an enabled and ennobled Filipino, free because he has been enabled and ennobled.
Why can’t we do that today? Because over the years, we have failed to make a political party that is consistent. We look at our leaders and they transform themselves into lesser beings. When you transform you should be better. But what do we have? Transition going from one party to the other; one party, two factions—NP, LP; LP, NP. Then it metamorphosed to other things. We cannot stay the course even with our parties. So we have no principles in our leadership. Even with the party we cannot stay the course. And so there is no continuity. If you look at Lee Kuan Yew, PAP, they got their independence in ‘59, and yet by 1980 they’ve already beaten Philippines. I can tell you that Korea, President Ramos went there in the 50s and by ’88 they became a first world nation. It is about 20, 25 or 30 years for a country to become first world. It would be facetious to say in six years we can do that. I wish we could. But Japan took 19 years before they hosted the Olympics in 1964; nineteen years before they became again a first world nation.
And so today, what have we got? We are poor because we have not learned from our disasters. We have a cycle of disaster and poverty in this country but we cannot seem to learn. We build houses right beside the beach, they’re blown away quite fast. We can’t even have A-frames beside Pinatubo, so that they won’t collapse under the hill of the sand. We are a creative people. We have architects who build this mighty building right here, but we cannot build buildings for our people that would last. We keep having these disasters, we don’t prepare for them, we don’t organize our people to make sure that we can get away from disasters. I have learned that people must always be part in the process of change. That is why in Red Cross we’re putting up 143—44 in every barangay, to blow the whistle, to know where the evacuation centers are, to know how to save lives, to be able to use the cellphone, which has become synonymous with Filipino. We can text the central office or the chapters so we can get help while we are helping ourselves.
We are poor because of corruption, so simple, but in reality, lack of governance. We’re not corrupt. America is corrupt. They have Madoff. They made up billions with their technology. But they have good governance. They may be corrupt but they have good governance. Madoff is now in jail, Celso delos Angeles is in a hospital, and Joc-Joc Bolante is running for Capiz governor.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are poor because we have war. Can you imagine, sixty years na, bata pa kami naririnig ko na si Kamlon; and yet today, merong MILF, MNLF, Abu Sayyaf, we have all these alphabets coming out of the woodwork. But in reality, isn’t it true that we have stop caring because we have forgotten the history of the Muslim; that it was the Muslim who fought against with Spain and beat them and stayed the course; and we forgot Lapu-Lapu was a Muslim; and yet we forget a Muslim went from Sulu to China, he was honored; we forget about them and we don’t want to dialogue with them. We are far away. I would not want to be somebody in Sulu because government has forgotten me. I have no schools for my children, teachers are not certified, my mangoosteen is bought at five pesos isang pulutong because I cannot get it out, and I have no future. I would not be surprised, if I were there, I probably would be one of those in the MNLF, I probably would not be in the ASG.
If you go to education, it’s same thing. I would not want to go to school in a public school. Why? Because butas-butas ang eskwela; our teachers are not trained; 67% of our children have intestinal helminthiases, how can you study kung masakit ang tiyan mo; 97% of our children have dental caries, because of that masakit ang ngipin, they cannot study; 57,000 schools are lacking. You have schools in Dasmariñas, because we keep throwing and throwing informal settlers over there, 110 or 120 to a classroom. My goodness! Would you like to study in a place like that?
Are we surprised we are no longer attractive? Why we can’t get foreign investments? No president can do it even if he is good, because our power is high; because our education is not competitive anymore; because we can’t seem to learn to be united, stable and transformational; and because of that, I can tell you this, we are behind.
We are behind because we don’t do anything. We don’t care enough. We don’t have a picture of the kind of people we must be. And that is why the president must have a bully pulpit. Ronald Reagan, he was a good president even if he slept during the cabinet meetings, because he had words of motivation, he lifted them, he made a face of the American people, and they were the leaders of democracy. And yet, today, we see that this country cannot seem to get by, because presidential candidates joke. They say they’re pro-poor. And it’s an even bigger joke when our people cannot ask their president and it’s permissible to ask your leaders, “How are you going to get us out of poverty?”
We just take it for granted. Panalo na yan, may pera yan. We don’t think. That’s why we’re going to have a lousy president if this is the kind of thinking that we’re going to have.
I come from a city that told me we were a “sin city”. We changed that. We made sure, because my father was killed and the guy rode the jeepney and we couldn’t find the jeepney, and he rode into a tricycle but we couldn’t find the tricycle until somebody, luckily, saw him depart from that tricycle and went into a house. When I came over there, I united the people first. I united the drivers and said, you are professionals, you have to have uniform, a t-shirt with a name at the back, body number of the jeep; have values; aim high Olongapo; bawal ang tamad sa Olongapo, lalong bawal ang tanga sa Olongapo.
I’m teaching them values, made them proud of themselves. They could not ride the jeepney because they know we knew the number, we knew the name, same thing with tricycles. There’s no crime. In this country, you have motorcycle assassins. Everyday somebody is killed by a motorcycle assassin in Mindanao, and yet we watch. “It’s okay.” “That’s the way it is.” “Talagang ganyan, wala tayong magagawa.”
Why can’t we do anything about it? Because we have put walls in our minds. And our leaders just say, “Ako ang bahala.” And if you think our leaders can change it, you get another thing coming, because great nations come about because leaders and people unite in a common vision, drawing out the values and motivating them to produce the necessary volunteerism, to correct crime, to make sure that we have better schools, and to make sure that we have better pride.
What is our agenda therefore? We have to make our country look good. There are no ugly women, there are only women who do not know how to look beautiful; so to with men, so to with countries. If we make our country peaceful, and we can do that in Mindanao, we can start learning by talking. The Abu Sayyaf didn’t just come out, they are in pain; MILF came out because they are in pain; MNLF came out because they are in pain. We have to find that pain, and we have to solve it. And we have to do that by respecting, understanding and accepting the people who are in pain, and there are many, not just the Muslims, but the many who are poor in this country.
Leaders must provide opportunities. Leaders must provide direction. Leaders must provide values. Leaders must be able to say, “I know where I am going, and the world must step aside to let any country pass, because we know where we are going.”
Thank you very much and God bless you.OPEN FORUM
Question: What are your programs with respect to the explosive population? And if the senators are in favor of the Reproductive Health bill?
Senator Gordon: First of all, I would be very honest with the Filipino people. I have four children. My wife has had tubal ligation. And I would lead by example. And my example would be, you can have as many children as you want, but you pay after two children. You have to accompany everything with responsibility and proper information.
We aim for a quality population. I opted for four children, I made sure that they get everything in life. I think we should tell our people that if they want to have more children, they’re not going to be your retirement program, you’re going to have to worry about it when you have more than two. For example, planning. But what kind of planning? We have seven minutes of ecstasy and nine months to pay for your pregnancy. Therefore, there is no such thing as born free on your third child.
In other countries, population isn’t exactly very, very bad. For example, Japan is now paying for it, they’re quite insecure about their social security because right now their senior citizens are much more than the children that are coming in. Certainly, they’re very, very worried about their future. In India, along with China, it has become positive. It depends on the kind of education we put in. I have known many, many families with a lot of children but they come out as professionals, they come out helping one another, quite close to another. You can have as many children as you want, it’s your choice. But as far as I’m concerned, we aim for quality population, so beyond the second child, you pay for your pregnancy, you pay for public school, you pay for medication.
Question: Can you tell us which is your primary Millennium Development Goal that you will implement as President of the Philippines and if possible, could you interconnect the achievement of the first Millennium Development Goal to one or more subsequent Millennium Development Goals?
Senator Gordon: Education and health would be my priorities. But obviously, education is a priority. Like I said, tignan nyo na lang yung teacher, the teacher in our country makes P12,000 a month, in the next four years they’ll go up to P18,000. Malaysia already pays P17,000; Japan pays P77,000; Singapore pays P129,000 per month per teacher.
That’s why Johnny cannot speak English or Juan dela Cruz cannot pass Math or Science, in the same manner that our counterparts in Taiwan, in Hong Kong and in Singapore can. That is why we have to invest in education. Fifty seven thousand classrooms are needed. Where are you going to get the money? I’m suggesting, we have two billion text messages a day, we levy 200 million of those text messages from the Globe and Smart people who have earned a windfall, and we levy that without any pass on, which will come out with P73 billion a year. We can, at the same time, pump prime the economy. At 57,000 thousand classrooms times P500,000 or a million if you want to put computers, plus food, address malnutrition, and you can invest and send teachers to better, better training and in the process, get education up in track. I’m only asking this for five years. Next year, you can have another P73 billion again, this time you can provide more scholarships, you could provide better opportunities.
Can you imagine this country, how can you have health when you have an average of 151 students to one toilet bowl? They don’t even have water. And you’re talking about H1N1, addressing it. No way. It’s not going to happen. In ARMM, it’s even 252 students to one toilet bowl in high school. We have to walk our talk.
Question: Are you in favor of providing fiscal autonomy to local governments such as increasing the current share of 60-40 to 50-50?
Senator Gordon: Closer is better. I was mayor for 13 years, my parents were both mayors, I know what it means to have to be developed. But nonetheless, we have to prioritize the kind of projects that the money is gonna be used for. And sometimes you cannot just believe in the policy of civil minimums. That is what I think IRRA is right now. Everybody gets a share based on land, on population, etcetera. Sometimes it’s not just equal and there are people who would be left out.
I’d like to see the IRRA spent, for example, in areas of agriculture, where local governments should be encouraged to spend that IRRA with counterpart funding from the national government insofar as irrigation or extension. These are things that are important because that involves food security. If the local government is doing well and there is a need to address, I would not hesitate to provide that local government with the capability to finish the job as quickly as we can so that we can take over and pass the money on to others later on. But there’s got to be some flexibility in the expenditure of those funds, and there’s got to be responsibility on the part of the local government. Of course, I would support anybody, even of he was in the opposition, because that’s what we are for. When we are elected as president, we become president of all the people, and that is important. We cannot just take sides and we cannot just select those that we favor. We have to favor what is best for all and as fast as we can.
Question: What are the proposed projects or programs for our youth?
Senator Gordon: I’ve always said, don’t wait to be a great man or woman, be a great boy or great girl. Get involved as soon as you can. As far as I’m concerned, the government should give you the atmosphere upon which you can develop your full potential.
When you go to school in our communities there is hardly any opportunity for extra-curricular activities, formation of good leadership, for example. There’s not even any physical plan in our educational programs, even our laboratories are really in bad shape, there are no gyms. When you go to another country and you see the schools that are being prepared for the young people out there, then you can see why you feel so marginalized, why we are uncompetitive. It is so important that we show our youth that we mean business.
When the Constitution says number one ang education, it is not just nominal. You can have number one budget in education, which is P158 billion, and yet kulang pa rin yun. It is important that you have a holistic approach that would provide you better teachers, laboratories, information technology, the ability to go out and go to other countries and participate in contests and more particularly in sports. I would also like to restore ROTC. I think that there is an opportunity for ourselves that we have forgotten. Our officer corps cannot just come from the Philippine Military Academy. There’s got to be a historical background here, meaning to say, that when you join the ROTC, you know how to participate. Leadership is something that is thrust upon ourselves at times by present challenges. It is important that we prepare the youth for national responsibility. It is important that hindi lang rights ang ibibigay sa inyo. You have the duty. I would sponsor and make sure that you have chances to join and participate not just in the kabataang barangay. I think it’s more important to have extra-curricular activities such as the Red Cross, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in grade school, and all the way training for better citizenship.
Question: Please give an example where you have fought corruption and sacrificed relationships, money, power and even voting support.
Senator Gordon: I think my stint in Subic showed that there was no smuggling there in my time. That happened because I’ve gotten a lot of young people from other countries who volunteered in Subic and made sure that everybody was honest and we made sure that when there was somebody who turned out sour, who turned out wrong even if he was a fraternity brother, we made sure he was out.
Even in the Red Cross, I was sued in the Supreme Court recently principally because somebody violated the principle of integrity in the Red Cross. I made sure that he was out of the Red Cross along with the entire board because that is not allowed in the Red Cross. Integrity is the most important part of the Red Cross activities because we rely on donations from the whole world.
In addition to that, my stint as a mayor of Olongapo required courtesy, honesty and efficiency at all times. When a cousin couldn’t handle his drink, he got into jail. I put policemen in jail, the security got into jail as well. And people know that because I announce it on radio so that people would know that we live by example.
I think it is important that we put closure in any respect. That is why, I, even if it’s going to cause me a lot from the so-called Estrada votes, was the only senator who said he should never have been pardoned by the President, he should have taken a vacation like the Koreans and then gone out after two years. I was open about that. I stood out against Capt. Trillanes, he violated his oath not just once, but twice. That is why I stood up against him in the Senate because when you take an oath you take it seriously and you cannot now go and say I wanna be in the Senate, especially after you have been sued and then you go into Peninsula and you cause a lot of damage to our international reputation. You’ve got to be responsible and you’ve got to be accountable. One of the main things I think is closure. I try to put a closure on Bolante, I cannot get him in jail because the Ombudsman is there. The Ombudsman should no longer be appointed by the President, he should be elected. In fact, I think there should be no longer an Ombudsman and the President should appoint the Secretary of Justice who should be responsible so that the President can be seen as the person behind it if the Secretary of Justice it appoints doesn’t do his job and there is no impeachment covered on the Ombudsman.
Question: Do you have a plan for providing access to entrepreneurs for the farmers? If you do please explain.
Senator Gordon: The thing that we have to realize is that the farmer is subsidizing our food prices here. Sila ang nagbabayad dahil mine-maintain ng gobyerno na mura ang pagkain ng mga sa siyudad, pero yung farmer napapabayaan. So you really have to allow him some space insofar as making sure that he can be more productive and in line with that kailangan meron tayong mga ACEF, pero di naman alam ng mga farmer at madalas palakasan pa. So kailangan may publication yung mga batas na sinasabi natin, kahit mag-Agri-Agra ka dyan, kahit na mag-ACEF ka, kung hindi alam ng farmer, he doesn’t know how to access that credit, and that’s why I put in an amendment that anyone of this initiatives must have a promotional component at hindi yung kakandidato ang magtutulak ng component na yun.
At the same time, pinapatay din natin ang ating farmers. In other countries they subsidize their farmers, but here in our country takot tayo with the word subsidy. There’s no effort to try, on the part of the government, to get warehouses, farm implements, coupled with the fact we have very, very small farm implements, coupled with the fact na takot talaga ang mga farmers na mag-take ng risk. We have got to put back confidence in the farmer to be able borrow money, but at the same time, the government must provide him with common implements and try to encourage, if I may, I would encourage bigger farm areas, sama-sama sila para yung mga farmers, their families can work in the farms, or for that matter while they are not working in the farm they can do other things like lending them money for dairy. $731 million ang ini-import natin sa dairy at ang ating ginagawa lang is about $31 million. There is obviously an opportunity to go for goats for milk, carabaos for milk, cows for milk, and I think if you lend the farmer three of those things he can get by. At the same time you can get him also to work the irrigations that are destroyed. There are about 400,000 of irrigation na sira so you can get the families of the farmers to repair that at 50,000 per hectare on the average. You can actually make sure and close the gap in that importation which is usually laden by corruption every time we import from Vietnam, or from Thailand or from anywhere else.