(Speech delivered by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson during the 8th Annual Convention, Philippine Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, delivered February 23, 2009 at The Manila Hotel)
Thank you for inviting me to share my experience in public service, almost two years as chief of our national police and seven as a Philippine legislator.
There have been extraordinary strides in health practices during the last fifty years – vaccines, better equipment, we even have the opportunity to reclaim the fountain of youth.
We, who are present in this pavilion, are living in relatively blessed circumstances for outside this place, real problems beset a great number of Filipinos.
Health has become a dominating concern for the millions of Filipinos who, according to the latest World Bank statistics, belong to the world’s poorest.
Bilang pang-apat sa walong magkakapatid, pamilyar na sa akin iyong paghihigpit sinturon. Ang palaging paliwanag ng aking mga magulang na ang sakripisyong iyon ay may katumbas na ginhawa balang araw.
Taliwas po ito sa nangyayari sa ating bansa ngayon.
Tinitipid tayo maging sa larangan ng pangkalusugan, pero ang natitipid ay nilulustay ng iilan na nangungurakot.
Recently, I have refined my advocacy on fighting corruption to point out 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 idea of equal opportunity and fair play.
Dahil sa kurakot, nawalan na ng saysay ang Patas na laban, Para sa lahat.
From my experience, three things comprise a good government: transparency, accountability and equality.
Transparency stands for unbiased and free access to government decisions. This means government shouldn’t resort to dilatory tactics in order to delay scrutiny over suspicious transactions, this includes concocting imaginary stress in order to escape attending a Senate hearing on the latest World Bank mess.
Accountability implies a government being held responsible by the people that elect it.
It’s simple - corruption exists because we have been resigned to its existence. Like traffic, corruption has defined us as a nation.
Kaya hindi na nga balita na ang isang opisyal ay nangungumisyon sa pagpapagawa ng ating mga kalsada. Ang usapan ngayon ay hindi kung sino, kundi magkano ang nakukurakot sa ating pamahalaan.
Lastly, equality means all of us are treated equally under the law, no exceptions. Sa madaling salita: patas na laban.
Noong araw, hindi importante na mayaman ka o mahirap para umunlad. Kung masipag ka at may angking talino, aasenso ka. Di mo kailangang may kakilala na kung sino sa kung anong ahensya sa gobyerno o magbenta ng karangalan upang umusad at magkaroon ng kinabukasan.
It is obvious that I am cynical about our current government.
I have always maintained that what has kept us from progressing is a bad government.
But I am also very hopeful about the future.
It is possible to institute the practice of good government.
First, we need leaders with strong morals that are committed to the public good. Second, and more importantly, we need a public that is committed to demanding their rights and will always hold the government accountable to its deeds.
Corruption is a two-way street: walang ko-corrupt, kung walang magpapako-corrupt.
I could stand here and force upon you a long litany of corrupt deals that this government has subjected us to, in fact, I could stand here and recount the recent World Bank controversy and the excuses our own agencies like the DPWH and Ombudsman are using in order to shift the blame to somewhere else.
But that is just that, talk and if we continue to be unconcerned with the effect of corruption in our country, talking is all we end up with.
But if corruption and all the inequalities it has given birth to have been a source of shame, they are equally a source for optimism.
In a way, it has been a privilege to have come from very humble beginnings because I was not any different from every other kid born of rich parents.
I was still blessed because, in spite of a poverty-stricken childhood, I had much of a chance as them to make something better of myself.
Certainly, the government that was popular during that time was not perfect and the problems it faced may have been fewer than the ones we faced now.
But that government gave my generation something that is in short supply today – ang Patas na Laban, Para sa Lahat.
It is time that we bring back a level playing field. And there is no better time than now.
And no better place to start than with ourselves.
I am exhorting this particular group before me today because I know you understand the concept of ethics and doing no harm. They are part of your Hippocratic oath, after all.
And often, it is those who are in a position of power, or wealth, or influence who are more responsible for creating opportunities for others.
I would like to leave you with this quote. It is about our responsibilities as citizens and as human beings.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Maraming salamat po.