Ramon Magsaysay Award Lecture, August 30, 2007

Introduction of the Lecturer
By Christian S. Monsod, Trustee

It is my honor to introduce our lecturer today, the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service.

If you were not yet born or are too young to remember the last war, the martial law years, or the people power revolt of 1986. or if you have not kept up with the landmark cases brought up to the Supreme Court on constitutional issues or human rights, this is a good time to listen to the man who was and is very much a part of historic events. His story is in many ways the story of our country during the past six or seven decades.

Everything you read in the materials we distributed about him is true, and more. But there are points I would like to touch on this afternoon:

(1) Why is he being awarded for government service when he stepped out of government office in 1992, more than 15 years ago? Because it is only fitting to honor a life devoted to making our government work within a democratic setting, whether in or outside of it, and to that end, be willing to put at risk not only political fortunes and professional stature but life itself. In a world of broken promises where vows of fidelity to a person, a nation or a vision are high on the list of perishables, our awardee has kept faith with his vows, regardless of the consequences to himself. And that, my friends, is greatness of spirit.

(2) There are those who say that he bears a charmed life. Born to a poor family, he managed to get the best education at the University of the Philippines, Harvard and Yale. He survived imprisonment during the Japanese occupation, He miraculously survived the bombing of the opposition in 1971. During martial law, his jailor released him to the marital custody of his wife, thinking perhaps that it was a punishment. This to the man who has described marriage as an endless romance, sanctified by prayer. He has overcome all the black propaganda against him by his illustrious record of public service, the modesty of the life he leads and the dignity of his demeanor. He gave way as vice-president to Cory Aquino in 1986 to help unite the opposition but came back to top the senatorial elections for the third time in his political career. After the only election he ever lost, for the presidency, he returned to public life as civil society's champion against injustice.

He may indeed have a lucky star or maybe it is all grit and determination to prevail over countless adversities. But I think it is God telling us that he loves this country by saving His most trusted sentinels to protect it when it is most in need.

(3) Our awardee belongs to the country's intellectual elite, a certified "egghead", a word he once used to describe Adlai Stevenson, who also lost a presidency, but he has never lost touch with the core issues that affect the common man. Up to now, he is only a cellphone away when his leadership or counsel is needed. Yesterday, you must have read in the newspapers about the petition he brought to the Supreme Court asking for the release of a pastor who he believes is being unjustly detained, and tortured, on trumped-up charges. Indeed, and I speak for the many times I have done so myself, he is the man to go to, to even out the odds against those with dangerous tendencies to upset the delicate balance of rights and interests that sustains any democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the man who personifies the audacity of principled politics former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga.
THE AUDACITY OF PRINCIPLED POLITICS
By Jovito R. Salonga

I

Definition of Terms
I suppose the title of the lecture assigned to me might have been inspired by the book of Barack Obama— The Audacity of Hope—which has become a consistent New York Times best seller for non-fiction since it came off the press in 2006—only a year ago. Many of those who bought the book might have been affected by a number of factors, apart from plain curiosity: (1) Barack Obama's phenomenal rise in American politics, from a relatively obscure black legislator in Illinois to a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States, competing with Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the well-known senator from New York; (2) Obama's record as a top scholar in Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review; (3) Obama's unique background—his father was from Kenya but his mother, who greatly influenced his life, is a white American from a small town in Kansas; (4) how he, as a senator finally became a Christian, a member of the Trinity United Church in Chicago, one who writes and speaks of his religious convictions in the turbulent field of politics. In his book, in the chapter of Faith, he says, many Americans want a sense of purpose, "an assurance that somebody cares about them, is listening to them—and that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway toward nothingness." (p. 202.)

Would it be proper to place the audacity of hope on the same level as principled politics? Is principled politics audacious'?

Yes, in the sense that audacity stands for boldness or daring, with confident disregard for conventional thinking.

How about "principled politics?" A politics without principle is a kind of politics without any ethical or moral sense. Moral sense is the sense of right and wrong. It is wrong to act based on lying, self-dealing, double cross, cheating, treachery or expediency. It is right for one in politics to speak the truth with boldness and work for a transparent, accountable system of government.

I would like to suggest that principled politics, which depends on a rational, high-level discussion of relevant issues, was the way politics was practiced during the time of Senator Claro M. Recto and former Justice Jose P. Laurel, long before martial law. They did not resort to money politics, in the sense of buying votes or buying off political leaders or the media. Having worked for Justice Laurel in the 1949 presidential elections and collaborated with Senator Recto in a number of important cases in the early 50s and worked for his reelection as senator a little later, I may be permitted to assert that both of them were men of principles. On the basis of personal knowledge, I ascribe their politics of principle to their strong faith in Divine Providence—the term they employed—when they drafted the 1935 Constitution which, in the view of many legal experts, remains unsurpassed up to this day.

II

A personal testimony—
my first two senatorial campaigns

In my first two senatorial campaigns before martial law—1965 and 1971—I did not have enough logistics, the euphemism for money politics, hence, I had no choice but discuss the issues in the belief that our people, whose native intelligence many other politicians tend to underestimate, would prefer to use their minds in choosing their candidates for high office.

I was proved right. According to the records of what used to be the reputable COMELEC, the constitutional agency with the power and duty to conduct and administer the elections, I topped the two senatorial elections—in November 1965 when Ferdinand Marcos defeated incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal in the 1965 presidential election and in the mid-term election of 1971. I was in my sick bed at the time because of the extensive injuries I suffered as a result of the Plaza Miranda bombing of August 21. 1971—with more than a hundred tiny pieces of shrapnel in my body; my left eye could no longer see, my right ear could no longer hear, I was then hovering between life and death. My 34 doctors who volunteered their services thought I had no more than a 5% chance to live. But against all odds, I survived.

How can one explain this miracle of survival? Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in reviewing my latest book, titled Not by Power or Wealth Alone, gives the following explanation:

"But what may not be captured by the public eye is the unseen sword of the Christian faith and the shield of his unyielding moral courage that many are known to have little regard for: the values of truth, integrity and selflessness...the Christian anchor of both his public service and private life. "

The Chief Justice, however, is a prominent layman of the United Methodist Church. Perhaps, one may say he could be biased, since I am also a layman of Cosmopolitan Church. UCCP.

Roman Catholic Bishop Socrates B. Villegas of the Diocese of Balanga, Bataan, says he was born and raised in the quaint town of Pateros, Rizal, and that his father admired Salonga, a politician from the neighboring town of Pasig. When he became the priest secretary of the late Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, his second father, he came to admire even more (Salonga), "the living martyr of the Plaza Miranda bombing," In his comment on my latest book, he tells us why:

"This politician was unique and different from the rest. His political career has a soul. His government service has a conscience. His life witnessing is edifying. From his intimate encounter with God in prayer, he entered politics. From his political engagement, he returned to his prayer corner and submitted all to Him who is Everything. He serves God as a politician, and God is glorified in his political service. "

Another devout Catholic, former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban. who was a talented student in the Institute of Law of FEU, says in his Foreword to my latest book:

"Though we are of different faiths...we never talked of what divided us but only of what brought us together. One thought that always united us was, and still is, the role of faith in our lives...In concluding this Foreword, I now daresay that our good Lord had granted him a long and purposeful life, because he wanted him to be the conscience of the nation... "

(incidentally, the title of his subsequent column in the Inquirer on August 19, 2007).

The paradox is that my contemporaries in politics, led by Senators Lorenzo M. Tanada, Ninoy Aquino and Pepe Diokno, who were not victims of the Plaza Miranda bombing, passed away. A good number of doctors who saved my life are gone. A few have migrated to the United States.

Some people may not know that I am Protestant- my father was a poor Presbyterian Minister, and my mother, a poor market vendor, was a woman of faith and spirituality. Because of the influence of my parents, my life in politics and outside politics has been anchored on the Christian faith, despite the fact that like all sinners, I have fallen short in more ways than one.

In truth, I had been assailed by many a doubt about my Christian faith (I sometimes considered myself a skeptic) when, after going underground to counteract the Japanese propaganda, I was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese kempeitai in Pasig during Holy Week of 1942. It was the infliction of torture by the kempeitai in the presence of my aging father, my stay in Fort Santiago, then in the Old Bilibid in Manila, and finally in the New Bilibid in Muntinglupa, that rekindled my broken faith. For almost a year, by common consent, I led in the evening prayers in my brigada where convicted criminals and political prisoners were together on bended knees.

III

After one term as a congressman and three terms as a senator, I retired from partisan politics in 1992—indeed I am no longer an active member of the Liberal Party, since my active involvement in civil society. I founded and organized Kilosbayan in 1993, mainly "to arouse public interest and participation in important questions of public policy, in light of the right of the people to their own governance and on the basis of civilized norms of morality, justice, truth and ethics." Its officers, trustees and members are Roman Catholics and Protestants. The President of Kilosbayan today, ex-Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III, who succeeded me, is a Roman Catholic; the Vice-President, Dr. Quintin S. Doromal, is a Protestant, the former President of Silliman University. In a deeper sense, we in Kilosbayan are involved in non-partisan politics, in the same manner as priests and nuns, the Protestant pastors and laymen like me, followed Cardinal Jaime Sin in February 1986. You recall the Cardinal called on the people, through Radio Veritas, to support Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and PC Chief Fidel V. Ramos in mounting the EDSA I People Power Revolution against the Marcos regime.

On Recto Day, February 8, 2000, ex-Secretary of Justice and ex-Ambassador Sedfrey A. Ordonez and I founded and organized Bantay Katarungan, an NGO, to help improve and modernize our system of justice in the Philippines, with the help of young students of idealism and competence from the best law schools in Metro Manila—UP, Ateneo. San Beda. LIST. FEU and Lyceum. It was inaugurated by Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide. assisted by Associate Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, who succeeded Davide as Chief Justice. Our first Chairman was Amb. Sedfrey Ordonez, my law partner for 33 years, who, because of failing health, was replaced by former UP Law Dean Raul C. Pangalangan.

We reach out to young college students, our nation's hope for tomorrow, through the Kilosbayan Forum, which is being held from time to time. The last Forum was held last July 27, in Lyceum of the Philippines University in Intramuros, Manila. Guest Speakers were Senator Mar Roxas, who spoke on the SONA of President GMA, and Senate President Franklin M. Drilon who explained the Human Security Act, which is a misnomer, since it endangers every person's security. Composing the audience were hundreds of professors and students from Lyceum and from nearby universities and colleges. Why do we in Kilosbayan do this? We want to prepare the youth of the land so they will be well-informed and well-trained. At the proper time, they can take over the helm of leadership, hopefully based on the concept of principled politics.

On the lighter side. I am only 87 years old. compared to the other awardees of the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation. I say only 87 because life begins at 80. Let me now tell you about the life and work of Dr. Frank Laubach, the missionary educator who went to Lanao before World War II to live among the Muslims—the Maranaos in Lanao. Unlike other missionaries, he did not try to convince them to be Christians. What he did was to teach the Muslims how to read and write English in his own unique way of teaching. He was loved by the Muslims who did not want him to leave. But he was invited by Mahatma Gandhi to go to India and teach his people English in his unique method. Laubach went to India and taught them English. But he was invited to South America to do the same thing, which he did. When he reached 80, he returned to his home in Pennsylvania to retire. It was here where he composed his well-known essay—Life Begins at 80, which I shall read.

Life Begins at 80 By Dr. Frank Laubach

Once you reach 80, everyone wants to carry your baggage and help you up the steps. If you forget your name, or an appointment, or your own telephone number or can't remember how many grandchildren you have—you only need to explain that you are 80.

Being 80 is a lot better than being 70. At 70, people are mad at you for everything. At 80, you have a perfect excuse, no matter what you do. If you act foolishly, it's your second childhood.

Being 70 is no fun at all. At 70, they expect you to retire to a house in (Florida) Baguio and complain about your arthritis. And you ask everybody to stop mumbling because you can't understand them. Actually, your hearing is about 50% gone.


If you survive until you are 80, everybody is surprised that you are still alive. They treat you with respect just for having lived so long. Actually, they are surprised that you can walk and talk sensibly.

So, please, folks, try to make it to 80. It's the best time of life. If you ask me, life begins at 80*

Good Government

In the latter part of June 1962, I was invited by Mrs. Fonacier,my UP speech teacher in 1936-1937 to come to the University and talk about good government. In March 1962, I had been appointed by Speaker Villareal, Chairman of the House Committee on Good Government, a prestigious body. We in the committee had been conducting a number of hearings, but the sensational Harry Stonehill case had not yet exploded. Because the University of the Philippines and the UP Community were in my district, I felt I had to comply with my teachers request on July 3, 1962. The speech was broadcast by DZUP and published by the print media.


I should like to express my thanks to Mrs. Fonacier, my very personable speech teacher, for the opportunity to speak to you tonight. The University campus happens to be within my district, and I thought this would be an excellent chance to convey my gratitude to the residents of this area for the support they gave me in the last elections.

They call members of Congress “honorable” although I know you have grave doubts about it. Have you read the story of that congressman's wife who heard some noise in the kitchen? The wife awakened her husband and said, "Dear, there is a robber in the house," to which the husband, half-awake, half-asleep, answered, "Impossible! Such a creature exists only in the Senate."

I have always considered it an honor and a privilege to represent the second district of Rizal, of which the UP area is an important part, for 2 reasons: (1) The University has been the center of intellectual ferment in the country, and (2) which is a more personal reason: the UP is my alma mater.

A lot of people, particularly my close friends, have often wondered why I entered politics. I was in the academic world and in the world of law practice. What should have induced me to abandon almost entirely teaching and practice in favor of a rough, disorderly life with no moment, it seems, of privacy or thought? I suspect even my better—or more accurately perhaps, my bitter half — must have asked the same question a lot times. Well, let me give you a straight answer.

It is partly because of a strong, deep-seated conviction that I have no right—whatever to condemn or criticize the governance of public affairs— as I usually did— if I were not prepared or willing, in my own little way, to do something about it. How could I talk about the need of cleaning up the much talked about mess in the government unless I was prepared to disregard, for the moment, personal interests and get something done: Indeed, how can we talk about having an efficient government, unless those of us who are so inclined, are prepared, if called
upon, to render service to the State? I do not say everyone of us must enter politics. That would be a disaster. But I do say it is time we took a good look at ourselves, see how much we have been immersed in our own private affairs, and consider how indifferent some of us have become to the vital questions of government and to the important public issues that affect the world in which we live. We talk about democracy and freedom, but seldom realize that both can be dismantled out of all usefulness by our own inaction and by the crippling weight of our indifference. We talk about good government and yet participate, through our own unwillingness to act, in its collapse.

This brings me to the theme of the evening: Good Government.

What is a good government? Is it necessarily a government where the mass of public servants are honest and efficient? To my mind, this is not enough for in Italy and Germany during the war years, the great many were honest and efficient. In fact, during the tragic days of Mussolini, the trains in Italy ran on time as never before. The Nazi concentration camp system in Germany was a model of hideous efficiency, It may well be that in Soviet Russia today, the bulk of public servants are honest, dedicated and efficient— even more so than in many places in the free world.

And so, when we talk about Good Government, we should be careful when we discuss it in the context of a free society of free men. In such a society, the law is more than just a set of rules and decrees; it is a system of ordered liberty.

Now, that would involve us, it would seem, in some kind of internal contradiction. Order and liberty are concepts that are apparently inconsistent, when vou have nothing but order, you have the makings of a garrison state and may eventually achieve what has been correctly phrased as "the unanimity of the graveyard.” When you have nothing but liberty, so that everyone is free to do what he pleases, you have no more and no less than anarchy and chaos. The eventual result is the rule of the strong over the weak— which means loss of liberty itself. One is just as bad as the other.

To be sure, then, the preservation of a minimal standard of order is basic in any organized society; without order, one cannot enjoy the essentials of life with some kind of assurance that someone will not deprive him by force of it. But too much stress on order may mean the dissipation of freedom— the freedom to pursue our respective occupations, the freedom to trade and engage in business, the freedom to inquire and to know, the freedom to seek truth according to our best lights, the freedom to speak and to worship and to believe. Law, then, in a free society of tree men is a system of reconciliation — the reconciliation of order with liberty, and it is for this reason that I defined law earlier as a system of ordered liberty, a system where there is security and where individual dignity and worth is recognized.

A Good Government, therefore, seeks to achieve order with freedom, security with human dignity. And at the very least, human dignity means a more equitable distribution of the basic values and goods of society wealth and power, knowledge and respect.

The whole idea of Good Government means honest, competent, efficient public officials within the framework of a system that reconciles order with the human desire for freedom. Honesty, competence and efficiency would be worthless it they were used only to destroy human dignity and therein erect a garrison state.

It is often said that in a democracy the government is one of laws and not of men. The meaning is that the mighty and the weak should be under the law, with equal rights and equal protection. Justice is blind, without regard to whether one is poor or lowly. This is all fine and good, except for the fact that laws are made by men, interpreted by men, and administered by men. And as long as this is so, justice cannot be blind.

The basic problem of government, then, is to recruit good men who are aware of their tasks. That is the basic problem too of business, the recruitment of good men. But if this is essential in private business, this is indispensable in government.

For whether we like it or not, the responsibility for our moral standards in society rests heaviest upon men and women in public lite. They are the models, the examples to which the people look up for guidance and inspiration. Public confidence in the integrity of public officials, particularly the high officials, is necessary in a popular government such as we have. Destroy that faith and you destroy faith in a democracy. That is the reason why Communism sows distrust and doubt in our minds as to the honesty of public officials. Widespread mistrust is the fertile ground of communism.

As I have stated, the problem is to get good men in the government and having done so, to encourage them. It is for this reason I am against broad, hasty accusations that defy the rules of logic and law of evidence.

What I am saying is that while it is important to root out and punish the bad, it is just as important to recognize and support the good. Generalities about crime and corruption in government which embrace the many good with the few bad can only make it harder to induce good people to enter public service.

Right now, it is so hard to get top men in the world of business to join government service. If it is difficult to get good men in public service, it does nobody any good to see honest, conscientious public servants resign and quit, because they don't care to be abused and ridiculed any longer.

DEMOCRACY, as one writer puts it, cannot be saved either by slander or by silence.

And in the Philippines, the word "silence" can never be over-emphasized for here, particularly in places where the high and the mighty have the run of things, the poor and the lowly are so afraid to give their evidence. Entire communities are terrorized into silence and prospective witnesses are rendered mute by the forces of physical violence. Hence, it is true to say we cannot clean up the mess in the world of crime and vice unless we are also willing to clean up the civic and political life of the community in which we live. And who is going to do that? Only we, the people. It is not merely the public officials. For as Bernard Shaw puts it very aptly— "Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."

We can't have a good government and at the same time have a double standard of law observance. We can't validly complain of corruption, if we are only too prepared and willing to bribe our way through to get what we want.

And so, if you ask me: how do we attain a higher standard of ethics in government? I answer:

When we refrain from exerting pressure on our public officials for selfish, narrow ends; when we give positive applause and encouragement to the guy who is playing it straight even though we may not agree with him; when the public official gets the help he needs from people who don't want anything from him except to be good; and when we, the people, organize and give real, solid backing to those who lead the attack on mass dishonesty and graft.


From:
The Task of Building A Better Nation
Copyright ©2005 Jovito R. Salonga
Regina Publishing Company
414 pages

A Letter to the Filipino Youth of Today

This letter, which can easily be translated into Filipino, is written in simple, basic English so many who read it can understand it.

You will probably ask me— who are included among the "Filipino youth?" And by what right do you presume to speak to the youth of the land? The Oxford Dictionary says youth is "the period between childhood and maturity. " Other dictionaries have similar definitions. But this particular letter is addressed to high school and college students up to age 40 and fellow Filipinos in remote villages who did not have the fortune of studying beyond elementary level and have not reached age 40.

I am your elder, frequently called "a senior citizen, " and about to reach 85 during this month of June 2005. I was born in Pasig, Rizal. I was a young man of 21— a senior student at the U.P College of Law—when Japanese planes suddenly arrived around noon of December 8, 1941, and bombed Clark Field Airbase in Pampanga and other U.S. military installations, such as Nichols Field, Cavite Naval Base and Camp John Hay in Baguio, where Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon was then vacationing. Classes were suspended indefinitely.

Later, Japanese troops landed in Lingayen, Pangasinan, and in several places in Luzon. Filipino-American troops in those places fought back but had to retreat to Bataan and Corregidor. On December 26, 1941, Manila was declared an open city, which means the Japanese could enter freely without armed resistance. On January 2, 1942, Japanese officers and soldiers were swarming around Manila and surrounding areas, such as Pasig and Marikina. Because of the abuses committed by the enemy, especially against Filipino women and children, I went underground and joined the fight against Japan. During the Holy Week of 1942, I was captured by the Japanese military police (kempeitai), was tortured, jailed in Pasig, then to Fort Santiago, transferred to the City Jail on San Marcelino, then to the Old Bilibid on Azcarraga, and eventually sentenced by the Japanese military tribunal to a prison term of 15 years of hard labor. By a stroke of good luck, I was released from Muntinglupa one year later (1941) on the occasion of kigen setsu the Foundation Day of Japan. In 1944, I was allowed by the Supreme Court to take the bar examination and I passed it with a good rating. I joined the guerrillas in Rizal. US forces landed in Leyte; in the second week of January 1945, they landed in Lingayen, Pangasinan and Manila was liberated by American GIs, guided by Filipino guerrillas, in February 1945. Other places were also liberated in quick succession. The atomic bomb was dropped by US Air Force on 2 Japanese cities: Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Japan surrendered to the US in August 1945.

I practiced and taught law, was appointed Dean of Law of FEU, was elected Congressman representing the 2nd district of Rizal in November 1961 and was elected to the Senate in 1965, 1971 and 1987. A brief summary of my bio-data is found in the footnote below. I humbly believe I have earned the right to write this letter to you.

There are three points I would like you to remember:

The main problems of Philippine Society, in my view, are massive poverty, rampant corruption, and uncontrolled criminality. They are interrelated. Our grinding poverty, the result of the concentration of too much wealth and power in the hands of a few — the so-called elite leads to graft and corruption, a double standard of justice (one standard of justice for the poor and another standard of justice for the rich) and ever rising criminality. Thefts, robberies, drug addiction, murders and assassinations are what we see and read in the media everyday. There are flaws in our cultural traits, such as utang na loob, pakikisama, the kanya-kanya syndrome and a lack of sense of community that tend to worsen the twin problems of corruption and criminality.

In a sense, poverty has been with us since the Spanish colonization -- it continued during the half-century of American occupation, which also saw the rise in our population growth. But what we witness today, apart from the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the elite, is the never ending migration from the rural areas that began in the late 50's, and continue to jack up the number of slum dwellers and squatters in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces and in such cities as Cebu, Iloilo, Davao and Cagayan de Oro. Our high officials, fearful of the stand of the Catholic Church against family planning through artificial methods, cannot seem to agree on what should be done with our rapid population growth. But the point may soon come when the aggrieved and the disinherited may constitute the majority of the population in the cities and the urban areas. It may then be difficult to ignore their pleas for a radical change in society.

Second, my generation, led by Ferdinand Marcos in 1965, and the generations that succeeded us, particularly the one led by Joseph "Erap" Estrada in 1998, have only complicated the unsolved problems of Philippine society. The EDSA I revolution of 1986 and the EDSA II event of 2001 gave rise to expectations that have not been fulfilled.

I repose my hope in the youth of today who now have the chance to answer the question and invitation of Jose Rizal, our national hero:

“Where are the youth who will dedicate their innocence, their idealism, their enthusiasm to the good of the country? Where are they who will give generously of their blood to wash away so much shame crime and abomination? Pure and immaculate must the victim be for the sacrifice to be acceptable. Where are you, young men and young women, who are to embody in yourselves the life -force that has been drained from our veins, the pure ideals that have grown stained in our minds, the fiery enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts? We await you, come, for we await you. "

From Rizal's El Filibusterismo
English Translation by Leon Ma. Guerrero



Third, throughout our history, it is the youth that has led our people in our struggle for freedom. Jose Rizal, at 26, wrote his first novel Noli me Tangere, Marcelo del Pilar helped lead the Propaganda Movement at 32; Andres Bonifacio led the Katipunan at 26; Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was 29 when he was inaugurated First President of the Philippine Republic; Apolinario Mabini, the brains of the Revolution, was 34; Antonio Luna was General at 29; Gregorio del Pilar gave his life for his country at 24.

Under American administration, the youth led the nation in our parliamentary struggle for independence. Sergio Osmena was Speaker of the House at 29; Manuel L. Quezon was Resident Commissioner in Washington, D.C. at 32; Jose P. Laurel was Secretary of Interior at 32; Manuel A. Roxas was Speaker of the House at 29.

During the dark years of the Japanese occupation, many young men and women in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao joined the resistance movement against the invader. When Marcos declared martial law; the cream of the nation's youth went underground and gave their all for the sake of freedom and democracy. Many died without seeing the dawn of freedom.
Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples, mostly obscure, unlettered fishermen, were all young men in their early 30s, who left their fishing nets to become fishers of men. Those who succeeded them were also in the prime of youth when they heard God's call. History records that in the course ot time, they shook the Roman Empire and turned the world upside down.

Today, the challenge is for the youth of this nation, beset by the worsening problems of poverty, corruption and criminality, to consecrate their lives to a cause bigger than themselves, to ''dream the impossible dream” and "reach the unreachable star.”



**From the maiden issue of Living News and Good Education. June 1, 2005, a fortnightly publication for teachers and students in Philippine public high schools.

A Plea for Sobriety

Privilege speech delivered on the floor of Congress on Constitution Day, February 8,1962.

Authors Note: Following the State of the Nation Address of the newly-elected president, Diosdado Macapagal (LP), delivered in the last week of January 1962, I attended the first session of the House of Representatives as the recently-elected Congressman of the second district of Rizal, under the banner of the Liberal Party. I was immediately struck not so much by the liveliness of the opening debates but by the undisguised animosity and belligerence of my colleagues in the Opposition (Nacionalista Party), who constituted the majority in the House with Congressman Daniel Romualdez of Leyte as the Speaker. It was as if everything President Macapagal said since he came into power was not only wrong but malicious, not only ill-advised but wicked. On Constitution Day, February 8,1962, I took the floor and delivered my first privilege speech, titled "A Plea for Sobriety." The point of the speech was that in a time of great poverty, we in Congress cannot possibly allow the great ship of national purpose to be swallowed up by waves of interminable wrangling and pointless controversy. The media took notice of the speech and quoted a number of passages.

Significantly, the poverty I had referred to in 1962 — when the Philippines was second only to Japan in Asia and was way ahead of all the other Asian nations — became massive during martial rule. Graft and corruption, which had been a regular, run-of-the mill issue against almost every administration since 1946, became the No. 1 issue against the Estrada Administration since it came into power on June 30,1998. By a sudden twist of events, President Diosdado Macapagal's daughter, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), became president on January 20, 2001, following what is known as People Power 2 (or EDSA 2), resulting in the non-violent ouster of Joseph Ejercito Estrada. He has been in detention since April 2001, facing plunder charges in the Sandiganbayan.

When, on February 8,1935, the Constitutional Convention approved what we now call the Constitution of the Philippines, the members of that Convention nominally completed a task which required of them not merely competence and insight but patriotism of the highest order. Behind them were the memories of valiant men and women who had laid down their lives for the sake of freedom; confronting them were brutal, shocking events in the world that seemed to snuff out the ideals of liberty and equality which they had just written into that document.

These men who drafted the Constitution came from conflicting political camps. Some of them had just emerged from battles in which no quarters were asked — and no quarters given. The memory of the bitter fight over the Hare-Hawes Cutting Act was still fresh. The wounds it had caused were still there— gaping open, unhealed.

From all over the land, they came to this great city to write that historic document. That document had to be written if our people were to be free, it was to be their testament of liberty. The gravity and immensity of the task before them seemed to have cancelled out their past antagonisms. That did not mean their views were one. The debates in the Convention attest to the sincerity and vigor of their diverse opinions — but it was diversity dictated by a compelling need to achieve one goal, one national purpose.

Indeed the document they approved recognized that the dignity of the human personality can be achieved only where men are free to think, to speak, to publish their thoughts without previous restraint and to worship the god or gods of their own choice. At a time when the right of free men to govern themselves was undergoing crucial test in the political crisis in Spain, in the beer halls of Germany and in the blood-soaked earth of China, these men who drafted that document put their faith in the ultimate validity of a regime of ordered liberty. They put their faith in the free trade of ideas, in the principle of free debate and in the enduring belief that the best test of truth is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. For in truth, the sound — sometimes the deafening noise — of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear "the music of our own opinions."

But those who made our Constitution knew that there is also a moment at which democracy, if it is to survive, must prove its capacity to act— and act boldly without loss of time, or face inevitable death. Every man has a right to be heard, but surely, no man — to paraphrase a wit — has the right to dismantle democracy out of all usefulness with a set of vocal chords.

The records of the Convention proceedings show how lively and spirited the debates were; they discussed, they argued and they disagreed — and may I say they disagreed heartily — because as Filipinos they cared and cared deeply. But they disagreed without calling each other names and without imputing to one another motives unseemly and offensive in the company of civilized men. If there is one lesson they left us, it is this — that whatever be our political persuasion, whatever be our affiliation, that which unites us as Filipinos, that which binds us as one nation under one flag, sharing the same hopes and the same fears is far greater and bigger and nobler than that which divides us as party men.

To be sure, the world that confronted them in 1935 was one mourning, ever-increasing violence. The world that confronts us now is entirely different. If one winged messenger of death could exterminate hundreds of human beings in 1935, a single nuclear weapon in 1962 can release more destructive energy tha all the explosives used in all wars throughout history. In the beginning of 1960, the scientists estimated that the world's nuclear stockpile contained the equivalent of 30 billion tons of TNT — about 10 tons of TNT for every human being on the globe.

And when we get closer to our immediate surroundings, we cannot but bear witness to what has been called the "revolution of rising expectations". In this august hall, we are for the moment secluded from the sight of human affliction and poverty. But outside, just a few meters away and beyond that, the areas of misery and want and suffering lie, seemingly endless, waiting for the touch of those whom the people have elevated to power. The many who have been forgotten all these past years are not willing to be forgotten anymore. Their faces tell us, in mute pleas that cannot be mistaken, that poverty and affliction are not sufferings to be endured any longer, but injustices to be remedied, wrongs to be righted.

It is against this background that the danger of excesses in democratic procedures should be viewed. In 1935 when that historic document was drafted, democracy was on trial; today, the right of free men to govern themselves has been prejudged and condemned in more than half of the world. And even within our borders, the institutions of freedom are held up in ridicule and plain mockery. Day by day, press and radio deride the proceedings of Congress, as if its sessions were a meaningless series of aberrations bereft of reason — full of sound and fury signifying nothing. The danger in all this is the spectacle that has become concrete and real in many places in the world — harassed and bewildered by the everyday problems of survival and finding in the long, seemingly endless verbal clashes no solution to their problems, masses of men take the easy way out by escaping from the responsibilities of freedom, deliberately surrendering their liberties and submitting to any form of authority, however uncontrolled and absolute, if only to have some semblance of order.

God forbid that this should happen to us!

The Constitution prescribes equality and coordination among the three departments of the Government. The legislative is, many would love to say, the policy-making body of the State. As such, it should command the respect of the two other departments — the judicial and the executive. Whether it does inspire respect is, of course, another question. For respect is neither commanded nor imposed — it must be earned. How well we shall earn the respect of the nation will depend in large measure on the quality of our proceedings here and on how we as members of Congress conduct ourselves. If we liberate ourselves from the slavery to which we are supposed to have been reduced by the press, if we succeed in resisting the lure of cheap, vulgar publicity, if we refuse to be held in bondage by narrow, partisan interests, then it may well be said that the golden age of lawmaking has once again descended upon us and that in a time of great challenge we have become the instrument of national renaissance.

It may be true, Mr. Speaker, that we are not making the Constitution here and that there is no basis for comparison between 1915 and 1962. But in a deeper sense, we are making the Constitution here every day. For the Constitution is nothing more than a set of words and phrases unless the entire nation, particularly those in power, lend sum and substance to the liberties as well as the restraints found in that great document. Whatever our political membership, we do not revere the Constitution by making sweeping accusations that defy the rules of logic and evidence; we do not revere the Constitution by slaughtering the reputation of our fellow men without giving them a chance to be heard in their defense; we do not revere the Constitution when, in the desire to catch the spot light of publicity, we seize upon the fears of the people, appease them, excite and exploit their inclinations and refuse to make the hard, unpopular decisions which serve their long-term interests; we do not revere the Constitution when we take refuge in the liberties it guarantees without discharging the responsibilities of freedom; we do not revere the Constitution when we deliberately becloud the issues to serve our narrow interests. It is high time we realized that the pursuit of truth is the only rational justification for free speech and free press and that our survival as a free society depends on the proper use and application of those wise restraints, born of self-discipline, that make men free.

Manuel Roxas, Jose P. Laurel, Claro M. Recto, Elpidio Quirino and many of their distinguished colleagues in that Convention are now gone. In their day, they stirred us beyond the measure of words, no less by their eloquence and merit than by the quality of their dedication, each one of them transcending the immediate demands of selfish partisanship, all of them united by the great task building a free nation of free men. In times of great peril such as these, these men — all great and good men — would have us know a hard lesson in leadership and self-discipline, namely, that we cannot possibly allow the great ship of national purpose to be swallowed up by the waves of interminable wrangling and pointless controversy. Let us therefore resolve, as one statesman might put it, to take a fresh look. There has been too much freezing of positions, too many dogmatic statements of irrevocable attitudes. We are dealing with mass poverty, with human suffering. We are dealing with human beings, all of them desirous of having a place in the sun. Our purpose must be to reason together for the common betterment of all. Our interest must not be in endless, pointless controversy, but in results. Let us not hold post mortems over that which is past and gone. Our duty is to do something now so that the people of this land may say "We were in chains and you freed us; we were sick and you made us whole; we were hungry and you fed us; we were thirsty and you gave us water to drink."

On this day, which is the birthday of that great man who presided over the deliberations of that Convention, may I take the liberty, by way of tribute to his keen mind, of quoting his deathless words:

"Let us then bear witness to the Constitution, so that in the language of the Gospels, all the people may learn to believe. If our nation is to survive and attain greatness in freedom, the Constitution must live in our actions, both as individuals and as a people, in the enlightened conviction and steadfast belief that only in the spirit of the Constitution, infused in us, shall democracy abide with us and our nation forever enjoy the blessings of independence under a regime of justice and liberty and fulfill its destiny within the Lord's kingdom.”

Salonga, Jovito Reyes
The Intangibles That Make A Nation Great - Regina Publishing, ©2003. 481pp.

The Educated Man

Address delivered at the 63rd Founders Day Convocation, August 28, 1964, Silliman University, Dumaguete City.


Authors note: I was invited by my UP classmate, Dr. Cicero Calderon, the president of Silliman University at the time, to speak at the Silliman campus in Dumaguete City during the 63rd celebration of Founder's Day, August 28,1964. He and his elder brother Jose (Pepe) had been close to our family since 1936 when we all began our pre-law course. In mid-1965, I campaigned for the Senate. This speech was reproduced during the campaign by many students of Silliman and other schools and colleges. Later, it was reprinted in various periodicals and collections of speeches, including my own collection, entitled "Land of the Morning."


Long before your distinguished President invited me to speak on this your day of days — in point of fact, as far back as the tender years of my childhood — Silliman had been vividly impressed upon my memory. Every once in a while, my mind would catch, however faintly, strains of music from long, long ago, when my elder brother, fresh from what seemed to me then a wonderful adventure in a world far from home, used to sing that sweet song with words I can still remember — "Silliman Beside the Sea."

I felt, even as a child, that there was some strange fascination in that song, for a restless, unyielding urge to go back to Silliman seemed to possess and haunt my brother all the time. He studied here in what he must have considered the best years of his life and he has not quite recovered from the incredible charm and magic of this lovely, blessed place.

Many years later — that is, after the second World War — your then President, Dr. Arthur Carson, learned that I was going to the United States to pursue graduate studies in law and he very kindly gave me letters of recommendation addressed to two outstanding universities in America. I would like to let you know, and I have been saying this many a time — that those letters were given the highest degree of consideration because the schools there considered as a university that possesses the highest traditions of scholarship and excellence.

When I learned some three years ago that my former classmate and good friend, Dr. Calderon, accepted the offer to become the President of this University, I was happy both for your President and this institution, convinced as I was, that an enduring partnership had been forged and that Silliman could look ahead, for even brighter days, in the unending quest for truth and goodness and beauty.

I am therefore grateful for the opportunity to be with you on your 63rd Anniversary. The journey started by Horace Silliman and Dr. and Mrs. David Sutherland Hibbard on August 28, 1901 has been in a sense, a long and tiresome journey. Were we to call the roll of the men and women — from the highest officials to the humblest teacher and worker — who have dedicated their energies, their talents, their hearts and even their very lives to see that the journey is not interrupted, so that the quest may not stop, so that the tradition of excellence may go on, against seemingly endless odds and obstacles without number, we would have a fair measure of the kind of quiet heroism that went into the making and building of Silliman.

But, in a deeper sense, the journey has not been long, it has not been tiresome. The journey has just begun and the thrill of wonder and adventure will never end. Sixty-three years is a long time, but you are still young. For in the language of a General who has faded away —

"Youth is not entirely a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips or supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the springs of life.

"Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long wires that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

"You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. In the central place of your heart, there is a recording chamber; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer and courage, so long are you young. When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snow of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then — and then only — are you grown old."


May I take the liberty of reminding you that the capacity of Silliman to get into the stream of things and contribute to the life and the spirit of the nation has not been fully tapped? True it is that from the ranks of Silliman graduates great leaders have emerged in the field of thought and action, in the arts and sciences, in government and in private enterprise, but we would all be committing a tragic mistake if we were to look back only to the glories of the past and forget the new challenges of our time, if we were to count in detail its achievements and overlook the massive tasks that would require of you more than just planning and effort, but the vision and the dedication of a lifetime.

For when we begin to look around us, we see that amidst the physical reconstruction of towns and cities, the rebuilding of homes and factories and shops, there has crept in a serious case of internal breakdown. Buildings and edifices have gone up, but the edifice that constitutes the real soul of the nation is beginning to shake and unless everyone of us does something about it, the national structure may collapse and go down.

There is a feeling of despair and hopelessness amongst those who are overwhelmed by the immensity of our problems — the fact of widespread, grinding poverty, the problem of massive unemployment in the context of a society that possesses a high rate of population growth, the fact of graft and the paralysis of initiative in public service, the chronic problem of moral breakdown and the wastage and neglect of human resources.

But those who continue to hope and refuse to give up the good fight look primarily to the institutions of learning to provide the guidance and direction in critical days such as these. For it is in the schools, the colleges and the universities of the land where the youth who will pilot the affairs of tomorrow are being taught and trained and equipped for what we trust will be a better kind of leadership.

It may well be that society is placing an impossibly difficult demand on the capabilities of institutions such as this. For it is evident that the schools and the universities cannot, by themselves alone, do the job. Nor can they mean much unless society itself comes to grips with the paradoxes that confront the youth.

For the youth is a witness of many glaring contradictions. He hears democracy extolled in every forum, but wonders whether democracy is worth fighting for if it merely means the freedom to out-shout and out-promise and out-smear the other fellow. He is told in school that honesty is the best policy, but he sees how artfully society lionizes and pampers the fellow who made a clean million with a couple of clever tricks. He is made to believe that it is a great thing to serve his country, but he begins to doubt that considering how shamelessly those in power have abused it and earned the well-deserved contempt of the people they profess to love so well.

He is told that honest toil is good and most rewarding, but he sees his elders engage themselves in the mad, breathless drive to make a pile through fast and dubious means. He is taught that in courts of justice, rich and poor are treated alike and that the poor man with the right cause will win out in the end — but he never quite recovers when a crime committed in his presence is lightly disposed of, because there are no witnesses and those in authority are only too willing to look the other way.

He is told in public schools that merit alone matters, but he finds a confirmation of his deepest suspicions right in school itself — the teacher with the best preparation and who knows how to teach and discipline is not promoted, because he has no backing and the student who cheats and bluffs his way through school is considered smart, because he does not get caught. And when in his everyday world, he sees that it is not what you are, not what you know, but whom you know and how much you are worth that matter in the end, he becomes a hopeless, helpless bundle of confusion and unbelief.

Shall we, the school officials and teachers and students, throw up our hands in resignation and defeat and pass back the whole burden to society?

You in Silliman cannot do that, even if you wanted to. For you are an institution of learning wedded to a mission you cannot abandon without denying your own existence. Yours is an institution that serves the highest end of a free society, namely, to help men develop their potentialities to the fullest extent possible so they may live meaningful lives in a social order that accords first priority to the intrinsic worth and dignity of the human personality. It is precisely because the problems of this our world and time are so critical and the tasks so demanding that it becomes your peculiar, unavoidable responsibility to get into the stream of things and relate your assets and resources to the needs of the nation. Yours is a work of great relevance.
And in that task, your main function as a University is to produce, as you have done so in the past, the educated man.

When I say "educated man," I do not refer to the individual who has read a thousand books and magazines, however important reading may be to the life of the mind. One of the most unfortunate things in this country is that so much is read by so many who do not know what to read. Because of cheap paper and printing, comics, pulp magazines and cheap literature have replaced the classics and the great masterpieces. As a consequence, an enormous mental garbage has been piled up beyond our collective capacity to liquidate. Writers of history a hundred years from now, in assessing the quality of education in the Philippines, may have ample reason to say that our schools have produced a vast population able to read, but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. It was Mark Twain, I believe, who said he never allowed his schooling to interfere with his education.

When I use the term "educated man," I do not mean the individual who has memorized a thousand facts and assembled in his mind a million data, on the basis of which he has earned a string of academic degrees. I do not mean to minimize the importance of memory, for it is stating the obvious when I say we should be able to observe, sort out and remember relevant facts so we may have a sound basis for each judgment. Of Themistocles, it has been said that he knew by heart the names of twenty thousand citizens of Athens; and Cyrus, it is recorded, knew every soldier in his huge army. Indeed, how refreshing it would be for our youth to learn by heart Jesus' inimitable Sermon on the Mount, the magnificent soliloquies of Shakespeare, the unforgettable dialogue of Plato and in our own land, the lofty language of Arellano and Laurel, the trenchant outbursts of Manuel Quezon and the elegant prose of Claro M. Recto. How inspiring it would be for our young men and women to remember the historic landmarks in our struggle for freedom — from the heroism of Lapu-Lapu to the lonely battle of Del Pilar at Tirad Pass, from the field of Bagumbayan where the young Rizal met his tragic death to the dark dungeons of Fort Santiago, where the youth of the land suffered a thousand times and met a thousand deaths! Nor do I minimize the significance of degrees and diplomas in a degree-conscious society such as we have, except to emphasize the danger of mistaking a degree for intellectual worth. A college graduate has once been described as one who at the end of his studies is presented with a sheepskin to cover his intellectual nakedness.

When I say "educated man," I do not refer to the skilled engineer, the able trial lawyer, the talented musician, the gifted writer, or the expert surgeon. Far be it from me to underrate the importance of skills and talents. Sometime ago, I made reference to the fact that while we have abundant natural resources in this country, we do not have sufficient skills to make this country great. Japan is relatively poor in natural resources, with land scarcely enough to sustain her tremendous population, but despite a war that laid waste her towns and cities, she has recovered and come back with greater vigor because she has a people of abundant skills.
But I would like to submit the proposition that one becomes a great scientist, an able lawyer, or a noted writer, only because he is first — and pre-eminently a good man. An abundant talent employed to serve an evil end is a prostitution of divine endowment.

What, then, is the educated man? Is he the man who has read a lot? Partly yes, because his reading is serious and discriminate and uplifting. Is he the man who remembers many facts and events? Partly yes, because the training of memory is a wholesome discipline that requires effort and application and because one cannot make a sound judgement without respect for remembered facts. Is the educated man, then, one who because of his skill is able to provide for himself and his family? Partly yes, since education should teach us how to make a living. But there is one thing we should always remember and it is this — that far more important than the making of a living, is a living of life — a good life, a meaningful life, an abundant life.

The educated man lives this kind of a life, because he has opened the windows of his mind to great thoughts and ennobling ideas; because he is not imprisoned by the printed page, but chooses to make a relentless, rigorous analysis and evaluation of everything he reads; because he is less interested in the accumulation of degrees than in the stimulation of his mind and the cultivation of a generous spirit; because his interest is less in knowing who is right but more importantly, in discerning what is right and defending it with all the resources at his command; because he can express himself clearly and logically, with precision and grace; because he is not awed by authority, but is humble enough to recognize that his best judgment is imperfect and may well be tainted by error or pride; because he has a deep reverence for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, as a creature of God; because he has a healthy sense of values, a breadth of outlook and the depth of compassion which a purposeful education generates; because whenever he talks about good government he is prepared and willing to sacrifice himself for it; and because he lives a life of relevance to the world in which we live, a sharing in the problems of his time and doing whatever he can with intelligence and fairness and understanding.

In short, it is the responsibility of Silliman, as in all other institutions of learning in this country, to produce the educated man and to produce him in such number and of such high quality of excellence that Silliman products will be a leavening influence in a time of great challenge and in a world of countless perils.

But Silliman is not just any other university— it is a Christian institution. The message of Jesus has a wealth of meaning it cannot afford to ignore — "Be ye the salt of the earth... Be ye the light of the world" And when Silliman produces, as it has in the past, these kind of men, we may better appreciate the truth and beauty of the words of Emerson: —


"Not gold, but only men, can make
A nation great and strong.
Men who, for truth and honor's sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men, who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others shy.
They build a nation's pillars deep,
And lift them to the sky."