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.


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