Press Release
July 25, 2016

'When to Stand Our Ground And When to Seek Common Ground"
Acceptance Speech of Minority Leader Ralph G. Recto

Thank you, Chiz, for your kind eulogy.

To borrow your own words, fate may not have smiled kindly in your bid to be the Number 2 official in the land, but you can always be my number 2.

One of the benefits of this position is the privilege, which I have come to realize just now, that I will be working with two ex-future Number 2s.

By my count, almost all of us here, save for a handful, had once belonged to the minority, whether here or in the House.

Even among the distinguished Batch of 2016, many had done tours as soldiers of the opposition, like Joel and Risa, who performed it with distinction.

A senator who had come before us once said that there is no greater learning experience in lawmaking than to be in the minority where one is always outnumbered in voting but is never outfought in debates .

So to the question as to how I would dispense my duties as a minority leader, you have provided the answer by the way you have performed them in the past : resolute but responsible, critical yet constructive, proposing solutions rather than merely identifying problems.

By your past actions, you had written the handbook on responsible fiscalizing. I know that on this honored Senate tradition, I will not be alone.

The beauty of having 24 independent republics in the Senate is that the majority-minority divide dissolves on bills it tackles as a "sovereign" would vote based on merits of the proposal and never on political affiliation.

Senators of the republic don't deposit their principles at the door and allow the void to be filled by the party in power.

Often, the most incessant opposition to a bill actually comes from within the majority. And it had also happened in the past that the most ardent support for a Palace-backed measure comes not from its allies but from across the aisle.

What does this mean? It simply means that in Senate dynamics, minority should never be automatically equated as opposition, for it is a false characterization of its role.

I would rather see its role as guardians of the public interest which solely guides its actions here. If the agenda of the majority serves the public interest, then its correct stance is to cooperate. Oppose-for-opposing sake is a bankrupt ploy which has never prospered in this marketplace of ideas.

If the agenda of the majority, however, harms the people and hurts the nation, then it is duty-bound to oppose it.

And when that happens, we in the minority will try to convince you, not by the shrillness of our voice, but by the soundness of our arguments, because reasoning should rely more on facts than on flair.

This is one Senate minority, I assure you, that will know when to stand its ground, and when to seek common ground.

My dear colleagues : I know that there are more that bind us than separate us.

Of the former, the minority is willing to do its share in putting in its inputs so bills would evolve into superior pieces of legislation.

We will also put forward our ideas, and we would solicit yours, because though we humbly know that our proposals are great, we don't have a monopoly of good intentions.

I envision our role as quality control inspectors, on the lookout for weaknesses, subjecting every bill to a stress-test, so it is assured of trouble-free implementation.

We will also do our role to identify moral hazards, and demarcate them as no-go zones for all of us.

There is one area, however, where we should work together - and that is to defend the institution from any and all attempts to emasculate it.

The weakening of this 100 year old body should not happen on our watch, or else those who came before us will haunt us for being feeble trustees of this proud heritage.

That is why we have to boost our immune system and the best way to strengthen our defenses is to work hard to churn out good laws.

If regular exercise leads to a healthy body, regularly exercising our functions is the key to a strong Senate.

This afternoon we will hopefully hear President Duterte enumerate his wish list to Congress. Without sacrificing scrutiny for speed, let us act on measures which we agree can be approved without delay.

As we do that, perhaps it is worth jogging our memories on what the Senate's attitude had been toward measures which have come its way. We don't countenance abuse, we counter it.

We don't diminish our sovereignty, we defend it.

We don't top tax proposals, we temper them.

We prefer bad peace over a just war.

We believe that those who have less in life must have more in government help.

We don't choke free trade, we champion it.

We affirm that progress should not always be at the expense of rights.

We believe that in creating wealth, merit is better than mandates.

We believe that investing in our people yields the highest returns.

We believe that in building a kinder and gentler society, we must appeal "to our people's basic decency and not to their basest fears."

Again, maraming salamat. And congratulations, Senator Koko Pimentel.

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