Opening Ceremonies of the IBP Convention, MCLE & Sportsfest
Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
February 18, 2010, 4:30 pm

SPEECH OF SENATE PRESIDENT JUAN PONCE ENRILE

Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen:

Allow me to thank you for your invitation to me to speak before you tonight. It is not only an honor; it is also a special privilege. It is a welcome duty for one like me, for I am before men and women from the northern regions of the country who are leaders in their own right.

I have always relished the opportunity to be in Cagayan. This is the place of my birth. It is a land very close to my heart and very dear to me. It was here where I was annealed, tempered, toughened, and prepared to what I am today. It was here -- with its gifts then of lush jungles, rugged terrains, and harsh climate -- that I learned to be self-reliant and became self-confident to stand alone in this world.

The holding of this gathering is opportune and timely. For, it is being held before the May elections of 2010, which is just a few months away. In this year’s election, we will be using for the first time a new system to elect the wielders of political power in the country. There is much hope that the recurrent dishonesty in our electoral process will finally disappear. But, there is also much fear that the new system will bring dire results for us. One cannot truly predict the future. Yet, we must have faith in ourselves and in the sincerity, devotion, and loyalty of our public officials.

I am very glad to address the men and women who are gathered here. You are lawyers and judges. You play a very important role in our society. You shape the quality and purity of human justice in our country. One of the essentials of a well-ordered society is justice. A nation bereft of acceptable quality of human justice cannot survive. As Socrates, the great character in Plato’s philosophical writings, said, “A state without justice is not worth living.”

But more than being lawyers and judges, you also play another very important role. You are among the most effective and influential members of the national jury that decides who should or should not hold and exercise power from the people through the ballot. You exercise that role directly in your own behalf and through less discerning others who rely on your discernment and advice.

You are a part of the elite of Philippine society. You have the acumen to assess the character and fitness of persons who aspire for elective positions. You can effectively influence the selection of the most worthy candidate for every elective position in the May elections of 2010.

My challenge to you, therefore, is to exercise your intellectual skills and teach the less capable electors to vote wisely so that we can elect holders of power that are capable and selfless servants of the people and not shrewd, calculating, and self-seeking masters that will oppress them.

Let us beware of men who flaunt their money and use their immense wealth to literally buy their elective positions. For as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Not gold but only men can make a people 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.”

I think it is right to say: Enough of goons, rabble-rousers, charlatans, clowns, and non-performing politicians. Let us not elect candidates who use guns to satisfy their obsession and lust for power. These men are dangerous to society. To elevate them to positions of power would be an act of betrayal to our heroic forebears who shed their blood and sacrificed their lives to make us freemen.

Neither should we get dazzled by glib talkers or those whose only merit are their handsome faces, or their ability to enthrall us with their songs, or their skills to make us laugh with their jokes or worn-out antics.

If the voters will err in the May elections in choosing unfit persons to hold and exercise power, they will regret once again, but their regret would amount to nothing. The result of their error will be a terrible injury to themselves and not to the people they erroneously elevated to exalted positions of power. It will be they and their families who will ultimately bear the brunt of their error, their carelessness, and their ineptitude. It will be they who will suffer the injury, shed the tears and feel the pain of disappointment. No one else!

The country today suffers from diseases, criminality, poverty, ignorance and illiteracy, rebellions and insurgencies, lack of jobs, low productivity, rising population, calamities and changing climate conditions, and global recession.

These problems will not go away. They will remain and worsen. Add to these the disunity and fragmentation of the country after the May elections and the scarcity of financial resources at that point at the disposal of the elected leaders to address the problems. This would be a terrible time for us to hurdle.

This awesome picture would need experienced leaders with adequate intellect, wisdom, selflessness, stout hearts, and firm hands to control and direct the nation. They will have to reunify a fractured society. They will have to harness the collective energies of the people to move the country forward. The work cannot be done by one man or one group alone. The work will entail a coordinated and collective cooperation of all elected leaders of the country. Partisanship would be fatal. Should that happen, the country would cascade down into the brink of a deep abyss of social and economic trouble.

I have been in public life for more than 44 years now. There is hardly any problem in this country today that I had not encountered or seen before. That is why in the Senate I do not study anymore. That is also why I feel confident in asking the support of the voters of the country for another and my last 6-year term in the Senate. My mind is still alert, and my body can still stand the rigors of hard work. As I said in my campaign materials, “Walang Pagod, Walang Kupas.”

When I was in my high school years, I read the poem that Dr. Jose Rizal wrote on the eve of his martyrdom in Luneta. One stanza in that poem struck me hard and remained vividly in my memory up to now. There, Dr. Jose Rizal said, “My dream when life first open to me, my dream when the hopes of youth beat high, was to see thy face O gem of the Orient seas, from gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free.”

Like Dr. Jose Rizal, I, too, in my own humble way, wanted to efface the care and sorrow, the gloom and grief, from the face of our motherland. And I tried and did my best as I am still trying and doing my best.

In my youth, I fought the Japanese invaders. I was imprisoned in a dark dungeon of the Japanese Kempetai, underwent unimaginable ordeal under them, and endured inhuman cruelties in their hands. This happened in Aparri from October 10, 1944 during World War II. I escaped from their clutches on January 8, 1945 after suffering for 89 days of dread and torture, and rejoined the struggle against the invaders to free the country from the invaders.

In 1978, I began to get involved in the politics of Cagayan. I dismantled the political warlords and their private armies here. I restored the right of the people to vote freely for their chosen candidates. Now I was told that a partisan group in this province plans to bring back force and violence as a tool of their political action. I hope and pray that this nefarious plan will not happen. I recall the adage, “He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.”

Two attempts on my life happened in this province in those days. This was before martial law was declared. My hunters and their bosses trembled with fear when martial law was declared. They thought I would take their lives. I did not. I killed them with kindness. Eventually, God took care of them.

I fought Muslim rebels in Mindanao and Communist rebels in Luzon and the Visayas. These groups remained my friends. When I ran for Congress in the 1st District of Cagayan in 1992, the NPAs protected me. I was then being hounded and shadowed with armored vehicles by the ruling power at that time.

Against all odds, once upon a time, I gambled my life and the future of my family for what I truly and honestly believed to be a just cause. I led a military revolt in 1986 with the help of our countrymen. Freedom and democracy was restored in our land. And I came out of it alive.

I was charged twice with capital offenses. Both times I was arrested and held without bail. The first case was during President Corazon C. Aquino’s time. I was charged with rebellion complex with murder. The second case was on May 1, 2001. I was charged with rebellion in connection with Edsa III. In both times, I did not wince nor cry aloud as William Ernest Henley puts it in his “Invictus”; nor did I run away or hide. In both cases, I proved my innocence before the courts, and I won my freedom.

As a politician, I shunned the use of guns and goons and money to win an election. I used money to pay for reasonable allowable political expenses, but never to buy votes. Here in Cagayan, people, by and large, vote freely. They are not hampered by fear of violence. The only exception is a town in the 3rd District where the people from the time of the Ramos administration could not vote freely. Persons who use coercion to win elections do not last long in the political arena. They do not deserve the word “honorable” before their names. Persons like that are “scums of the earth”. They do not deserve the loyalty and devotion of decent citizens.

One cannot escape critics in politics. In my case, I have had my share of them. Some criticized me and used me as scaffolding in their ascent to some political positions. Others criticized me out of envy or for mere spite.

I always remember President Abraham Lincoln whenever I am confronted with undeserved political attacks. Lincoln said, “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

Lately, some minions in Cagayan accused me of being a do-nothing leader. I guess I have to educate the ignorant and the blind pretenders for political recognition. I do not know where they had been all these years to be so ignorant about their own province.

I will talk about the 3rd District of Cagayan, for this is the home ground of their supposed mouthpiece. To begin with, who concreted, lengthened, and lighted the gravel runway of the Tuguegarao Airport ? Enrile!

Who made Tuguegarao the Government Center for Region II? Enrile!

Who authored and sponsored the creation of the Cagayan State University which continued to benefit Cagayanos? Enrile!

Who concreted the road from the national highway to Peñablanca? Enrile!

Who provided the P20,000,000.00 to refurbish the Regional Hospital in Tuguegarao? Enrile!

Who worked with Mayor Randy Ting to make Tuguegarao a city? Enrile!

Who provided the P40,000,000.00 to cement the roads in the Government Center for Region II? Enrile!

Who brought electricity to all the towns in the 3rd District of Cagayan? Enrile!

Now for the entire province: Who conceived and set up the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority that now employ thousands of Cagayanos and that also now causes laggard politicians of Cagayan to salivate with envy for what they think as a gold mine for dirty money to line up their pockets? Enrile!

Who is the politician who laced the province with roads and irrigation canals to help the people, especially the farmers and their families? Enrile!

Who pushed and initially funded the Dumon-Capisayan, Gattaran to San Jose , Baggao Road ? Enrile!

Who caused the concreting of the Magapit, Lallo–Santa Teresita Road ? Enrile!

Who conceived and is now pushing for an international airport in Lallo that will bring in tremendous progress in Cagayan when completed? Enrile!

Now the question is: What about the braggart and petty politicians who accused Enrile of laggardness? What have they done for the people of their districts, their towns, and this province? Can they point to a latrine, perhaps, as a symbol of their achievement to entitle them to aspire for higher office in this province? May I hear some words from them on this! Words are cheap and easy to come by, but concrete achievements are difficult to conceive and establish especially when one has no vision or imagination, let alone a useful brain inside his hallow head. Tongue is not enough except perhaps to lie to the people or please someone. Enough! Shut up if you have nothing better to say! You sound like a hallow gong! Worse, you might turn into a mad dog, or a werewolf!!!

Anyway, thank you once again for your invitation and your patience and forbearance to hear me. I assure each one of you – “Gusto Ko Happy Ka.”