Last August 18, we had the pleasure of meeting the kids from Multiple Intelligence International School, who paid a visit to the Senate.
I had the pleasure of sharing with them my job as a Senator, what inspired me to be who I am now, all about student leadership, and my vision for the country.
Kiko Pangilinan: You, our children, deserve the best from us, parents. And someday when you're older, hopefully we would have succeeded and that the country would be a better place for all of us. And a better place means... one, that there are jobs available so that people can work; two, that the quality of education is good so that we can prepare you our children and equip you to be capable; three, that the environment is protected and that we are able to address issues such as climate change; four, that there is a government that is really serving the people; five, that we have respect for our laws, and there's minimal crime and violence and that there is peace in our land and that the problems of social unrest like bombings, the war in Mindanao, are finally resolved.
Did any of you wonder why is it there, (US, Hongkong, etc) it seems like life is better, people are wealthier, the system seems to be working, and then when we come back to the Philippines some of us say that how come in the Philippines it's not like that?
I have answer, the reason why they are advanced and we are behind, part of the reason is that their leaders have served the people properly, and part of that is they are not corrupt, or if there is corruption, it is minimal. The reason being that when they see problems in their country, their leaders do everything they can to solve it. In our country, while we do have leaders who are like that, I think we need more leaders to become like that. There are still more leaders, who instead of thinking of the country, think of their own benefits.
The challenge really, and that's why you have to know about government, is how can we make government more responsive, how do we make our leaders help our leaders, who are sincere and who are honest, to succeed. What can we do as young students/citizens of this country, we can do a lot.
I must also tell you that I started my own involvement in leadership when I was in the elementary grade, then I went on to becoming also a leader in High School, I was part of our student council. I was part of our school paper. I used to write for my school paper in elementary and then I went on to do that in High School. I was one of the editors of our school paper and I was also in the Student Council in High School, I was also a student officer in elementary. In High School I was again active in student leadership organizations until College. So I will have to say that I am a Senator today to a large extent because of what I did beginning my grade school days, so maybe you should also start asking yourself, "what will I be in the future," it depends to a large extent to the question what you are doing today.
Q& A with the kids
John: Who or what inspired you to be you now?
A: A lot of events. But one thing that really changed the direction of my life was when Ninoy Aquino was killed...I was only 19 then, when he was shot, we were all sad, we were all shocked. And I said there was something wrong with the country, there was something wrong when somebody can so easily be murdered. And that was the beginning of my interest of what was happening in the country...After Senator Aquino was shot and murdered, that really somehow changed how I decided where my life would go, I said something is wrong, I want to know what is wrong, I want to know what I can do about it, I want to know what my role would be.
Mia: Is it hard to be a Senator
A: Yes it is. But it is also hard to be an electrician, to be a teacher, a pilot, a fireman. Any occupation you choose, there will be difficulties. It may be more complicated a bit with respect to being a Senator because everything that we do is reported in the papers. So it is difficult but it is also fulfilling, in a sense that when you see your laws being enacted and people benefiting from the law that you put together, then you realized that you are making a difference in the lives of others, so that is the reward of the difficulties of being a Senator.
Mai Mai: What is the most significant law you've passed?
A: There are quite a number I'd like to think, I've been here for almost 10 years. One is the law that provided additional compensation for our judges. We were able to double the pay of our judges and justices. Because before that law was passed, we had a lot of lawyers who didn't want to become judges, a lot of vacancies in our courts, because the pay was poor and when there are not enough judges, the justice system is affected, cases are delayed, not resolved immediately and that affects the lives of people, because justice delayed they say, is justice denied.
Another law which I feel needs to be implemented more effectively but I feel is also very important is the Juvenile Justice Welfare Law. Decriminalized or provide an alternative justice System for minors. Before when you were below 18, you're immediately treated like an adult offender, We have changed that, we have given 2nd chances for young people, who, otherwise would be nabubulok na sa New Bilibid Prison, but now have been able to turn a new leaf and have a second leaf on their lives.
The UP Charter, that's another law that I defended and post. The University of the Philippines turned 100 last 2008. It's a century old, but its charter, it's the last that created it, had not been amended since 1908. When we passed that law, we helped University of the Philippines become more cutting edge, meaning, provide quality education for college students, and hopefully that law will benefit our young people who want to have the best education here in our country.
So these are some of the laws, there are several others. But is focused on justice and human rights, improving our system of justice, improving the welfare of our youth and of course quality education.
Blanca: During your previous campaigns,was there anything or anyone that discouraged you?
A: A lot, I ran an independent campaign in 2007. Independent meaning, I didn't join the administration of President Arroyo and I didn't join the opposition which which was then led by former President Estrada. I felt then that we needed to provide an alternative in terms of leading the country in providing direction. So a lot discouraged me, they said "don't run independent, you are going to lose," but I told myself that If I were honest and true to myself, I would run as an independent candidate, and I did, and I won. So yes, there were people who discouraged me but in the end I decided what I believed in was right and the people responded by supporting me even if I was an independent candidate.
Kiwi: Was there any law that you think would be great for the Philippines but was not passed?
A: The Freedom of Information Bill. This would have allowed citizens to ask government to provide the citizens with documents pertaining to government transactions so that there's more transparency. We passed that in the Senate, It was already ratified in the Senate, on third reading and we ratified it, but the House of Representatives did not pass it. So that's one law I felt would improve our fight against corruption because people now would know, would have information regarding the different transactions in government. For example, buying of properties, buying of equipment, entering into contracts.
Marcus: Do you have any specific goal or vision for our country that you would like to make reality?
A: I wrote an article entitled 4 Proposed Solutions to Help Fix the Philippines and I also have another article, 10 Reasons Why There is Genuine Hope for the Philippines, you may want to check that out, it's at www.kiko.ph. And in these two articles, I somehow laid down my vision for the country and the vision for the future. The Filipino is very creative, we are very creative, we are very talented, we are extremely talented as a people, I just feel that we don't have enough inspiration from our leaders so that we can become the best that we can be. We have several gifts in terms of natural resources. Do you know that we have the most diverse aqua marine ecosystem in the entire planet? In other words, we have so many natural gifts. The Philippines is located in the center of East Asia... Why is that important? We can actually be in the center of the entire East Asian region and that's also a natural gift, every major city in Asia is only 4 hours away by air. We can actually be the center of everything in East Asia, Center of Culture, Center of Trade, Center of Shipping.
Our tourists spots are very beautiful, who have been to our beaches? I've been to many places in Thailand, our beaches are far far better than theirs. Our natural wonders are more beautiful than theirs. We can actually tap into this and become the tourist destination of Asia. Do you know how many tourists go to the Philippines every year? 3 Million. In France, 70 million every year, Spain has 60 million every year. For every tourist who arrives in the Philippines and spends money here, it is equivalent to one job. So if we have 3 million tourists and we are able to reach 10 million tourists, we create 7 million jobs, we have 3 million existing jobs because they come here, and then you add another 7. And what does that mean, when you have 7 million more jobs, then our people will not have to go elsewhere to find work, they don't have to become domestic helpers in Hong Kong or Singapore because the work will be available here, the jobs will be available here, they don't have to be separated from their family. And many of our parents who are thinking of migrating might think twice because the jobs are now available here...
We have a beautiful country, we have a lot of resources, our people are very talented, but we need inspiration, and I believe that our public leaders should all help in inspiring our people so that we can work together and bring our country to progress and development and peace. So that is my vision of our country, that leaders inspiring our citizens, including young kids doing all that we can, doing our share so that we can bring our country towards a new direction, a new, peaceful, progressive direction. And I know in my heart that if we work hard at it, the next 20 years, we can achieve it.