Posted on 2007

Acceptance Speech Opening Session of the Senate
14th Congress of the Philippines

Distinguished Senators, Members of the Diplomatic Corp,
Beloved Family and Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I wish to thank my esteemed colleagues for their renewal of confidence in my humble leadership.

I also wish to convey my deepest appreciation for giving me their valued trust.

In all humility, I accept the great responsibility this hallowed chamber has once again bestowed upon me.  With the grace of God and with your continued support, I will carry on the leadership of the Senate with a firm resolve to remain faithful to the noble mission our nation has given us. 

Over the years, the Senate has been the subject of much criticism and doubt, leading many to conclude that it is best to abolish it. However, the recently concluded senatorial elections only emphasized the Senate’s crucial role in the balance of power among its co-equal branches of government. The overwhelming consensus was that the Philippine Senate must maintain its institutional independence, beholden to no political power but to the sovereignty of the Filipino people.   No less than the will of the people validated this.

A legislative body, like the Senate, is an effective instrument of check and balance in a republican and democratic government. But the grandeur of this purpose is lost to some who think that the Senate’s role is one of unfailing negative criticism bordering on sheer obstructionism. On the contrary, the Senate exists to repair deficiencies and remove the very obstacles to national economic growth such as inefficiency, instability and corruption. The dynamics of democracy dictate that we cannot be a passive Senate; it calls for reforms, accountability and transparency. 

 Embedded in this pro-active principle is a matter of greater value – the urgent need to rise above political differences and destroy the walls of divisiveness that get in the way of progress. We must seek to collaborate and find workable solutions under the guidance of a shared national vision. 

We must revisit the agenda of national development, identify the missing links and redirect our combined legislative wisdom to achieve a sustainable and equitable economic growth for all.

Indeed, much remains to be done as we begin our work in the first regular session of the 14th Congress.  The fragile peace situation in Mindanao, the pervading social injustice and human rights violations, threats to civil and political liberties, corruption in government, a wasteful bureaucracy and widespread poverty, among others, are continuing and valid concerns that the Senate ought to address through legislation.

And yes, we will continue to carry out our investigative duties as part of our power of oversight. Shenanigans in government should never be condoned.

Since no piece of legislation is crafted in isolation and detached from the realities around us, it is essential that we gain an expanded understanding and appreciation of our environment, both on a global scale and in regional context.  It is incumbent upon us to thoroughly examine the implications and ramifications of every major challenge facing us as a nation. 

Specifically, how adequate are our responses to the difficulties and opportunities posed by the rapid pace of economic development?  How globally competitive have we become? 

What new markets have our exporters penetrated?  By world standards, how do Philippine products and services rate in terms of quality, reliability, availability and cost advantage?

Compared to our ASEAN neighbors, are we an attractive destination for investors?  How investor-friendly are we in terms of current infrastructure, tax structure, peace and order situation, and the speed and convenience of doing business?  We must address these pressing issues if we are to market the Philippines as a haven for foreign investors. 

Where are we in the area of agricultural modernization? How many new farm-to-market roads have been built? What post-harvest facilities have been set up, and where? Are there adequate and easily accessible rural credit facilities?  What other concrete measures are in place to enhance farmers’ productivity?  What best practices can we learn from other countries with sizeable agricultural sectors?

In the social front, we need to know the real picture of the so-called war against poverty.  Just how poor are we, and what have been done to improve our standard of living?  What is the actual state of our public education system? What about health care delivery, nutrition for children and social housing?  To say that some efforts have been made to address these concerns is not good enough. Much needs to be done. And soon.     

It is to the credit of NGOs, environmental advocates in civil society and government that the protection of the environment has become a major national concern.  The painful truth needs repeating - the denudation of our mountains, our dwindling forest cover, the pollution of our rivers, lakes and municipal waters and our dwindling marine resources are a loud wake-up call.  Laws may have been passed to address the problem of environmental degradation, but we must realize that our legislative duty does not stop there. 

By reason of its structure, nature and orientation, the Senate is precisely at the right vantage point to exercise its oversight function on how the legislative intent in the implementation of laws is carried out.  Have the objectives been met for each of the landmark legislations passed by Congress?  If not, why?  Getting feedback is an effective tool to aid us in coming up with remedial measures.

Looming large on the horizon of national priorities is the urgency of generating additional income for more Filipinos.  The answer lies not so much in creating more jobs but in enabling those who are resourceful, hardworking and success-driven to become job providers themselves through their own enterprises, however small.  We must create a climate that encourages and rewards those with the vision, courage and skills to create wealth.  More importantly, we must promote a culture of self-sufficiency to stimulate economic development.

An entrepreneurial revolution is a great idea whose time has finally come.  It requires a refocusing of our educational perspective.  It also means expanding the landscape of Philippine agriculture to give space to agri-entrepreneurs.  It is my hope that we can bring about this positive undertaking.   

I am pleased to see that this chamber is composed of distinguished members who are, without a doubt, individually and collectively committed to direct their talents and energies in legislative work. Let us show the Filipino electorate that they did not commit the fatal mistake of choosing the wrong people as their voice in the Senate.   Let us prove our worth, our relevance – and give back what is expected of us as public servants in the truest sense of the word.

The Senate is only as strong as the nobility of its purpose, and as relevant as its commitment to help carve a better future for all Filipinos.  As your Senate President, I urge you to put these words into action by crafting and passing   laws that mirror our collective goal to improve the lives of our fellow Filipinos. 

Let us all work together and forge a stronger alliance to move the Philippine Senate towards change and enhanced productivity, and lead our country towards stability and progress. 

Mabuhay ang Senado! Maraming salamat po.

News   |    The Man   |    Speeches   |    Legislative Record   |    Gallery   |    Contact Us
Manny Blog   |    Features   |    Invite Friends   |    Villar Facebook   |    Villar Friendster   |    Villar Multiply   |    Boy Tondo Facebook   |    Boy Tondo Friendster   |    Join Team Villar   |    Akala Mo