Accounting as the Language of Business
Many know me as a public servant and an entrepreneur. I spent 21 years of my life in government serving both as Senate President and Speaker of Representatives, accomplishments which I am extremely proud of. And I have been an entrepreneur all my life — starting with the time I helped my mother sell shrimps and fish in the market up to today as I continue to guide our family business into the future.
But many probably do not know that I am also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). I received my degree of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Accountancy from the University of the Philippines in 1970 and my Masters in Business Administration in 1973. In fact, my professional career started as an accountant for SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co. (SGV & Co). Of course, I would later leave SGV to pursue business and later public service.
It was therefore a tremendous honor to be included as one of the “Centenary Awardees for Excellence” by the Professional Regulatory Board of Accountancy, as part of the celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the accountancy profession in the Philippines. In 1990, I was also cited as the Most Outstanding CPA by the prestigious Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
To this day, this is one of the accolades I cherish.
But this recent recognition is especially notable because of the illustrious list of the who’s who in the field of Philippine accountancy. This list of 100 notable Certified Public Accountants, vetted and approved by the board, is indeed the “epitome of excellence, unquestionable integrity, and, immeasurable contribution” not only to the field but to the Filipino nation as well. I am extremely humbled to be in the company of the giants of the field including one of my earliest mentors Mr. Washington SyCip, Alfredo Velayo, Benjamin Punongbayan, Jaime Laya, Roberto Ongpin, and many others who upheld the values of the profession in their respective arena.
What lent added luster to the award is the fact that the accounting profession in the Philippines is celebrating its 100 years anniversary. On March 17, 1923, the Philippine government, through the passage of the Accountancy Act of 1923, made the first steps towards the professionalization of Philippine accountancy by establishing a register of certified public accountants (CPAs) and regulating the practice of public accounting.
I should note here that this historical development of the accounting profession was also tied to the history of Philippine independence. It will be remembered that two years prior to the professionalization of Philippine accounting, the United Stated government sent a Special Mission to Investigate the Philippine Islands specifically for the purpose of determining whether or not the Filipinos are prepared for independence.
The mission, led by Gen. Leonard Wood and W. Cameron Forbes, concluded that Filipinos were not yet ready for independence. Part of the report were findings that “Filipinos had failed to demonstrate a capacity to manage government finances.” The establishment of the Filipino accounting profession in 1923 must therefore be seen as an attempt by the Philippine legislature to prove that the Wood-Forbes conclusion was wrong.
Since then the accounting profession has been an active and reliable partner in nation-building. Many of us, myself included, have done our tour of duty in the realm of public service and we have utilized the tools of our trade to contribute to national development through economic planning, capital formation, transparency and accountability, taxation, and, social justice.
Even CPAs who spent their professional lives in the private sector have done an admirable job serving the country. By providing excellence in the work that they do, CPAs strengthen corporate reporting and the disclosure of information which in turn play an important part in instilling confidence in investors and in stimulating the development of capital markets.
In accepting the accolade on behalf of the awardees, I expressed my hope that in our own little way, we have set good examples to future accountants especially in terms of fostering professional responsibility, integrity, independence, and more importantly serving the public interest.
If it is true that accounting is the language of business then these awardees and all the other Filipino CPAs out there possess the eloquence in numeracy, the fluency in finance and most importantly, the gift of patriotism and the passion to do only our best for the profession, for others, and for country.