Last year, I spent a bit of time browsing through official biographies of different candidates online and thought that they sounded too impersonal, too distant. Here’s an attempt at changing the tone of this introduction without sounding too self-serving. Make no mistake, I realize that this forms part of my job application for 2010. The least I can do is to tell you of who I am, how I’ve served this country, and what kind of decisions I’ll be making should I get elected in 2010.
On a personal level (and to break the ice a little bit), here are some tidbits of myself that you won’t find anywhere else. For one thing, I consider myself a bit of a gadget aficionado. I like tinkering with my laptop, my cellphones, among many other things. I now have over 30GB worth of songs in my iPod – most of them copied from my old CDs.
Back when I still had time to watch TV, my favorites were CSI (New York and Las Vegas), the West Wing, and the Sopranos. Hmm, what else? Food? My favorite is KFC. Oh and I eat leche flan with rice. Some people – particularly my wife and my son – find this odd. I think it’s delicious.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, I guess I’ll continue by introducing my family. My grandfather was the first President of the Republic after we regained our independence. My parents were two of the fiercest critics of the martial law regime in the seventies. Despite this political background, it was because of my brother that I entered public service.
Dinggoy Roxas died of cancer at a very early age. He was the real politician, the real successor of my family’s heritage of serving the people. I was his campaign manager when he ran as a congressman so many years ago. When he won, I went back to my work as an investment banker. Happy. Content. It was in 1993 when we found out that he was dying. This is still a very painful experience that I will not talk about too much. Needless to say, I went back to the Philippines to be with him for what was going to be the last three months of his life. One night on his deathbed he asked me: “why can I afford to buy medicines, while they [the people] can’t?” This was a simple question but it changed my life. I entered politics after his death.
As a congressman, my job was to make laws and ensure that the good ones got passed. Education was then, as it is now, a priority. And of all the laws that we passed, I’m particularly proud of having been part of the enactment of the Roxas Law. This ensures a fairer distribution of the education budget in all provinces – freeing the sector, at least, from patronage politics and providing a more efficient process of addressing classroom and teacher shortages.
As a former Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, laying the groundwork for the BPO industry and espousing ‘palengkenomics’ were among the things I focused on. The philosophy, if you can call it that, is simple: since the market is the heart of local life – it being able to supply food and provide jobs – it should be enhanced as an institution and should be made more efficient. There is still much to be done to achieve this.
As a senator, some of the laws I helped pass were the Magna Carta for MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises), the income tax exemption of minimum wage earners, and the establishment of a public fund from a portion of the EVAT to be used for education and healthcare. But of all these laws, what I am most proud of is the enactment of Cheaper Medicines Act. Making this law a reality was a personal mission. It was like hearing my brother’s voice all over again. And I’ll be damned if I let this administration ruin its implementation for the sake of appeasing the pharmaceutical companies.
As a candidate, well, I won’t give you a five or thirteen-point program in making this country great again. Instead, I will tell you of what we do need as a people… and this is simply what I like to call an activist government.
It’s no secret that this administration lacks many things… but the most important factors are accountability, transparency, meritocracy, professionalism and the independence of enforcement agencies.
Because of corruption and the lack of the qualities mentioned above, the people no longer trust this government, the people no longer trust its leaders. Restoring this trust should be the starting point of the government that will lead this nation after May 2010.
My promise, therefore, dear reader, is simple: I will not abuse the trust already given. And I will not betray this trust if ever its given again.
Thank you for reading.
In the 2004 senatorial elections, Mar received nearly 20 million votes. The highest mandate ever received by a national candidate in the country to date. To see a complete list of his achievements, including projects done and laws authored, as a Congressman, as a cabinet secretary, and as a Senator, please click here.