Free Mason Convention

19 February 2016

Thank you very much for your very kind introduction. I would like to greet the present Worshipful Master, Bro. Ronilo Lucas Landicho, the District Deputy Grandmaster, Very Worshipful Manuel O. Ampeloquio. I also saw entering just now former Governor Vicente Mayo. And I would like to greet also Vice Mayor Emilio Berberabe, Jr. And all of the Masons here who have attended today.

I thank you very much for this kind invitation and you have given me a break from the hectic campaign schedule to have a nice dinner with you in celebrating your 100th year of the Batangas Lodge No. 35. Thank you very much again for your kind thoughts in remembering your candidate for being with you tonight.

As I’m sure you have heard, I am running as Vice President for the 2016 elections. All my prayers and all my discernment led me to this major decision. This is the call of my conscience and I believe the call of the people which I must heed. I’ve always believed that the road to the presidency is a question of destiny and that is why when asked “Why did you run for Vice President when we were all expecting you to run for the presidency?” I answer “For now, I believe destiny has other plans for me and for the Filipino people.”

Dito sa Pilipinas, ang tingin sa Bise Presidente ay kung minsan sinasabi para lang reserbang gulong na ginagamit lamang kung ma-flat ang isang gulong ng sasakyan. So naghihintay lamang na mag-disappear o di kaya’y gumawa ng kalokohan ang pangulo nang sa ganun siya’y umangat at pumalit sa Pangulo ng bansa. Kaya sinasabi po ni Manong Ernie Maceda, sabi niya “Iyang mga vice na iyan? Walang ginawa iyan kundi mag-antay ng heart attack.” ‘Di naman siguro totoo. Sa Amerika, ang Bise Presidente ay tumatayo bilang ex officio Senate President. Dito sa Pilipinas, iba. Walang ex officio function ang Vice President. The active and extra role that is to be played by the Vice President depends on the pleasure, discretion and power of the President who, by constitutional mandate, may appoint the Vice President to a cabinet position. And therein lies the greatest and best potential of the Filipino Vice President to make the most of such tenure as a national official and public servant of the Filipino people.

The measure of a Vice President’s public service will be defined by the extent he that will be tracted and by the acting governing roles he will take on. I believe that the key here is a Vice President’s openness and willingness to work for and work with the President and his or her vision and program of government. Most importantly, a willingness to dignify and to unite and transcend dirty partisanship and politicking and the personal character with which to possibly accomplish the same. Madalas ngang matanong sa akin ng ating mga kaibigan sa media, at tinatanong nila “Papaano ang mangyayari sa iyo kapag ang naging pangulo ay, kung ikaw ay mahalal na Bise Presidente, hindi mo kapartido? Hindi ka kaya mahihirapan?” Sabi ko, “Bakit naman? Tingnan natin ang mga kandidato ng pang pangulo: Unang una, si Senator Miriam ka-tandem ko. Si Mayor Digong Duterte matalik kong kaibigan matagal na. Si Mar Roxas ganoon din; matalik kong kaibigan at pinsan ng aking asawa. Tapos si Vice President Jojo Binay galing sa norte kaya natural allies kami. O si Senator Grace kapatid ko.” *laughter ensues*

I’m the best positioned vice president that there is. *applause* I cannot think of any better place to be. That is the position I’m running for. Magagalit na naman sa akin si Senator Grace at binibiro ko yung kanyang pagkakapatid. Well anyway, joking aside, it really is a very important part I believe of a vice president’s role. And that is why when I’m asked sometimes “What will be the first thing that you will do should you be elected Vice President?” And my answer is very simple: The first thing I will do is I will go to my president and I will report for duty and say “Mr. President, your Vice President is here, ready and willing to work together with you on the programs that you feel.” And it’s that partnership which I believe we must promote, not only between a president and a vice president, but between all parts of government and, for that matter, all parts of our society. It is unity that we search for. It is unity that the times call for. And it is unity that I believe we must begin to bring together for our country to move forward.

Throughout our history, we have witnessed vice presidents having been integrated and inducted into the president’s official family. We have seen the likes of Doy Laurel who was the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Vice President Erap was the head of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission. Vice President GMA was Social Welfare Secretary. And later, Kabayan Noli and Vice President Binay as consecutive HUDC or Housing Chairman.

Our past vice presidents have shown and proven that the Vice Presidency, as intended and envisioned by the Constitution, could truly be a noble, meaningful and worthwhile function and leadership position that could directly and significantly serve the Filipino people in such a concrete and tangible manner.

If and when I should become Vice President, my platform of public service will be defined, not by a hopeful patience na sana may mangyari para makapasok ako or wishful thinking, but rather, of unity, of trust, of cooperation. I will be a team player and a trustworthy one that the government can be assured of my cooperation, of my support of the programs of the upcoming government and to help in uniting our nation and rallying them behind the President. Promoting and spreading the message – the message of hope to the entire Filipino people and the glad tidings of good will and comity to the international community. Lalo na ngayon na marami at malala ang mga problema ng bansa. The President definitely needs all the help he or she can get from able, willing, trustworthy, and competent individuals around him or her.

On the other hand, I will not be the President’s cheerleader or their apologist. Neither will I be a rubberstamp. I shall act as a sort of “fiscalizer” and speak my mind about important public issues, as well as about the shortcomings and weak points of the government. Not so much for the sake of criticism or of fault-finding, but with a view to improving public service and in the name of the public welfare and of the common good.

We have a different system in the Philippines. Nakakaiba tayo rito na ang paghalal ng isang pangulo ay hindi na siya sumasabay ang paghalal ng pangalawang pangulo. At ang Pangalawang Pangulo ay hinahalal na nag-iisa kaya may mandato ang Pangalawang Pangulo ng sarili niya. Kaya hindi naman tama, kung ikaw ay mahalal bilang Pangalawang Pangulo, na hindi mo seryosohin ang pag-asa ng inyong binigay kaya kayo binoto ng ating mga kababayan. Hindi tayo binoto para mag-antay lang ng heart attack. Hindi tayo iboboto para lang sumang-ayon sa lahat ng sasabihin ng ating Pangulo. Ibinoto tayo upang mag-serbisyo sa taumbayan upang ipagpatuloy ang ating pagkalingkod bayan ng sa ganun ay kahit papaano makatulong na magdala ng pagbabago, pagdala ng progreso, magdala ng kaunting ginhawa sa mga nahihirapan sa ating lipunan.

In simple terms, my vision of our country is one we can overcome its economic and social challenges by drawing on our own strengths, draw upon our unity. It is a vision of a Philippines that is prosperous, rich in opportunity and home to happy, morally upright and productive citizens.

However, it is easy to say what our ambitions might be, what our visions may be. But it still remains a daunting task; a task daunting as it is continuously a puzzling mystery and has challenged even the great leaders of our history. Today, 26% of Filipino people are poor. 11 % live in extreme poverty. Further compounding our problems is a grave inequality that pervades our society today. Our unemployment rate around the country is 6%. Here, in your part of the country it is 8%. 6% is a figure that translates to three million able-bodied Filipinos who are without jobs. 17% of our population consider themselves underemployed. And this perceived lack of sufficient local opportunities explains the phenomenon of why, and this is a statistic I was stunned with when I first heard it, more than 5000 Filipinos leave the country, not every year, not every month, but 5000 Filipinos leave the Philippines every day to become OFWs.

It is in the face and the weight of these social ills of this government inadequacies and failures that I re-echo a continuing call to our civil society and enlist their continuing commitment and tap into their natural spirit of compassionate and selfless volunteerism.

True to the mandate of the Constitution, we recognize the indispensable role of people’s organizations like the Freemasonry movement and the Batangas Lodge No. 35 in the higher ideal of nation building in the rudimentary task of diagnosing and then alleviating the ills of our society and the pitiful conditions of our less fortunate brothers and sisters. For example, cognizant of the inherent social responsibility and ground level operations of NGOs and people’s organizations, our government has installed mechanisms by which they are tapped as agents of government in making sure, for example, public funds are cascading and trickle down to the thinnest capillaries of society.

However, in recent years we have heard the appalling reports of the infiltration of fly-by-night NGOs; ones that are calculatingly fraudulent from their very inception, conniving with scheming government agents, in the process, billions of public funds have been spirited away for illegal and greedy personal purposes. If government had the will to entrust such funds, such resources or social alleviation programs, why, I ask, were dubious and fraudulent NGOs picked while genuine established private organizations were overlooked? Why not the Masonic lodges for example? Why weren’t they considered as worthy and accountable recipients of public funds for the implementation of community projects? You are of a tradition of builders, after all.

Nakakatiyak ako na ang mga Mason ay ma-abilidad at makakapagkatiwalaan. At hindi nila sisirain ang kanilang pangalan at reputasyon nang dahil lang sa tukso ng katiwalian. Genuine, established, tried and tested people’s organizations should be tapped as they are the most qualified and worthy to be entrusted with more active, accountable and large-scale extensive roles in partnership with government. Government’s clarion call to legitimate organizations should not just be sounded in times of need. And let us hope also not only during times of national emergencies or calamities.

For a century-and-a-half now, your lodges in the country have regularly proven themselves throughout your history. The Freemasonry movement has attracted the best and the brightest from all over the world: from the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, to Moses, to Noah, from King Solomon to Saint Augustine; George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, just to name those very recognizable names. At hindi nagpapahuli ang lalawigan ng Batangas: the likes of Apolinario Mabini and Galicano Apacible, are some of the prominent Batangueño pioneers of the Freemasonry movement of the Philippines. A good reason for this is that they have stepped in their psyche of Filipinos their trademark, concrete and reliable public service to the community. Marami naman silang nagagawang maganda para sa komunidad. Hindi lamang sila pa inom-inom ng red wine mula sa baso na gawa sa bungo, tulad ng nakasaad sa libro ni Dan Brown sa Last Symbol at na witness ko noong ako’y nag-attend ng inyong pag-install ng inyong Worshipful Master. Sinasabi nga dito sa Batangas baka yung red wine kapeng barako na. Pagka ganun maintindihan pa ng tao.

But kidding aside, Masonic lodges have proven themselves to be able and have proven themselves to be willing and always ready to be trustworthy, competent and accountable partners of government. Not only for coordinate action and assistance, but also for the needed additional social and financial mobilization. You can rest assured that, if and when elected Vice President, my leadership will be characterized by drawing upon the collective strength of a united nation and recognizing and tapping into the individual strengths and capabilities of all our LGUs, our diverse communities, and the multifarious sectors of our society.

Isa sa aking pinanghahawakang na pambato o alas sa aking kandidatura bilang Bise Presidente ay ang aking pinagsama-samang karanasan, hindi lamang sa kongreso, kundi na rin sa lokal na pamahalaan bilang dating Gobernador ng lalawigan ng Ilocos Norte. Bilang miyembro ng kongreso sa Kamara de Representante at sa Senado, nakita ko ang paghubog sa ating pambansang patakaran at polisiya at mahahalagang batas. Ngunit, bilang dating pinuno ng lokal na pamahalaan, alam ko naman kung paanong pinatatakbo ang isang LGU. Personal kong nakita at naranasan kung ano ang nagyayari sa baba o sa grassroots at sa ground level, ika nga. Alam ko kung talagang umaabot ang serbisyo ng mga ahensiya ng national government sa mga mamamayan at sa mga LGU. At kung tunay ba talaga natutugunan ang kanilang mga pangangailangan. Sa aking palagay, magandang karanasan ito para maihanda sa mga responsibilidad ng isang Vice President.

Mahalagang bagay kung naging babad at nakikiisa sa taumbayan. Malaking bagay kung damang-dama ang tunay na hirap at hinaing ng ating mga kababayan. So with much pride and appreciation, I can claim that I can rely and count on my dual and extensive experience both in congress and in local government as an edge over perhaps the other candidates for the vice presidency. Kaya ang aking pong dalangin at hiling ay ang inyong buo at taus-pusong pagtitiwala at pagsusuporta para sa aking kandidatura. Sa akin pong paninilbihan sa bayan, tayo po ay magsasanib-pwersa at magtutulungan ang pamahalaan at pribadong sektor sa pamamagitan ng mga Mason sa buong Pilipinas. Tayo ay magkakaisa upang ayusin ang ating lipunan. Paaangatin pa ang ating ekonomiya at pagagandahin ang buhay at kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan. Palakasin natin ang ating paggawa at ating labor force. May kaugnayan talaga kayo dito. Ang mga Mason ay talaga namang nagmula sa hanay ng skilled workers and recognized builders.

So I call on the Masons of the country, especially Batangas Lodge No. 35, to continue the work that you do; especially the work that you do best and the work with the greatest impact and most beneficial effect in our communities. Also, of course, in your private and individual capacities and professional lives, always choose to live by the Masonic ideals and ethics. More importantly, the years ahead, be prepared, be ready to participate in much more active roles in our community so that we can improve and, in fact, embark upon a program of nation building together in partnership with the government. Pero ika nga po, sa tamang panahon.

Magkakatotoo rin ang lahat ng ating mga plano. Sana po ako ay inyong samahan at ako ay inyong suportahan. Kayo na po ang bahala sa akin. Hanggang sa ating muling pagkikita, ako po si Bongbong Marcos humihiling ng inyong pagsusuporta at pagtiwala sa aking kandidatura bilang Bise Presidente ng ating minamahal na Republika ng Pilipinas.

Mabuhay ang Batangas Lodge No. 35! Mabuhay ang Freemasonry movement sa buong Pilipinas! Maraming salamat po! Maganding gabi po sa inyong lahat! Pagpalain tayong lahat ng Maykapal!