To all the members of Kiwanis Club of Manila and the Kiwanis Philippine Luzon District,
To the outgoing as well as the incoming District Governors and club officers, who shall be inducted tonight, led by outgoing District Governor Melvin Mendoza and incoming District Governor Uthman Mamadra,
Please allow me also to make special mention of the Manila Eagles of Philippine Luzon District 3A, of which I have accepted as Charter Member,
To our other esteemed guests and friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening to one and all.
Thank you for having me here in your hand-over rites and installation of officers. It is my honor to take part in this assembly of the Kiwanis Club of the Philippines, which has continually proven itself as a formidable voice and effective arm of our Philippine civil society, no less composed of brilliant, influential and successful Filipinos who excel in their individual fields and chosen crafts.
Please allow me take advantage of tonight’s gathering of our friends from Kiwanis to lay stress on certain pressing and dire issues of our country today, in an attempt to call on and marshal the support of Kiwanis Club of the Philippines.
All of us have heard about the strong and unprecedented economic gains posted by the country, which Malacañang has been quick to bask in glory of and bank to the credit of the present administration.
Experts suggest that this economic surge of the country can be explained by its burgeoning young population, theorizing that higher population means increased productivity and also higher demand for goods and services, among other significant factors.
For everybody’s information, today’s Philippine populace has an average age of 23 years old, way below the global average of 30 years old.
This is very inspiring and uplifting news indeed to all of us here, because it means that we can claim, with solid and accurate statistical basis, that we are all just 23 years old of age!
“Sir, ilang taon na po kayo?”
“I’m still young at 23 years old! And I have credible statistical data to prove it!”
But nonetheless, at a restaurant, we would still be quick and agile to get our senior citizens card from our wallets in order to hand over to the waiter billing us for our food.
“Brad, ’Senior’, ha!”
That’s how ambivalent we are when it comes to the question of age!
In fact, I distinctly remember that in July of last year, when our country’s population hit the 100 million mark, our very own Commission on Population viewed this milestone with the same degree of ambivalence, stating that:
“This is both an opportunity and a challenge; an opportunity (that) we should take advantage of and a challenge (that) we should recognize.”
Our soaring and promising economic growth has also been attributed to the consistent performance of our strong tourism industry, which has even led the international community to observe that the Philippines is a “Rising Star” in travel and tourism.
However, in spite of all these world-renowned and positively viewed attributes of our country, these same qualities prove to be the very bane of our own existence as a nation.
Let us consider some harrowing figures, which reflect the dark side of our attributes as a young population and as a popular tourist destination.
The PNP-Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) has reported a staggering spike in rape cases in the country, from a 15-year average of almost 4,000 cases to upwards of 7,000 cases in the past year. And the most shocking part is that 77% of these cases involve minor victims!
To facilitate a better understanding by the people of the impact of these figures, the PNP translated the information in this way: there is an incident of rape that happens every 72 minutes somewhere in the country; or there are 20 incidents of rape that occur throughout the country each day, and 15 of these incidents involve hapless minor victims!
On the other hand, “trafficking of persons” is a scourge of our country’s tourism potential. Pero hindi ito yung teribleng “TRAFFIC” na kasalukuyang dinaranas at pinagdaraanan natin dito sa Metro Manila araw-araw, gabi-gabi! Iba ‘yun! Yes, I know, many persons are really “trafficking” our streets now, with their 2.5 million cars, especially along EDSA! Yes, it is alarming, but it is not really the point that I want to drive tonight—no pun intended! Iwan na muna natin ang problemang ito sa pangangalaga ng PNP-HPG at kay appointed traffic czar Sec. Jose Almendras!
Joking aside, I am referring to evil of human trafficking. “Sex tourism” is the evil alter-ego of our country’s tourism industry. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino children lay prone and lay prey to sick and perverse sexual predators, both local and foreign, who come here to the Philippines in the guise of tourism, but in reality for the purpose of satisfying their dark and sinister desires. And this is to say nothing further about the thousands more cases involving adults!
And the list goes on. In fact, as we speak, our children are being recruited as members of armed rebel groups all over the country. Upon recruitment, these innocent children will start and spend the next chapters of their lives getting brainwashed and immersed in a culture of hate against government and heartless and senseless violence and aggression towards their own fellow Filipinos.
All these facts and figures show that as a result or in exchange of the pursuit of economic growth, the foundations of our progress provide the very seedbed that make possible and perpetuate the conditions allowing for the utter and reckless disregard of the rights of our Filipino children.
According to the grandson of one of Jose Rizal’s former students in Dapitan City, this is the result of our multiple failures: a “failure of our morals”; a “failure within the family”, and a “failure of society”.
But I venture to add another: a failure of government.
On the part of Congress, I can say with pride that we have done our part, and continue to do our part. The country is not lacking in the needed legislation to curb these problems of society. Congress has legislated the important laws that precisely empower government to address these evils, and also provides the resources to finance the relevant offices and programs year in and year out.
I guess that everything boils down to weak and inadequate enforcement. So if the present administration can have the gall and the confidence to proudly lay claim to the country’s supposed economic gains, then it should equally have the courage to say mea culpa and accept responsibility for the continued proliferation of dastardly and despicable acts and practices against our Filipino children.
And it is in the face and on the weight of these perceived failures call on and enlist the help of our civil society, in the spirit of compassionate and selfless voluntarism, for them to come in, contribute their share, and also to compensate for government’s noted inadequacy in these important departments.
As an established, very organized and credible civil society group that professes to serve the children of the world and to improve society “one child at a time, one community at a time”, the Kiwanis Club can be a perfect partner of the Philippine government and the Filipino family in addressing these ills of society that plague our country today. Of course, through your usual and familiar direct, on the ground and high-impact programs and projects.
Either you can act as the watchdog yourself, or at the very least, empower and support the watchdogs, such as our police force, especially the Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) of the PNP. Our police force will certainly appreciate the much-needed boost not only in their morale but also in their resources, considering that the efficiency of the PNP has always been hampered by institutional weaknesses, such as those owing to manpower and budgetary constraints.
In partnership with the private sector, our police force can be better equipped in finding ways to strengthen the reporting and complaint mechanism, while at the same time ensuring and upholding the sanctity of the confidentiality and secrecy of the identity and the information. Note that our police has precisely identified the weak link to be the victims’ natural hesitation to come forward to tell their sordid tales, inasmuch as their privacy, dignity, honor and self-respect are at stake and on the line.
The private sector can very well provide that mantle of protection for victims and complainants, not only with the trademark perfectionism and quality that characterize private sector participation here in our country, but also with the needed sensitivity, care and compassion that government seems to be very ineffective and reckless at and seems to always overlook.
For as long as our county is plagued by these ills that entirely rob our children of their innocence and the exuberance of their youth and childhood, these will always be a continuing challenge not only to the government, but also to our private charitable organizations, such as the Kiwanis Club.
So I issue this ardent call to the Kiwanis Clubs of the Philippines, most especially the Kiwanis Club of Manila and the Kiwanis Philippine Luzon District, and my very own Manila Eagles. I urgently rally everyone, especially the incoming District Governor and club officers, to make the Kiwanis Clubs of the Philippines ever effective and worthy partners of government in its efforts in protecting children’s rights and in the collective task of nation-building!
Once again, I sincerely thank you all for giving me this valuable opportunity to be with you all tonight. Certainly, I will be your ally in government and you can count on my support to further your mission here in the country, and I hope that I too can count on your support in the future.
Congratulations to you all, especially to the new District Governor and the club officers, who we shall induct into their respective offices in a short while!
Let us all march forward to more years of meaningful, productive and compassionate service to the community and to the country!
Hanggang sa atin pong muling pagkikita!
Mabuhay ang Kiwanis International!
Mabuhay ang Kiwanis Club ng Manila at ang Kiwanis Philippine Luzon District!
Maraming salamat po at magandang gabi sa inyong lahat!