Speech of SP Franklin M. Drilon
Opening of the 3rd Regular Session
July 24, 2006


My esteemed colleagues, excellencies of the diplomatic corps, fellow workers in government, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant morning to all of you

Today, we open the third regular session of the 13th Congress with a renewed commitment to defend democracy, a stronger resolve to uphold the national interest, and a resolute spirit to work as one in steering our nation toward its peace and development goals

My esteemed colleagues, I stand before you, honored and proud For more than five years , you have given me your trust and confidence But more important, you have given me your support, as the Senate stood as one in addressing the urgent needs of our country, and in defending democracy when strong political storms pummeled our country in recent times

I beg your indulgence, for I cannot help but recall those days when the voices of the great men of Philippine politics resonated through the halls of this august Chamber We stood in awe as Claro M. Recto, Jose W. Diokno, Sergio Osmea Jr., Gerardo Roxas, Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jovito R. Salonga dazzled the nation with their eloquence, wit and brilliance And how they inspired our people by their peerless love for our country, their uncommon valor, integrity, and sense of humanity

I am one of the millions of Filipinos whose lives have been profoundly touched by these great men As a young boy growing up in Iloilo, I was not only amazed and impressed by them, I developed a strong yearning to serve my country like they did To this day, I nurture the dream of one day seeing the Philippines in the league of democratic and wealthy countries in the world

Libre ang mangarap, sabi nila Moreover, after having spent twenty productive years of my life in government service, I have become more motivated and relentless in pursuing this dream - a dream that I certainly share with all of you who are here today

I have dreamed of making our country a better place to live in, and provide opportunities for our countrymen so that the nearly 8 million of our countrymen living abroad may one day come back and share their tomorrows with their families

Thus, I am truly proud to report to the nation that under my watch, the Senate passed vital economic and social legislation, notable among which were the Anti-Money Laundering Act, Special Purpose Vehicles Act, General Banking Law, E-Commerce Law, Dual Citizenship Act, Anti-Violence Against Women, Anti-Trafficking in Persons, Overseas Absentee Voting Act, the Abolition of the Death Penalty Law, Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, Government Procurement Reform Act, Philippine Clean Water Act, the law increasing the salaries of judges and prosecutors, Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, The expanded VAT Law, the Juvenile Justice System Act, Securities Regulation Code, and the Optical Media Act, among others

On a personal note, I am particularly proud that over the years, I have made my small contribution to make a difference in the lives of our countrymen through my Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) In response to the huge shortage of classrooms in rural areas nationwide, I have allocated P250 million to a school-building project in coordination with the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry To date, we have completed construction of 1,400 classrooms all over the country Let me once more emphasize that we are building these classrooms at approximately P180,000 per classroom, versus P400,000 when done by government contractors We will continue to devote budgetary allocations for this purpose

Because of the sad state of our health care system and high cost of seeking medical treatment, most poor Filipinos have no one to turn to for their health care needs Hence, I allocated P148 million to help the poorest of the poor of our kababayans and entrusted this money to government hospitals such as the Philippine General Hospital, the National Kidney Institute, Philippine Children's Medical Center, and the Philippine Heart Center, benefiting around 116,784 Filipinos

My esteemed colleagues, as Senate President, I have been humbled by the distinct honor of leading this Chamber and the immense responsibility that goes with it Leading the Upper House of Congress, especially during the crucial hours in our nation's life, is a colossal task that may daunt the faint of heart

I am pleased that we can face our people with dignity and honor because we, the members of the Senate , stood as one to preserve the independence and integrity of this Chamber despite the arrows of political intrigues ferociously shot into our turf As elected representatives of our people, we can find fulfillment and satisfaction knowing we have not let our people down We did not shirk from our responsibility of protecting and promoting the nation's highest interest

For at the end of the day, how can we face our family, and conscience especially, if we did not pursue the truth relative to dubious multimillion infrastructure projects undertaken by the government? How can we stand before our people if this Chamber did not move to investigate where the money allocated to help poor farmers went? Moreover, how can we claim to be public servants and defenders of the Filipino nation's interest, if we did not join the national clamor to ferret out the truth with regard to the 2004 elections?

To the Filipino people, I pledge that you can always count on me to stand in solidarity with you in nation building and earnestly defending our democratic institutions

I seize this moment to appeal to your sense of patriotism and profound love for our country Let us work together, for our children's future Our collective efforts toward the attainment of our peace and development goals will be our priceless legacy to our children and to the children yet unborn

Certainly, instituting reforms to perk up our economy, improve our political climate, and create a better society, will not be a walk in the park Hence, we have to work as one , for no one but us, Filipinos, can build a strong and prosperous Filipino nation It is only us, Filipinos, who can propel our country to greater economic and political heights

To the men and women of the Senate Secretariat, my respect and profound gratitude for your hard work, support and loyalty to the institution during its highest and even the lowest moments

Today, we are at the threshold of another chapter in the Senate's history To honor a gentleman's agreement, I am relinquishing the post of Senate President At the appropriate time, I will take the privilege of nominating Senator Manuel Villar to the post of Senate President I am certain that the lofty task of leading the Upper House of Congress is in the hands of an esteemed colleague with a proven track record of efficiency and love of country

I am relinquishing the post without any rancor or bitterness, for in my heart I know that the men and women of the Senate will not sacrifice the integrity of the institution at the altar of political convenience

My esteemed colleagues, I am certain that each one of us is proud of this Senate It remains to be a vanguard of democracy because of its independent-minded members who only have the nation's highest interest at heart This Senate will always be a part of our lives as we will always be part of this Senate Years from now, when we look back to this day, the words of John Donne, would ring fittingly in our hearts and minds He said and I quote, "No man is an island, entire of itself: ... every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee "

Mabuhay tayong lahat! Mabuhay ang Pilipino!

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