Acceptance Speech for the Senate Presidency
Senator Manny Villar
July 24, 2006

The Senate Needs A New Brand of Creative Leadership

Distinguished Senators, beloved family and friends, allow me to express my gratitude for the trust and confidence in the brand of leadership I am bringing to the Senate. With all hope and certitude, I humbly accept this distinct opportunity not only for myself but for all of my honorable colleagues, that with our dedicated willingness, focus, strength, and industry, we will collectively forge the best Senate our countrymen deserve.

I would like to thank our Senate President Frank Drilon for his kind words on his nomination speech. I hope to prove myself a worthy successor.

I am cognizant of the fact that I am to lead this Chamber precisely at a time when a question is raised about its institutional relevance. Those who are not comfortable with the dynamics of democracy, with its noise and glare see only the specter of obstruction when all that we seek is truth, integrity, and accountability in government.

Some say that the abolition of the Senate is beneficial, practical and necessary. They argue that such a move will save money and hasten the passage of vital legislations.

Much as we would want to refute the fallacies in the anti-Senate position, prudence dictates that we refrain from doing so lest we be accused of being self-serving. The rebuttal can be made in a neutral public forum where only the logic of arguments must prevail.

For all the unpleasant propaganda being hurled at the Senate, it is truly a great honor to be part of the legislative Chamber that has done so much to uphold with fidelity and consistency the overriding interests of the nation.

The role of the Senate in laying down the foundation of democracy and in firming up the pillars of nationhood is an established fact. Several historical milestones carved by the Senate since its beginnings attest to this.

In the light of this perspective, the Senate is logically and necessarily zealous of its institutional independence. The Senate deeply values its tradition of serving as a vital instrument in the realization of the principle of check and balance towards good governance.

My distinguished predecessors as Senate President have unequivocally upheld the Senate's tradition of independence. My leadership shall remain faithful to this noble tradition.

The independence of the Senate is not dictated by a political configuration. Rather, it springs from the basic philosophy of separation of powers of co-equal branches of government. It is a constitutional mandate.

To be independent is not to be equated with being adversarial. We can maintain our institutional distance without ignoring the need of the executive branch for legislative support. The Senate must address its collective wisdom to pursue the ends of national development in partnership with the executive branch and all concerned sectors of Philippine society.

For the Senate to be consistently independent in the exercise of its legislative function is not to be an island, unmindful of the concerns of the other branches of government. The constructive collaboration of these three branches upholds the spirit of a republican democracy.

However, let it not be said that this attitude of cooperation means an abdication of our traditional oversight role. If there is a perception that the current relationship between the Senate and the executive branch is somewhat adversarial in context, it can only be due to a lack of appreciation of what the principle of check and balance is all about. Political power must not be absolute or else it will be abusive. To inquire whether certain departments or agencies of government are performing under the rule that public office is a public trust is not to be downright critical and intrusive into the affairs of a co-equal branch. Walang personalan, trabaho lang.

After renewing our intent and commitment to maintain this Chamber's independence, where do we go from here?

We cannot properly move forward unless we look around. There are issues that need to be urgently addressed.

We now live in a borderless, interconnected global economy. How do we empower our human resources to be globally competitive?

Our population keeps growing at an alarming rate, exerting tremendous pressure on the government to provide basic services. What can the Senate do to address this problem?

Global terrorism does not recognize borders and levels of economic development. What must be done to enable our law and justice system to cope with this menace?

Pump prices are going up at unprecedented levels. Is there a comprehensive and workable strategy for dealing with the problem? How prepared are we?

Those who seek change through unconventional means are continuously challenging the stability of the government. What avenues can be explored to address some of the grievances by peaceful means?

Our educational sector has its own share of pressing problems. Our schools at all levels are not at par with global standards, let alone the adequacy of classrooms and teachers. There is a decline in the English proficiency of our college graduates. There is a lack of organized and coordinated effort to promote entrepreneurial education to create employers, rather than employees. It is only by doing so that we can create and multiply wealth for the benefit of the nation.

The basic needs of health and housing are causes for concern. The general health of Filipinos shows marked improvement over the years but still due to extreme poverty, many cannot afford to buy medicines, much more consult a doctor. An increasing number of Filipinos still do not have a roof over their heads and many of those who do are squatters.

How competitive is our agricultural system? Have we really empowered our farmers to be at par with our ASEAN neighbors? Are rural credit facilities accessible and affordable? What is being done to cushion the impact of rising costs of farm inputs?

The overseas Filipino workers, our "modern-day" heroes, who have been the saving grace of our economy for so many years, need our support also as much as our people here. Last year, our OFWs remitted ten billion dollars, doing wonders to our foreign reserves. Do we provide them with adequate assistance especially in times of grave danger and distress like what our OFWs in Lebanon are experiencing right now? Do we have reintegration programs if and when they decide to come home for good?

It is with a sense of great urgency that I raise these pressing questions because time is running short. We must do much more than what has been accomplished.

Whatever methods and solutions that worked well in the past are time bound. Different times call for different solutions as demanded by the complexity of today's questions.

A creative Senate is what this nation needs. Such creativity is manifested by becoming, more responsive, and more proactive.

There is a need for the Senate to reinvent itself by redefining its relevance. We must strive to break new ground. This is only possible by going beyond the confines of what is familiar and traditional.

To be able to break out of our comfort zone, we must dream of things that never were. We must have the courage to test the limits of what is possible.

We need a change of heart so that we can rise above the narrow corridors of our old assumptions and lingering doubts. We need to expand our horizons so that we can all exceed the capacity of our grasp.

As your Senate President, I will dare to usher into this Chamber our own version of creativity in government to move this country forward. At the end of the day, what we all want is to make a difference in the lives of our countrymen. Ang pinakamahalagang magagawa natin para sa bayan ay ang i-angat ang antas ng kabuhayan ng maraming Pilipino.

As we collectively formulate the Senate's legislative agenda in response to some of the problems confronting the nation today, let us have the humility to admit that we do not have exclusive possession of wisdom. We have much to learn from others. Our power, either individually or collectively, is a sacred trust held only temporarily for the good of all.

Let the legislative thrust of the Senate be truly reflective of the real concerns and interests of a large majority of Filipinos. Our people deserve no less.

Mabuhay ang Senado! Mabuhay tayong lahat!

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