Press Release
June 6, 2013


I entered the Senate during an era far different from this one I am leaving after 23 years.

In 1987, I joined a legislature charged to help restore democracy after years of authoritarianism and rebuild a nation beset with decline and corruption.

Rampant poverty, crime and economic stagnation hounded the country, making these the foremost challenges a renascent Congress had to address head on.

On my last term, I am heartened to see the seeds of reform have borne fruit, and committed leadership is making the yield all the richer.

I have worn many hats in my life--lawyer, educator, farmer, banker, patron of the arts--but being a lawmaker allowed me to focus my varied interests and experiences toward making laws of deep meaning to a Filipino.

Leaving the Senate is not unlike going down a high promontory with an unobstructed view. I was witness to the passage of history and persons, a privileged participant in charting the future of our nation.

I owe the Filipino electorate a great debt of gratitude for trusting me with four productive Senate terms, and my esteemed colleagues for once entrusting me the leadership of this august chamber. Unshackled by instant needs and insistent clamor, I endeavored to meet a nation's aspirations through pioneer pieces of legislation on education, agriculture, healthcare and social welfare, culture and the arts, the banks, the financial system, science and technology, and good governance.


During my first term in the 8th Congress, the education and health portfolios fell on my lap, a fortuitous turn of events as my natural interests lie in these arenas.

The decline of our education system was heart-rending: systemic underinvestment and a plodding centralized bureaucracy have pushed millions of young Filipinos out of school and without jobs.

Hence, we created the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM), whose seminal report drew up an agenda for education reform.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA) were brought to life, and the resulting trifurcation of the education system allowed the Department of Education to concentrate on basic education.

Through the Free High School Act, we ensured that each Filipino child receives basic education. We de-clogged classrooms in public schools by helping deserving students study in private schools, through the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE)--the country's largest scholarship program to this day. We also sought to promote teaching as a profession--a most noble one, indeed--through the Philippines Teachers' Professionalization Act.

We then passed the Higher Education Modernization Act to establish a uniform governance system for our state universities and colleges (SUCs).

The Science and Technology Scholarship Fund enabled us to tap our best and brightest, while the establishment of the National Book Development Board (NBDB) ensures that our local book publishing industry continues to flourish.

The University of the Philippines has always been close to my heart, which is why we pushed for the establishment of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao to facilitate regional development through quality education.

The 15th Congress was a watershed for education reform, dramatically overhauling our education system. We provided access to early childhood care and development programs (Early Years Act), created a preparatory learning environment for Filipino youth (Kindergarten Education Act), and started to make basic education on par with the best in the world (Enhanced Basic Education Act or "K to 12").


The countryside clamored for progress. We responded with a raft of rural initiatives. Our landmark Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) is emulated across the ASEAN.

With the establishment of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the biggest appropriation for R&D, among others, our agricultural sector grew by an all-time high of 3.6 percent, when I was Secretary of Agriculture.

We also safeguarded the rights of small-scale farmers, cooperatives, and independent farmers' organizations through the Magna Carta for Small Farmers, and expanded formal countryside financing through the Rural Banks Act.

We also conceived the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act to ensure that the Philippines abide by international standards on biological diversity management and protection.

Healthcare and Social Welfare

The best investment we can make is in our people, our greatest renewable resource.

Hence, we pushed for the creation of a social health insurance system, PhilHealth to give every Filipino universal access to preventive and life-saving medical care--a pioneering measure in our region.

We drew attention to the needs of elderly Filipinos and provided them with monetary and non-monetary support through the Senior Citizens Act and its expanded version, among our most important social safety nets.

We also empowered our country's health workers through the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers and made cheaper medicines widely available via the The Generics Act.

The Philippines was internationally lauded for being the first country to promulgate a Breastfeeding Law, in recognition of breastfeeding as essential to the optimal growth and development of infants.

Culture and Arts

My life's work also sought to preserve our heritage and sharpen our sense of nationhood. Some of these laws include the National Cultural Heritage Act and measures creating the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Museum and The Commission on the Filipino Language.

We initiated the Sentro Rizal as a repository of Philippine heritage and a tribute to Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero. It is also an external gesture to reach out to other cultures.

I also wrote the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Act, remembering the day when General Emilio Aguinaldo decreed that the last Spanish soldiers garrisoned for almost a year inside Baler's church be treated not as enemies but as friends. We led the first Dia del Galeon festival in 2010 to mark the day when the San Pedro found the first return route from the Philippines to Mexico, paving the way for 250 years of commerce and cultural exchange--a veritable precursor to globalization. Banking and Financial System

Up to today, the country faces the twin evils of poverty and growth without jobs. We supported cooperatives, grassroots industries, and medium and small-scale enterprises through financial system reform.

We pushed to strengthen the capital markets and the banking system, through such laws as Personal Equity Retirement Act (PERA), the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), the Credit Information Systems Act (CISA) and the Pre-Need Code.

We also modernized our century-old insolvency law through the Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act (FRIA).

Meanwhile, to shield the financial system from financial shocks, we introduced charter changes in two key financial institutions: the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) and the Pag-ibig Fund.

Science & Technology

The world today is different from when we first entered the Senate. New challenges like climate change coincide with widespread poverty, disease, and food and fuel insecurity.

Also, an entirely new universe, brought about by the digital age, ushered in a novel dimension to society and governance.

In response, we created the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) and pushed for the passage of such laws as the Technology Transfer Act, the Renewable Energy Act, the Biofuels Act, the Cybercrime Prevention Act and the Data Privacy Act.

COMSTE pioneered government-academe-industry partnerships for R&D in exciting areas as Algae Research and Commercialization, Remote Sensing and Precision Farming, Responsible Mining, ICT for Cloud Computing and Disaster Risk Reduction through Disaster Science.

Called "innovation clusters," these initiatives aimed at laying the foundation for our country to leapfrog into a truly knowledge-based, S&T driven economy.

Good Governance

Better government remained the heart of any of our solutions to the nation's problems. Through the Ombudsman Law, we set the framework for government to keep its ranks in check and ultimately restore the public's trust and confidence.

The Procurement Reform Act and the Anti-Red Tape Act were passed to ensure that government activities and operations redounded to transparent and hence, more effective public services.

I authored the Overseas Absentee Voting Act to ensure that our brothers and sisters abroad still had a say on who leads the nation.

But good governance also means good politics. Hence, I authored the Political Party Development Act that remains unpassed. Campaign finance reform, party discipline, and platform-based politics widen the opportunity for economic growth and national development.

As Senate President

Good politics is also marked by close collaboration between the branches of government. As Senate President, I challenged our colleagues, and the Executive, to do what seemed to be the harder thing: set aside discord and cooperate on a legislative agenda needed for economic recovery.

Cooperate we did, and as a result we were able to pass over 500 laws, 130 of which were reform measures. We also saw the country open itself up to world trade.

The more important legacy of this period was the beginning of unprecedented cooperation between the Executive and the Legislature. Born was the Legislative and Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), perhaps the most effective mechanism for bringing together the two branches to devise a development blueprint.

This underscored that a fiscalizing force is necessary for a healthy balance of power, and that obstructionism for the sole sake of opposition is self-serving.


Throughout my career, I met and worked with talented, intelligent, and passionate individuals who shared generously their many gifts. I thank them all--esteemed colleagues, friends from the private sector, academe, media, diplomatic community, NGOs, my staff and all the Senate employees--for helping transform vision and ideas into concrete programs and legislative action.

More important, I thank my family for their unfailing encouragement and constant support.

I leave the Senate tremendously grateful for the ringside opportunity to witness and play a role in the renewal of our nation.

But I leave more confident than ever that a new breed of young and vibrant legislators will inject vitality to governance and propound fresh ideas to address our foremost challenges. I call on them to build on the legacy we leave behind, even as they strive to build their own.

With democracy as our bedrock, our country is more resilient, our people more hopeful than ever. Yet it is a democracy that remains in progress.

Inequality persists, barring many from fully realizing their potential.

Pockets of corruption remain, hobbling public service and governance wherever they are found.

Inadequate investment in human development has deprived scores of Filipinos of dignified living.

Rapid, but non-inclusive economic growth, is fueling discontent among a people working more for less.

In two years' time, we will join our Southeast Asian neighbors in an economic community that will be one of the fastest growing in the world for years to come.

Also in two years, we will be hitting a period of dramatic demographic change that could make or break our future. Will we finally become a newly industrialized nation or will we remain a mere shadow of our former glory days?

The path ahead is littered with challenges, great and small. But if we persevere, if we remain committed to national unity, we will propel our nation toward a second renaissance.

May God continue to bless the Philippines. Thank you Mr. President. Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

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