Press Release
September 19, 2014


19 September 2014 (Friday)
Grand Ballroom, Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati
Theme: “Integrity: It’s Everyone’s Business”

Speech Topic: "The Importance of Integrity in National Leaders"

I would like to congratulate the Makati Business Club and the European Chamber of Commerce for organizing this Integrity Summit. Likewise, I would like to acknowledge the other partners of this Integrity Initiative, namely; the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).

It has been four (4) years since the Integrity Initiative was launched out of your collective yearning to promote a "culture of integrity" in the business sector. And I am very happy to note that your Integrity Initiative is quite on track to meet your goals and targets. To date, a total of 1,896 corporations have signed the Integrity Pledge and out of this total, 235 have already taken your online Integrity Self-Assessment Test (ISAT). Moreover, 20 of the signatory-corporations have had their ISATs validated. I am hopeful that by next year these 20 firms will be able to receive their respective Certificates of Compliance to the Unified Code of Conduct for Business. I look forward to seeing these "integrity badges" (or stickers) displayed prominently in business establishments (na parang ISO certification / seal of excellence). In this way, the public will be able to tell which company is conscious about observing ethical business practices and who is not. I really think this "Integrity Badge" idea is such a marvelous, "out-of-the-box" approach towards promoting a culture of integrity in the private sector. Congratulations to the people who conceptualized this, and I hope that there are more people like you sana in government.

Allow me now to proceed with my speech, and the topic that was assigned to me is: "The Importance of Integrity in National Leaders."

Integrity to me is about having the courage to be true and honest, of having the guts to tell the truth not only when it is convenient and popular, but especially so when it is inconvenient and unpopular. The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said; "Courage is the father of all virtues, because no other virtue can be born without it." As such, a person of integrity is necessarily also a person possessed of moral courage.

Moreover, integrity to me is not only about being truthful and honest. Each of us here, after all, are capable of being truthful and honest at one time or the other. As human beings, all of us possess the innate ability to be good. But a person who is capable of being truthful and honest constantly - that to me is a person of integrity.

Integrity therefore is not so much about honesty but about consistency. To a person of integrity, honesty is a habit. Integrity therefore is not only about having the courage to stand up for what you think is right; it is also about having the will, possessing strength of character to stick to your guns no matter what paninindigan. Yan po ang turo sa akin ng aking magulang.

My father was not perfect but he was, without a doubt, a man of integrity. FPJ dedicated his entire life towards making movies that entertained and edified our countrymen, and he was not afraid to do what he believed was right for our country, even a presidential run, even though he knew he would be criticized for doing so. The husband of Congresswoman Leni (Robredo) here was also a man of integrity, a true gem in government. Mayor Jess showed us that excellence can be achieved not only through excellent leaders but through excellent "systems, procedures and standards" in government.

Integrity is a very important and an almost-indispensable virtue that all leaders must possess. This is especially true in the Philippine context because we Filipinos really respond to "leadership by example."

Filipinos are predisposed to what I call a "follow-da-lider" mentality for lack of a better term. This "follow-da-lider" mentality is at work in almost all organizations. In most government offices, for instance, underlings look up to the boss for "behavioral cues" - subtle signs, hints, gestures from the boss. If the boss is corrupt or perceived to be corrupt, then everyone feels justified to be corrupt. But if the boss is good or perceived to be good, then employees will be on their toes and even the habitual grafters will "moderate their greed" so to speak. Thus, given this Filipino cultural trait of "follow-da-lider", a leader's integrity and credibility becomes a crucial determinant towards governance outcomes in the country.

We all have seen what a national leader with low or absolutely no credibility can do to our country. A leader with no integrity does not inspire others to do good. On the contrary, leaders without any integrity only seem to "inspire" others to do bad. Alam naman natin lahat ang nangyari - electoral fraud, corruption on an epic scale, daily street protests, coup rumors, economic crisis, abuse of power, etc. - ito po usually ang nangyayari pag ang nakaupo sa Malacañang ay walang integrity at credibility. But if the president enjoys a clear mandate, madali lang mapasunod ang tao. Di ba all President Aquino had to do was announce in his first SONA "wala nang wang-wang." The next day wala ka ng makitang wang-wang sa EDSA, before it was normal to see a display of that abuse of power. That is the Pinoy's "follow-da-lider" mentality at work.

And since we are on the topic of "leadership by example," I will tell you about the hearing last Tuesday I conducted on the PNP Modernization Plan wherein as you may have heard I expressed my dismay at the way PNP Chief Purisima snubbed the hearing. As Chief of our PNP, Purisima should have demonstrated his leadership by showing up to explain personally the things they are doing to reform the PNP. it is not to lay blame on the PNP, but it is important that he explain to us what the plans are and where they will take us and how the legislature will be able to help with the programs of modernization. Instead, he concocted an excuse and sent his underlings to answer the senators.

Anyway, one of the things I have long advocated for is the establishment of a national 911 emergency hotline. During the hearing I asked for an update report, and one PNP official and he said that they have already completed the feasibility study and are planning to set up a ten-seat call center for the 911 hotline. Ten seats to answer the calls of a 100 million people!

I know it is easy to laugh at these things. Obviously they need support, input, they need guidance and leadership. PNP police visibility is one of the things they are trying to promote. And I think the chief should be the prime example of this. It is convenient to condemn those policemen who kidnap, extort and rent out themselves as guns-for-hire. And rightfully so, we should condemn and punish these criminals-in-uniform. But after the punishment must come reforms. Otherwise, we will only perpetuate the vicious cycle and not really solve the problem if all that we do is denigrate our policemen.

Most of you here are managers and/or management experts, and one area that I would like you to help me study is the government's compensation structure. Most of you may already have some notion that the pay in government is low, which is correct to some extent. But one surprising fact that I discovered studying the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) for government employees is that "the higher you are in the bureaucracy, the more underpaid you become." Let me explain. Under the present salary scheme, a driver in a government agency receives a salary equal to or in some cases, even more than a company driver in a private corporation. However, a mid-level bureaucrat receives less than half what his counterpart in the private sector receives, and the higher the rank the greater the disparity in pay becomes. As such, the salary of a sub-cabinet official i.e. Undersecretary, bureau chief, etc. is way, way lower than what his counterpart in the private sector receives. So you now have a situation where an entry-level call center agent effectively earns more than what a police inspector in charge of say, 30 men takes home.

This is the reason why government is losing so many of its good people to the corporate sector. This is the reason why government cannot seem to attract top-notch management talent.

Aside from the low pay, our civil servants also have to contend with woefully inadequate operating budgets. During our recent public hearing it was pointed out to me that one common reason why policemen could not respond promptly to the crime scene is because their gasoline allowance for their patrol cars is only eight (8) liters a day. Aside from lack of equipment, our police personnel also lack the proper training and skills to solve crimes. Kulang na kulang talaga.

But despite all these limitations and shortcomings, the vast majority of our PNP personnel continue to serve and uphold the law as best they can. Sadly, it is always only the "bad eggs" that merit attention in the press. I have been a judge of the Metrobank Search for Outstanding Cops for two years now, and I can personally attest that "ang mga huwarang pulis hindi lamang kathang-isip, hindi lamang sa pelikula ni FPJ mapapanood."

Good cops do exist in real life. There are many individuals, men and women of integrity, who are willing to put themselves in the line of fire to protect our citizens and uphold the rule of law. And I am quite privileged to have met some of them in the course of my work in the Senate. Like Police Chief Inspector Reynaldo Ariño who led the 5th Special Action Battalion in securing the safety of some 100,000 families held hostage in Barangays Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara during the 2013 Zamboanga Siege. Or like Police Officer 2 Arshear Ismael who risked life and limb to monitor MNLF movements and provide timely intel reports during the Zamboanga Siege. Or like Police Senior Superintendent Cedrick Train who invented the Geographical Reference for Integrated Deployment (GRID) system which maps street crimes and employs COMPSAT data for crime intel and analysis. Or like that (still unidentified) PDEA Team which raided ?4 billion worth of illegal drug precursors in Pampanga (just imagine the countless lives that were saved/prevented from being ruined as a result of this single raid). Indeed, there are countless others in the PNP and in all of government who remain true to their sworn duty to serve and protect. Society as a whole should be one in recognizing their heroism and rewarding their outstanding deeds.

So to summarize, promoting a "culture of integrity" is a shared responsibility not only of government and the business sector, but by the whole of Philippine society itself. We can promote a "culture of integrity" through a variety of ways, each in our own unique way. All of us here must contribute our share towards inculcating the values of honesty and integrity in our people. You in the business sector have your Integrity Initiative, and I believe that this initiative will truly change the way business is practiced in this country for the better.

For my part, I pledge that I will do my best to set a good example for our people and to work for the passage of laws that will change our country for the better and for always. I believe that Freedom of Information (FOI) is an integral and indispensable component towards promoting greater transparency and integrity in government. But just as important as FOI, I believe that we must also be able to compensate our civil servants with salaries that are commensurate to their responsibilities. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that FOI and other structural reforms alone will curb corruption and bring about good governance. We must pay our people in government their just due to get the service that we think we deserve. Otherwise, if we keep on paying our civil servants salaries equivalent to that of a clerk in your company, then what we will get is a government run by clerks.

To close, promoting a culture of integrity will take us years, decades even, to accomplish. And it will definitely not be up to only one person but will require the collective effort of the nation. Attaining a culture of honesty will require a thousand individual acts of courage on the part of our people.

As Robert F. Kennedy once said: "Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from these numberless diverse acts of courage that human history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Thank you.

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