Senate of the Philippines

FULL TEXT: Honor the Senate’s heritage as ‘a bulwark of democracy, independence’ – Recto

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FULL TEXT: Honor the Senate’s heritage as ‘a bulwark of democracy, independence’ – Recto

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto gives his farewell speech on Wenesday, June 1. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto delivers his valedictory address as one of the 'graduating' members of the chamber in the 18th Congress

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing senators – those whose two consecutive terms in office have ended and those who lost their electoral bids – delivered their “graduation” or valedictory speeches on Wednesday, June 1, the final session day of the 18th Congress.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto bids farewell to the upper chamber of Congress, where he has served for a total of 18 years so far. The second highest ranking senator dedicates a good chunk of his speech to messages for each of his 23 colleagues in the 18th Congress. Recto is set to return to the House of Representatives, where he will succeed his wife Vilma Santos-Recto as Batangas 6th District representative.

Below is the full text of Recto’s speech.

FULL TEXT: Honor the Senate’s heritage as ‘a bulwark of democracy, independence’ – Recto

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

Thirty years – and thirty pounds – ago, I walked into the House of Representatives as its youngest member.

Next month, I will be returning there as one of the oldest – in years, but certainly not in looks.

From being the Totoy of the House, as what Speaker JDV called me when I mounted the rostrum to swear him in, to a Tito, as how I was addressed by some millennial congressmen during the canvassing last week, is one great journey I have enjoyed.

In all, I spent nine years in the Bigger and Better House, 18 in this Smaller but Smarter House, and one year as NEDA’s highest paid casual.

But it is my work in this chamber which, I think, made me a little bit wiser, and certainly wider in girth.

The first is courtesy of the smorgasbord of ideas that we tackle in plenary. The latter, the merienda spread in the lounge.

Dito kasi sa Senado, hindi lang ang mga matatayog na pilosopiya ng isang batas ang ating pinag-uusapan. Hinihimay din natin ang mga particulars. Ika nga, the boldness of a legislation is found in its fine print.

Halimbawa na lang, kung singtaas ni Senator Flavier ang budget materials taun-taon, you really have to study, to think before you talk. Hindi puwedeng i-shortcut sa TikTok.

My stay in public office has so far been bookended by crisis. Crisis is not the only constant in our national life; crisis is our brand.

I remember that I entered Congress when we were grappling with the devastation of Pinatubo, the Baguio earthquake, a parade of typhoons, an energy crisis, and the economic fallout of military adventurism.

In many places, when you open the taps, there was no water. You try to catch a plane, there was none. You lift the phone, you get a busy signal. You switch on the lights, there was no power.

But you know what, we were able to fix these problems, simply because our capacity as a nation to make our lives better is greater than the things which make it bad.

Over the last 35 years, we have cut poverty incidence, raised family incomes, created jobs, opened opportunities, slashed illiteracy, and improved life expectancy.

This is not to deny that many people fell, and continue to fall between the cracks, and closing the wealth gap, installing safety nets, and building a scaffolding of growth for them to climb up on, remain our unfinished tasks.

That we were able to overcome all of the challenges gives me the hope that we, too, shall rise from the pandemic, and when we do, the Senate will be acknowledged as being there in the frontline fighting the good fight.

Katulad na lang nitong pandemya, na kung saan sinubok tayo. Ano ginawa natin?

While scientists scrounged for a vaccine, we scrambled to roll out policies that will blunt its harm.

So we passed the Bayanihan laws, a medicine cabinet of responses, whose potency was increased because the Senate, true to its tradition, improved what the administration wanted, instead of merely ratifying it.

And after Bayanihan, the Senate went to its usual grind, but with a greater sense of urgency. We worked remotely – and resolutely. During the budget season, we put in 12-hour days via Zoom with the same zeal.

The result is a wartime scorecard we can be truly proud of.

I hope that in the distant future, when history will judge our acts during the time of peril, its verdict will be kind.

History would tell future generations that when COVID ravished the country, 24 men and women rose to the challenge and brought hope to a people in despair.

Dumating na po tayo sa punto na kailangan nating magpaalam. Pero pansamantala lang. Ika nga, “A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.”

Every hour spent here was a teachable moment to me. Every day a blessing because it brought forth the chance to make a difference.

Permit me my last roll call.

To Bong, your moonlighting days as a presidential aide is over. Relish your freedom. But never give up your bisyo na mag-serbisyo.

To the other half of the DDS, or Davao Dedicated Senators, Senator Bato, I salute you for your ramrod straight integrity. Your laws are as good as chiseled in stone. Itaga mo sa bato!

Bong Revilla, thank you for birthing the permanent birth and NSO certificates bill and many other commonsense bills that help the common folk. I shall repay your support by never squealing on you to your wife, Lani, who will be my seatmate in the House.

To Migz, son of Bukidnon, Bacolod, and Basque, a floor leader par excellence, who kept the conveyor belt of laws running, because no one can beat you in finding compromise, defusing tension and building consensus, daghang salamat. Hindi rin kita isusumbong sa tatay mo.

To Ma’am Cynthia, from whom the country’s richest man gets his weekly allowance, your Goldilocks principle in making laws is the reason why they have become good ones.

Ano ang Goldilocks principle? Remember the fable of the lugaw: Too hot, Papa Bear complains. Too cold, cries Baby Bear. Just right, says Mama Bear. ‘Pag sinabi ni Mama Bear na tama na ang timpla, ihain na!

To the two Bulakeños in the Senate: Win and Joel, you’re good stewards of this institution’s tradition of hard work on the high road.

As energy committee chair, Win never ran out of light bulb moments which have illuminated our path forward, especially in education and health.

With the people returning him to the Senate, Joel will continue percolating good laws with the same expertise that he brews coffee. You’re da man, Tesdaman, to teach our youth life hacks and employable skills.

To Sonny, the Better Angara. I ask the genie to grant you three miracles: First, that the Celtics be champions. Second, the Sox win the World Series. Third, that you continue to perform the budget equivalent of the miracle of making wine out of water, and bread for the multitude from a single loaf. Of the three, the last one is the easiest.

Kay Senator Lapid, ang Pinuno nating lahat, tanda ko pa ang sabi ni Joker. Aniya, kung gusto mo malaman ang pulso ng masa, kung nais mong alamin ang epekto ng isang batas sa mamamayan, hindi mo kailangan ng survey. Tanungin mo si Lito, huwag si Laylo, kasi mas alam ‘nya ang pulso ng tao.

To Francis, whose city earns billions from Batangas’ expensive and explosive real estate – Taal Volcano – your research on bills are gems of scholarship. Because you have put in long hours in studying them, you cut the Senate’s time spent in debating them.

To Nancy, I am a fan of your one-liners and self-deprecating humor. Your lacerating tweets prick the ego of the rulers, and the conscience of the ruled, while giving us all a laugh. I grieve that VP Jojo, a great Batangueño, will not join you here.

Koko, you are indeed your father’s son. In recent days you have become like him, one who does not seek comfort in numbers, but draws strength from your convictions.

Kay Imee na Manang ng Bayan, I’m gonna bet that you will be an in-house critic who will speak truth to power, a one-person feedback machine, and a powerhouse styling atelier for His Excellency’s clothes and speech. Bongbong has a no better teacher in statecraft and stagecraft than Ate.

I will also miss working with Risa, who merged poise and progressive causes in one charming package. She speaks softly but carries big policy sticks. Siya ang radikal na madaling mahalin.

Manny Pacquiao remains my idol – on the ring, on the floor, and outside of it. Pound for pound, he is the country’s longest philanthropy champion. He does not run away from debates, never backing down from interpellation, in this bruising arena that we call the plenary.

There is another athlete here who remains my favorite sparring partner of all time. So let me say this: You haven’t passed the Senate stress test if you have not survived multiple rounds of debates with Pia on what are essentially intellectual marathons.

Another feisty lady worthy of our respect is Leila de Lima, a prisoner of conscience, punished for her courage, but whose spirit no prison walls could contain. Trolls put her behind bars. The truth shall set her free. Mr. President-elect, free Leila.

To Kiko, what you have sown will bear fruit, and you will be there to witness the people enjoying the rich harvest. As your fellow Harvard alumnus once said: The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

With Ping going fulltime on apo-stolic duties, the public lost a watchman who shines a powerful lantern on the national budget, or how taxes paid in cash are returned to the public in kind. He leaves behind big shoes to fill – shoes he also used to kick the behind of those who betray public trust.

To Senator Grace, thank you for your patience and understanding. Sabi mo, “Itong si Ralph, hindi na maubusan ng amendments.”

Ulitin kong muli ang sinabi ko nung isang araw, kasi it is worth repeating. You once poignantly said, “I firmly believe that adopting one child may not change the world, but it will certainly change the world for that child.”

No, Grace, let me amend your statement, for the last time. Your mom’s courageous and compassionate act 54 summers ago did change our world, because that child continues to make our world better.

Tulad ninyo, nalulungkot ako na hindi nakapasok si Dick, the country’s oldest and first responder.

The most iconic photo of Dick in action, when his trademark courage and compassion were on full display, was during the Pinatubo eruption.

Here was a man running towards the most powerful volcanic eruption in history when people were running away from it. His CV of helping spans from Yoling to Yolanda.

At ungodly hours, you would find him on the estribo of a fire truck. Natutulog yata siya with a fire alarm by his bedside. We have to ask lovely Kate.

The last two senators I would like to honor are the 3rd and 4th senators, after Lorenzo Tanada Sr. and Ed Angara, to have completed four terms in the post-war Senate, a rare feat of almost a quarter-of-a-century of service.

The 3rd would be SP Tito because he joined Senate in 1992. And Frank, who was in Batch ’95.

If the Senate were an orchestra, Tito is the conductor, creating out of many sounds, one great musical piece – by many divas, if I may add.

The truth is, he is better at writing laws than writing songs. Better in putting ideas into policies than words into music.

He might have built an impressive catalogue of songs, but this does not compare to his greatest hits in lawmaking.

He helms the Senate the way he drives his car – hands-on. If you use “self-driven” on him, that word takes a new meaning. He is no member of the chauffeured class.

Tito has an ear for music, and this willingness to listen more than to speak, he had applied in composing laws, too, which is what makes him a great SP.

The next inductee to the Group of 24 – of 24 years in the Senate – is Senator Frank.

Frank closing his eyes in deep thought has inspired a catalog of memes which would have made him a billionaire if he could monetize it.

Not that he had dozed off in the Senate, but this I will state with certainty: A sleeping Drilon will have more activity in his brain than many of us awake.

He can even be pumped full of sedatives but will still retain computing power to outsmart the fully conscious among us.

Like Tito, I admire his stamina and mental acuity. Write no requiem for this political heavyweight. This is just a break for him. The Big Man will be back.

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

In this age when our performances are gauged by shares and likes, the temptation is high to trade what is right over what is popular.

When that beckons, let us remember the heritage which makes this institution a bulwark of democracy and independence.

Through the years, this has been our role:

We don’t countenance abuse; we counter it.

We don’t diminish our sovereignty; we defend it.

We don’t top tax proposals; we temper them.

We believe that those who have less in life must have more in government help.

We don’t choke free trade; we champion it.

We affirm that progress should not always be at the expense of rights.

We believe that in creating wealth, mandates must come with merit.

We believe that investing in our people yields the highest returns.

We believe that in building a kinder and gentler society, we must appeal “to our people’s basic decency and not to their worst fears.”

These are the burdens we carry, a legacy we must sustain.

Sa mga empleyado ng Senado, secretariat, contractual employees, service contractors, maraming salamat sa pag-aruga, sa inyong suporta.

To my Senate staff: I could not have done it without you. I credit the good I have done to your help, while my missteps are mine alone.

Sa aking mga kasamahan, maraming, maraming salamat po.

See you all in the bicam.

Fifteen years ago, I ended my temporary goodbye speech in this chamber with this message to the love of my life: “Honey, I’m home.”

This time, let me end it with my text to her: “Honey, I’m going to your House.”


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