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Panfilo "Ping" Lacson '71
" Oh lead to righteous way,
those solid ranks of gray
Thy Virtues to display, Academy oh hail to thee."
Through all these years, the
long gray line keeps getting longer. Many have fallen out of line, but
more have chosen to stay. For four years, each and every cadet imbibes
the virtue of courage, integrity and loyalty. We find them extremely
difficult to learn at first, but since cadets are all together at it,
in an environment made most conducive to being honorable, it has become
more of a source of pride in us all. And so comes graduation, and the
real cruel world thereafter. The idealist, still very much armed with
the Academy virtues suddenly come face to face with everything that
is the opposite of what was taught in the hallowed grounds of Fort Del
Pilar -- corruption, cowardice, treachery. So, when young graduates
encounter in their fields of assignment, some upperclassmen who have
already succumbed to the temptations of misplaced values, or have turned
blind eye to such commissions, the effects could be very frustrating,
if not disastrous.
Almost thirty-one years ago,
I stepped out of the gates of the Philippine Military Academy as a fresh
graduate. Joining the now defunct Philippine Constabulary, I was barely
in my 20s then. I was young, eager and with a burning idealism to perform
a duty I was prepared for four long and arduous years as a cadet - to
serve and protect our country and people. There was a joke then that
joining that branch of service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
was the fastest to forget the PMA motto, "Courage, Integrity, Loyalty".
Etched in my heart and mind
at that time was the ironclad commitment to protect my name and integrity.
To remain fiercely loyal to the virtues taught at the Philippine Military
Academy, I am absolutely sure, is the same vow that fills the heart
and mind of every cadet who passes the august halls of our alma mater.
That commitment, I am proud to say continues to fill my heart and has
lingered in my my mind - "All Right, Sirs".
For all of us, who share this common bond, nothing is more important
than the Academy virtues while we are in the PMA. Outside the Academy,
in a world burdened by shifting values and politics, it must still and
should always be Courage, Integrity and Loyalty. We must at all times
be ready and able to respond to the "challenge" by any PMA'er.
"All Right, Sir" is the nexus between two cavaliers. It is
wrong to assume, and even think that this "challenge" will
not matter anymore once we leave the Academy. It is also incorrect to
say that only an upperclassman has the prerogative to challenge an underclassman.
In fact, it must be a sacred duty of any PMA'er to "challenge"
another PMA'er. We must forever be proud that we share a common language
known only to us - a language that is not extinguished, a language that
puts to test our integrity and honor. This is the reason why, after
the Senate "Question Hour", I have the highest respect for
another PMA'er, the Secretary of National Defense and former Cadet
Corps Honor Committee Chairman (1965-1966) Angelo T. Reyes. When
I "challenged" Cavalier Reyes and he refused to answer, I
knew that he still values the Honor System. I was sure that integrity
and honor still reign in his heart. I am not saying here that he lied
and violated the oath that he took when he testified in that Senate
Question Hour and therefore he could not respond to another PMA'er's
"challenge". Justifiably so, when a cavalier is not
one hundred per cent sure that everything that he does or says is absolutely
honest and true, it is most honorable to refuse to answer. Secretary
Reyes did something brilliant. He invoked his oath before the Senate.
We had a long telephone conversation that evening after the question
hour where I expressed to him the high respect that I am expressing
now. I also told him, if he would "challenge" me a thousand
times if I had gotten involved in illegal drug activities
in any way except catching drug traffickers and confiscating drugs,
I would answer, "All right, sir" a thousand times. I told
him if he would challenge me right then and there if I stashed dollars
abroad, or had committed money laundering, or had engaged in kidnap
for ransom, I would answer, on my honor, "All right, sir".
In all my places of assignment, in all my thirty years of military and
police service, I adhered to the principle that I imposed upon myself
- "What is right must be kept right. What is wrong must be set
right." Looking back, my uncompromising adherence to that
principle has created for me a lot of enemies, both within our
organization and outside. No regrets. If I would live again another
time, I would live by the same principle.
When I assumed the post of Chief, Philippine National Police in
November 16, 1999, I gathered all my senior officers, many of whom were
upperclassmen in the PMA for a command conference. I told them it was
time that we led the PNP by good example, as it is basic leadership
principle that leaders must set the example for their men to follow.
I told them the PNP leaderships in the past may not have been so strict
but that I expected the officers and men to start projecting a good
image for the PNP, not much in what we say, but more in what we do.
I believed then as I still believe now that to be an efficient organization
serving the public, the PNP must gain the respect and trust of the people.
At that time, it was common knowledge in Camp Crame that some police
officers were using recovered stolen motor vehicles for official and
personal purposes. I lost no time in issuing a directive to have these
vehicles returned as soon as possible. The response was very encouraging.
Within a period of about two weeks, the officers concerned returned
more than six hundred (600) vehicles which were immediately examined
and processed for return to their rightful
owners. I felt like the whole police organization told me afterwards,
"All Right, Sir".
Almost simultaneously, we conducted a no nonsense drive against mulcting
cops. These vultures preying on hapless motorists, public utility vehicles,
merchandise truckers, vegetable dealers and the like must be checked
and stopped. There was an unfortunate incident at the start of the campaign
when one policeman was shot dead by an erring police officer. That incident
prompted the Senate to grant a posthumous award to the policeman concerned
- the first time ever that the Senate made such a gesture of appreciation
for our police organization. Many arrests and dismissals from the police
service followed in a relentless drive against the so-called "kotong
cops". From the positive feedback that we got from the public especially
those directly affected, it was clearly a successful campaign. Again,
I saw an image in my mind of many devoted members of the police organization
proudly saluting the nation and shouting, "All Right, Sir".
I also stopped the bad habit of some senior police officers who used
to play golf during office hours, leaving their subordinate officers
to serve the public in their stead. I wanted them to be at their desks
and in command of their posts. That was a natural and fair thing for
me to ask of my subordinates because I was at my own post all the time
myself. I was truly prepared to be "challenged" anytime by
my subordinates and promptly reply, "All Right, Sir".
I was surprised, even shocked at the quantity of gasoline allocated
to the office of the Chief, PNP which I discovered when I assumed office.
Even if I were assigned a hundred cars, I would not be able to consume
that much gasoline. That led me to conduct a check of the whole budget
allocation between PNP headquarters and field operations. I found out
that the field units were getting less than their just share of the
PNP budget. Immediately, a serious study was conducted to rationalize
budget allocation and this led me to re-allocate resources on a 85%
to 15% sharing scheme in favor of field units. We cannot have an effective
police force without adequate logistical support. Imagine a police officer
asking a crime victim for gasoline money so he could conduct follow-up
operations. Or, think of a police officer not being able to type a police
report because he ran out of paper or typewriter ribbon. Supervision
was at its closest as it was at its best to make sure that the directive
was followed to the letter. The response from the field was very positive
in that their resources tripled or even quadrupled as a result. Again,
when I came face to face with junior officers in their field assignments
who started to feel the positive effects of the newly introduced resource
allocation scheme and with some victims of crimes who were reporting
to me the progress of investigation, even only in my mind, I replied
to my own challenge, "All Right, Sir".
One of our interesting and enjoyable tasks is to encourage policemen
to stay trim and fit. We set a target date for pot-bellied police officers
to attain a 34-inch waistline. It was a successful program. We saw some
policemen go down from a 40-inch waistline to 34 inches in just a few
months. And whenever we met around the oval of the PNP grandstand, be
it on regular exercises or during physical fitness examinations, we
casually greeted each other, "I'm still alright, sir".
I put a stop the moment I assumed as Chief, PNP to the practice of utilizing
PNP funds to pay for the PR services of media practitioners, broadcasters
and reporters in order to project a favorable image of the PNP and selected
officers to the public. I was, and still convinced up to now, even when
I am already in this field where image projection is practically the
source of survival, that the best image-building activity is to do one's
job efficiently, serve the people honestly and spend the taxpayers'
money wisely. Subsequent events will prove that this is still a sound
theory. I still believe that while perception may be important, truth
will almost always outlast perception.
Then came the mother of all my policies - THE NO -TAKE POLICY. I lived
and led by example. I refused bribe offers from illegal gambling operators.
I took time out of my busy schedule to personally talk to suppliers
of the PNP to tell them in their faces that nobody, but nobody was authorized
to accept rebates or commissions from anybody. Commissions and rebates
must be applied to discounts and/or additional supplies to benefit the
PNP as an organization, never its individual members. It is very much
part of PNP records - expenses of the office of the Chief of the Philippine
National Police were at its lowest during my watch. Grateful victims
of kidnapping that we rescued offered significant amounts of money as
a "reward" for doing a good job. I consistently declined those
offers. The words of Thomas Jefferson come closest to how I feel: "
I am sure that in estimating every man's value either in private or
public life, a pure integrity is the quality we take first into calculation,
and that learning and talents are only the second".
I can truly say that I am proud of the accomplishments of the PNP under
my watch. To any PMA graduate who would come up to me and "challenge",
I can proudly respond, "All Right, Sir".
That is why it pains me now that all the idealism that I fought for
in my thirty years of service and all the malpractices that I checked
and declared war against are now being made the issues confronting my
integrity. What makes it even more painful is the thought that some
cavaliers are at the forefront of self-proclaimed crusades against my
person as if I am an evil of society. For most PMA'ers like me, who
value integrity and honor like life itself, being accused of accumulating
money from criminal activities gives excruciating pain.
At the end of each day, we must be ready to look at the mirror
and ask ourselves, "All Right, Sir?" and give a quick reply,
"All Right, Sir." I can never appease my detractors much less
my enemies. But I find peace and strength with my clear conscience and
conviction that I am doing the right things for the people I have sworn
to serve. Emerson expressed this feeling when he said. "Nothing
is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
Those who voted me into the Senate will want me to carry over to my
new office the same ideals that I learned and inherited from the Philippine
Military Academy. I am proud to be an alumnus of the PMA. A PMA graduate
is more than a military man. He is a man with a mission to serve the
people. He has a cherished tradition to uphold. He is a true servant
of the people. He practices the virtues of Courage, Integrity and Loyalty
at all times, even when nobody is looking.
I will need Courage, Integrity and Loyalty in my new role as senator
of the republic.
I will need Courage to face the vicious and malicious accusations against
me. There is a militant segment of our society who demands that I resign
from the Senate although my accusers have not come up with a single
piece of credible evidence. Where do I summon Courage? According to
Mark Twain: Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence
of fear. I have a mandate from ten and a half million Filipino voters.
I intend to carry out my mandate.
Integrity is what I do not intend to lose, even when I am in a field
where too many have forgotten the basic moral values first taught and
learned at home. I have a standing policy among my staff members in
the Senate - nobody, including myself is authorized to demand
or accept commissions from contractors for projects of my countrywide
development funds or any name they wish to call it.
My Loyalty is to God, country and people. God dictates my conscience,
while the Constitution is the repository of the country's aspirations
and the Filipino people's will.
"When bells for us are rung, and our last taps is sung..."
Certainly, it was difficult, but somehow, I managed. For the last thirty
years, I can look at anyone's eye and say, I have kept my virtues the
Philippine Military Academy imbibed in me, even when they deem honorable
people here as species nearing extinction. That when I come face to
face with my Maker, I can proudly salute, and say, "All Right,
Sir"! In the end, it will be my most treasured possession - the
PMA values that our dear alma mater have provided us - more than the
training, education, skills and camaraderie... more than life itself.