Manifestation of Senator Pia S. Cayetano 146th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly
Good morning, everyone. My name is Pia Cayetano. I am a senator from the Philippines.
I fully support the initiative to discuss ways on how we can have women representation in the United Nations General Assembly. Women are decision-makers. But we need more of them in decision-making bodies.
I’d like to speak a little bit about the dual role of women in society. One in the home, and one in the workplace. Even when we look at some developed countries, who may be considered to be at the frontline of empowering women and addressing obstacles that women are confronted with, many of them still struggle to provide the kind of support that will allow women to embrace their full potential.
Many women who have children are forced to leave their jobs, in order to provide full care for their children. Or they decide to embrace their work, which is of course a choice they can make, but forgo their opportunity to have a family.
In the Philippines, many women take jobs in other countries, raising other people’s children. This is a sacrifice they make in their desire to address their families’ economic needs. But these children will grow up barely seeing their mothers.
This illustrates the need for us to continue examining our policies and programs, because we can do better to ensure that children can grow up with their mothers, and their mothers could still pursue careers.
We should push that more women are at the forefront creating these opportunities because these are the women who have experienced these kinds of situations. As we speak, I would assume that many other women like me have not seen their children for a few days because we are here. So, what are the situations that we can create to allow us to have and perform our best as mothers, as daughters, as caregivers to the families we love, and still pursue our career?
Highlights of media interview
Skateboarding clinic with Margielyn Didal in Barangay Ususan, Taguig City
Question: Why is it important na may mga ganitong programs for Women’s Month?
Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): First of all, I am so happy that our superstar, Margie Didal, an icon in Philippine sports and women empowerment is with us today in Taguig. Welcome, Margie. To our Bisaya friends, nalipayon ko dili man si Margie kauban namo sa Taguig. There’s a lot of Bisaya here also.
But Margie goes beyond being a Cebuana, Bisaya, and Filipina – she’s a world icon. And we are so happy she’s here. I know her quite well. And aside from coming from humble beginnings, self-taught siya, against the wishes of her own family, na sa una hindi pa nagbigay sa kanya ng support. She decided that this is what she wants and she is now a world-class skateboarder.
So she’s here in Taguig to encourage the young girls and even the young boys, everyone. So I always say, when I see a female athlete like Margie doing what she does, which is world-class, it sends a message to the whole world, to little girls, and to little boys, that girls are just as good as boys, and sometimes better. And that’s very important, especially in the Filipino culture na we give respect to the women in our lives, di ba? Ang lola, ang nanay. May respect naman tayo sa kanila.
But there are certain areas where medyo taboo for girls. When I was growing up, hindi common na mag-bike ang girls. So just being on a bike, I had classmates na pinagsabihan ng parents nila na huwag mag-bike kasi daw mawawala daw ang virginity kapag nag-bike. And then pati horseback riding, bawal daw yan.
So it is still possible that there are adults who believe that sports is not for girls. I mean, let’s talk about Hidilyn Diaz, let’s talk about Margielyn Didal. And so she’s here in Taguig to remind everyone and to show the girls that we invited na girls can do it too, and can do it better sometimes.
And I am happy that Taguig City, of course, with our Mayor, my sister-in-law, Lani Cayetano, is always open to making sports a part of lives, and especially including women in every decision-making that they make as a city, and kami rin, as we make laws for our country, kasama dapat palagi ang babae dyan.
So Happy Women’s Month to everyone and thank you, Margie, for coming to Taguig and celebrating your passion with us.
Q: Margie, ano ang maituturo mo sa mga bata dito?
Margielyn Didal: Good day sa lahat and thanks for coming. And again, Sen. Pia, thanks for having us. And even not today or even since pandemic or when we started skateboarding, andyan ka to support and I am here to also support you pushing for women empowerment.
Gusto ko din i-share kung ano ang skateboarding and gaano kasaya. Even though it’s a bit risky, we work with Taguig officials and with Sen. Pia na I want to push for a skate clinic…especially celebrating women’s month in a safe way. And especially for us skaters, being in the streets, to show people we need a safe place. Isa din kasi yan sa mga kailangan natin, hindi lang safety gears, importante din kasi na safe place and mga taong magga-guide sa atin, especially for beginners. Kasi nung nag-start po ako, may mga skaters na nagtuturo pero kailangan ko rin matuto in my own self, and may times na nagagalit ang mga mas nakakatanda sa akin, mas marunong sa akin kasi ang kulit ko. Paano yan, kapag nakikita kong mag-tricks sila, paano yan, paano yan, nangungulit na paano ang mga tricks. Being that kid, gusto ko i-share sa kanila. But not na pinipilit, but kung willing din sila matuto, andito rin naman tayo na tumutulong mag-teach sa kanila.
SPSC: Pwede ako mag-add? Ang ganda ng sinabi ni Margie na nung nag-aaral pa lang siya, wala pa talaga ang professional na nagtuturo, so she has to ask questions from the others na mas experienced, dahil gusto niya matuto. So now, ayaw mo na mahirapan ang mga bagong nae-engganyo mag-skateboarding because here you are, a professional, you want to be able to teach them. Hindi naman sa shortcut, pero matuto sila in the right way, in the safe way, and in that sense, bumibilis din ang kanilang ability to learn. Kasi nga, na-breakdown mo na step by step. So that’s what we are excited about, that we can grow our grassroots sports using the best coaches, the best trainers, and of course, our superstar, Margie Didal. #
Two Filipina lawmakers were elected to key standing committees of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on Saturday, March 11, marking a significant milestone for the 19th Congress and Filipino women, as the feat coincided with the celebration of Women’s Month.
Senator Pia S. Cayetano was elected by fellow Members of Parliament to occupy a seat in the IPU’s Standing Committee on UN Affairs representing the Asia-Pacific Group (APG).
Meanwhile, Pangasinan Representative (third district) Maria Rachel Arenas was voted to the IPU’s Standing Committee on Sustainable Development.
“It’s an honor to be elected Bureau Member of the IPU’s Standing Committee on United Nations Affairs, representing the Asia-Pacific Group (APG),” said Cayetano, who also heads the Philippine Senate delegation to the 146th IPU Assembly in Manama, Bahrain.
Cayetano was voted to the 18-member panel alongside Japan’s Hitoshi Aoyagi. “I thank our Senate President, Juan Miguel Zubiri, who wrote to the chairs of ASEAN+3 and APG to drum up support for my candidacy,” she stressed.
“It was actually a twin victory for the Philippines, as Pangasinan Rep. Rachel Arenas was voted to the IPU’s Standing Committee on Sustainable Development.”
“The unprecedented election of two Filipinas to key IPU committees signals a vote of confidence in the leadership skills, not just of Filipinos, but of women as well, as the feat coincided with our celebration of Women’s Month,” noted Cayetano.
“I look forward to articulating the agenda and concerns of the Philippines and Asia-Pacific nations before the UN,” she concluded.
Formed in 2007, the IPU’s Committee on United Nations Affairs seeks to connect parliaments with UN activities and goals.
The panel is considered a ‘unique platform’ that allows Members of Parliament (MPs) to engage with senior UN officials and bridge the ‘democracy gap’ by communicating citizens’ voices in the UN’s global decision-making process.
The Committee consists of an 18-member bureau that monitors and reports on the involvement of parliaments in UN activities in areas concerning sustainable development, peacebuilding, UN budgets and reform, and human rights.
Actively engaged in inter-parliamentary work, Cayetano previously served as President of the IPU’s Committee of Women Parliamentarians from 2008 to 2010 – the first Filipino and Asian to be elected to the position.
She currently chairs the Asia and Pacific Regional Chapter of UNITE Parliamentarians Network for Global Health.
Speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano Head of Delegation to the 146th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly and Related Meetings held in Manama, Bahrain
Mr. President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
On behalf of the Philippine Delegation, I would like to extend my warmest greetings on the successful convening of the 146th IPU Assembly. My first IPU was the 112th in 2005.
In this increasingly interconnected world, even the pace and shape of our progress is influenced by different stakeholders. For this, we recognize such interdependence requires us to craft legislation that ensures no one is left behind, especially those belonging to the vulnerable sectors.
In the Philippines, our Parliamentary body endeavors to promote inclusivity through these measures:
On sustainable development and futures thinking: in 2019, I advocated for the creation of the first-ever Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation and Futures Thinking in the Philippine Senate. As a party to the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Philippines is committed to integrate the 17 SDGs into our national development plans and policies.
The purpose of this Committee is to track the progress of the Philippines in terms of achieving the various SDGs. It also looks at legislation with the intent of preparing for various futures, and promoting a shift to Futures Thinking as a major policy reform.
One of the major outputs of the Committee was the Committee Report on the Futures of Education in the Philippines, where it examines the current situation, problems, and aspirations, and gathers the recommendations of experts and other stakeholders in order to secure the best possible future for education in the country.
We also allocated funding for Futures Offices in the Department of Education; Department of Health; and Department of Science and Technology in our national budget. And then we provided funding for research on the futures of food systems and food security, in public universities. Similarly, we funded for the futures of food production.
On education and alternative learning: recognizing the importance of education to bring the country towards its most desirable future, the Philippine Parliament created the Second Congressional Commission on Education in 2022, and this representation co-chairs the Subcommittee on Early Childhood Education and Development and Basic Education. The Commission undertakes to make transformative, concrete, and targeted reforms in the education sector, which includes addressing social inequalities and ensuring inclusivity in education.
We also have our Alternative Learning System Act to lessen out-of-school youth and provide them with [free] basic education.
This is in line with our Inclusive Education Act that ensures all schools shall have equitable access to every learner with a disability, such that no learner shall be denied admission based on disability.
On health: the Universal Health Care Act guarantees all Filipinos equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare goods and services. Over the years, we have made access to health care much more affordable. But there is still a lot of work to be done.
Our Sin Tax Reform Laws of 2012 and 2020 ensure funds for Universal Healthcare by taxing harmful products, including alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and vapes.
Our Cheaper Medicines Act provides for a market-based capping approach to the prices of drugs and medicines, allowing the Secretary of Health to set what we now call the Maximum Drug Retail Price Act.
On women: we have our Magna Carta of Women that requires the allocation of at least five percent of the total budget of every agency for Gender and Development (GAD) programs.
We also have the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law, extending what was previously 60 days maternity leave for our public and private sectors. We also have the Solo Parent Welfare Act.
On children: “A loving and caring family for every abandoned, neglected, and orphaned child could soon become a reality.” This is a statement I made last year, when we passed the Domestic Administrative Adoption and Alternative Child Care Act, which simplifies the country’s domestic adoption system by making it administrative in nature, and streamlining the processes.
We have many other laws protecting children even in times of disasters. We have laws on ageism, promoting inclusive workplaces to address these specific sectors.
Dear colleagues, before I end, I would like to add that I have personally benefited from these assemblies. Like I said, I joined my first IPU in 2005; it was the 112th IPU held in Manila. Being among and learning from fellow Parliamentarians, mostly women, gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge and the confidence to discuss these topics and to debate them in my own parliament.
I am a firm believer that women must hold positions in decision-making bodies to truly give voice to women and to achieve genuine gender partnership.
Congratulations to everyone. May we continue to work together to reduce inequalities in [our countries]. Thank you. #
Speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano at the 146th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Forum of Women Parliamentarians held in Manama, Bahrain
Leadership can make or break a nation. And for leaders in parliament like us, there is much we can do to address the gender gap.
We know this, but it is worth repeating: the number one thing we need to do is include women in all decision-making levels.
I am an elected senator in the Philippines and that means I am elected nationwide. So [when] I go around the country and meet local government people, I always emphasize the importance of women’s voices. Decisions made without their perspective is never good enough.
On the budget, in the Philippines, our Magna Carta of Women Law requires five percent of the total budget of government agencies are set aside for GAD [Gender and Development] programs and activities.
This is a good thing, but this session serves as a reminder for us to review how these budgets are used, and how can we use these funds during times of crisis.
Also in the Philippines, we have a Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. It was my initiative to establish this Committee. We are one of a few parliaments in the world that reviews policies and laws with a futures thinking lens. To this end, I have been able to include futures thinking research [in the] budget for public universities. They are tasked to conduct research precisely on topics that affect women like food security, access to clean water, climate change, and more. The importance of studying these issues from a gender perspective cannot be overlooked.
Also, both at the Committee level and on the floor, my team seeks to look at all legislation from both a gender perspective and sustainability.
Meanwhile, I will continue to listen intently to the debates. I will take home a wealth of information from the wonderful women who have participated here today and to our resource persons.
Speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano before the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP)
Seda Hotel, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to our lovely city of Taguig. I am so happy to welcome you here on behalf of our Mayor, your friend, Lani Cayetano, on behalf of my brother, Alan, and the rest of the people of Taguig. And I am so excited to speak to you kasi ang topic niyo is Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It’s Women’s Month, so syempre kasama din ang usapang kababaihan, empowerment. So I know for many years, nandoon naman ang concept ng inclusivity, right? And that would include women, persons with disabilities, and so on and so forth. Alam na natin yun. But I’d like to emphasize, especially because it’s Women’s Month, that inclusivity does not mean na may one representative, because malulunod pa rin ang boses ng isa sa boses ng marami. Syempre, maganda ang may boses, right? Maganda yan. Pero like me, napaos na ako, literally paos ako ngayon. Because kung nag-iisa din ang boses mo, mahirap din.
So if you truly want inclusivity, we’re also talking about numbers, we are also talking about, in the lingo of the millennials, or the X-gen, Y-gen, hindi ko na masundan, ano yung vibe? Ano ba yung vibe kapag nagmi-meeting, di ba? Is it truly inclusive? So that’s one thing I’d like to point out to all of you. It should not just be a statement. It should be a lifestyle. Kapag sinabing inclusive, totoo talaga yun, napapakinggan talaga ang boses ng kababaihan.
I’ll give you an example. Quite a few years ago, when I was new in the Senate, and I started in 2004, 38 years old, I was one of four senators. Kasama ko si Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Kapag nagsalita si Tita Miriam, nakikinig naman lahat, correct? Not only was she a senator who already commanded the respect of people, pero yung ability n’ya magsalita. And she will not hesitate to call you a ‘one-celled amoeba.’
So she gains people’s attention and respect, no doubt about that. But I was a 38-year-old new senator and when I stood up to talk about breastfeeding, tumatawa ang ibang colleagues ko na lalaki. For them, it’s a sexual connotation of a woman’s breasts, and breastfeeding. And I was so embarrassed kasi that is natural eh, and advocate ako ng breastfeeding. Tapos tumatawa sila, ganyan, ‘uy pare, breastfeeding daw, gusto mong breasts, no?’ Gumaganon sila. And that is not appropriate especially in the Senate hall, di ba?
Now, the good news is, over the generations, it’s been almost 20 years since I became a senator, enlightened ang mga kasama ko ngayon. Hindi nila gagawin yun. Kung gawin man nila yun, bahala sila kung saan nila gagawin yun, but not in my presence, not in the Senate floor. Kasi it’s not funny, it’s really not funny. Of course, I cannot control what they do outside. But I make it known na let’s talk about this in a serious manner. The ability of a woman to continue her role as a mother, which includes breastfeeding, in the workplace. Huwag niyo naman pagtawanan, kasi nadi-distract ako sa speech ko, nadi-distract din ang mga nakikinig sa akin kasi ginagawa niyong joke. So hindi na nangyayari yun. So we’ve come a long way, di ba?
And I know, ladies, sometimes in the interest of makisama, pati tayo makikitawa. But it doesn’t help our cause. I am not saying na para tayong madre, or para naman tayong close-minded, but there is a time for laughter and there is a time to be serious. And when we talk about gender issues, that should be a serious matter.
So like I said, I am happy, I am just recounting yung mga naging experience ko in the past, na mahirap man pag-usapan ito, dahil nga hindi masyadong naiintindihan. And again, I am also happy that the younger generation of men are more hands-on fathers. Like our Mayor Mike Rama (of Cebu City), may dala pang anak dito. Nakakatuwa talaga. So that helps us.
And I remember telling young women I meet, whether councilor sila, mayor sila, I tell them, never hesitate, never be ashamed that you are a mother. If you have to say, ‘sandali lang kasi ang anak ko may appointment sa doktor, may anak akong may sakit,’ hindi naman dapat tinatago yun, eh. Talagang nangyayari yun. Kung nanay ka, wala namang ibang gagawa nun. And what we want is that the men step up para pwedeng sabihin ni Mayora, ay okay na ako kasi ang asawa ko ang magdadala ng anak ko sa doktor, di ba? Yan ang gusto natin marinig. Ay yung anak ko nagkaproblema sa school pero okay lang kasi hands-on naman ang tatay niya. Siya naman ang pupunta. That’s what we want to hear. Yan ang totoong gender partnership.
So shift na ako ngayon ng topic ko. I used the women’s issue because that is an SDG in itself, gender equality [SDG 5]. I use that now as an example because it’s Women’s Month. It’s my job to talk about it. But what I want to emphasize to all of you is you cannot take these individual SDGs separately. It needs to be discussed holistically.
And thus, my recommendation for every city is that you also have a committee on SDGs. Like in the Senate, it’s one of the first in the world to have a Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. Nung nag-attend ako ng conference sa Finland, pero online lang ako nag-attend, sinabi nga na, i-differentiate natin. Kasi nga yung ibang nag-attend doon, ang kanilang committee is actually environment. But sustainability goes beyond environment. Pero ang thinking kasi because in the past, kapag sinabing alagaan natin ang environment natin, yun ang sustainability.
But true sustainability encompasses everything. On gender, on education, on health. Lahat ng policies natin, sustainable dapat. So my recommendation, that you have a sustainability or an SDG committee, is because you’d want a separate group that will look at all the programs in the city with the lens of sustainability. And idadagdag ko na rin doon, futures thinking, with the lens towards the future.
So, example, kunyari, street widening. Kasi yung bill ko, advocate ako for active mobility. What that means is we use our own body to get from one place to another. Lakad, bisikleta, pwede rin padyak scooter, but we use our own body. That is active mobility. It solves a couple of things at the same time, better health kasi naglalakad… less pollution dahil imbes na may diesel lumalabas naglalakad ka, ang lalabas lang dyan pawis, and that is healthy, that is normal. But it requires planning. Hindi ka naman basta-basta pwede, and I think Mayor Rama, nagka-problem kayo? It might have been, before pa baka Vice pa lang kayo noon. Naalala mo nagkaroon ng movement din in Cebu, and medyo umalma din talaga if it’s not well planned, magkakagulo din talaga. It’s like the strike that we’re having now with the jeepneys, di ba? It’s a great idea for me to modernize. But you cannot do that overnight. You cannot do that and leave people behind. You cannot do that, and you, city mayors and officials know that more than the national government. Alam niyo yan, eh. Dahil kayo ang kumakausap sa lahat ng constituents niyo. Alam niyo yan.
It does not mean na huwag na tayo mag-modernize. No. That’s a defeatist attitude. You do not say no. You will continue but you will not leave anyone behind. So kung magmo-modernize, help them modernize, educate them, provide them with sufficient funding. Yung nangyari naman dito sa jeepney, I don’t know how affected kayo in the provinces are, P2 million ang vehicle na gustong ipabili sa kanila, ang subsidy P160,000. Kawawa naman. Saan naman nila dudukutin ang P1.8 million na kulang doon? Saan nila dudukutin yun. Kahit naman may kayang tao, mag-aabala din kung paano dudukutin yun. Buti kung may credit line ka sa bangko, di ba? So that is not a sustainable solution. Right?
Now if you say, gumamit naman sila ng futures thinking, kasi gusto mag-modernize. Hindi futures thinking yun, because if you leave behind a certain population, that’s not futures thinking. That’s not responsible.
So futures thinking requires that you predict all the possible outcomes. How difficult would it be to predict na magsa-strike yan kapag yan ang ginawa n’yo? So if you have a separate committee on sustainable development and futures thinking, it’s their job to report, let’s say nagsalita ang gender committee, ang infra committee, yung health committee, it’s their job now to say, angganda niyan, in a perfect society, angganda ma-achieve niyan. But in our society, ito ang mga possible outcomes, ito aangal, ito budget constraints, ito ang impact sa ibang sector in our society, and so on and so forth.
That’s why I love futures thinking. My team is continually learning more to always think that way, to look at every policy I will make with the lens of futures thinking and sustainability. It’s like when we react, kung reactive tayo sa mga emergency and natural calamities, right? Natuto na tayo by now di ba? Sana hindi tayo reactive. Sana nag-prepare tayo. So that ang response natin eh hindi lang on the day that the calamity hits. Nangyari dapat ang response natin before pa. Inaabangan na natin. Nagulat pa ba tayo na we are in a typhoon-stricken area? Wala eh, doon tayo, eh. Dito tayo pinanganak sa bansang ito. This is what it is. So kung hindi natin i-evacuate, slowly and responsibly ang mga nakatira sa danger zones, it’s just a matter of time na tatamaan sila. So that is what I mean by always looking at issues with the eyes of the futures thinking lens.
And now, a few quick examples I want to give you sa sustainability other than gender, health. So binanggit ko na ang mobility. By using active mobility, agad-agad you will be able to have healthier people because walking is already considered as one of the best forms of exercise. A lot of people come to me and say, ‘Senator, paano ka nagra-run, paano mo nagagawa yun, nagra-run ka ng 21km, 42km, paano?’ So I can explain. The next question is, ‘paano ko gagawin?’ Sabi ko first of all, interesado ka ba, kasi if running is not your passion and you tried it and it doesn’t work for you, then by all means, walk. You don’t have to be a runner to be fit. Walking is very good. As you get older, better pa nga si walking kasi less harmful on the joints and kapag nadapa ka, mas maliit ang chances na madapa ka, naglalakad ka. So wala naman pressure yun. The point is, keep moving. Be active. So yung mga zumba-zumba na yan, okay yan. Lahat yan very good yan.
But when I speak of health, and I know you have a speaker later on, he is a medical doctor from Singapore and his advocacy is a tobacco-free future. I’ve worked with him, we’ve invited him to Taguig City, and that is also a strong advocacy of mine. Because the latest tobacco product is the vapes and e-cigarettes. And you need to know that most of the e-cigarettes and vapes are being sold by tobacco companies also. So meron silang tagline na smoke-free generation, something like that, smoke-free world. Kasi gusto nilang palabasin na mas healthy ang vapes and e-cigarettes. Let me tell you this: there is no conclusive evidence that it is safer. None. none. I would be the first to advocate a safer product, okay, if I have the evidence coming from the scientific community, that it is in fact safer. Wala pa… Kapag nakakarinig kayo ng research, tingnan n’y kung scientific community yun, dapat yun peer-validated. Hindi lang isang doktor na binabayaran ng tobacco company. Hindi peer-validated yun. Bias n’ya yun. But if you look at peer-validated studies, there is in fact evidence that [vaping] might be more harmful than cigarette smoking. So hinay-hinay lang. Preno-preno lang before we endorse or advocate or are less strict with these new products. Kung strict tayo sa tobacco, strict din tayo dito sa bagong products, because we do not know if it is in fact healthier.
Remember, historically…you just Google tobacco ads of the 1950s and 60s, aba doktor pa ang nag-eendorse [ng sigarilyo]. In the 1950s and 1960s, I think up to the 1970s pa. In fact sabi pa doon, ‘Camel is the most smoked cigarette brand of doctors.’ Tingnan n’yo naman yan. Who in the world now will allow that kind of advertising? Wala di ba, sa cigarettes. But they are slowly trying to do the same for those vapes and e-cigarettes. Same lang. Same playlist, na ni-ressurect after 50 plus years. So be careful because there was a time, pre-pandemic, na umikot na yan pumupunta sa mga cities, asking the cities to pass an ordinance on this smoke-free tagline. Nung binasa ko naman ang ordinance, ang ibig sabihin pala nila is hindi tobacco, pero yes to vapes. Huwag kayong papayag doon. Si JUULS nga, the brand JUULS, na-ban yan sa States kaya lang nilalaban nila sa Supreme Court. Na-ban kasi ang tina-target nila is bata. Payag ba kayo noon? A generation of addicted young people? So kung ano ang ginagastos ng gobyerno, lahat kayo naranasan n’yong pinipilahan ng constituents niyo, araw-araw, linggo-linggo, because nangangailangan ng tulong. Wala naman, it’s our job to help, pero kung tayo ay complicit kung bakit sila nagkasakit, kasalanan n’yo na yan, bakit kayo pumayag? Hindi n’yo nirendahan, hindi n’yo tinigilan ang mga bad habits. So stop it while we still can. Be true advocates for good health. Anyway, I’ll end that topic now. You can call my office anytime for more materials. We’re very welcome to help.
The last example I want to give you, is adoption and foster care. That’s another issue very close to my heart. So, DSWD is now spending billions and billions of pesos for assistance, right? It’s basically financial assistance for those who have less in life, para makaangat sila. I have no problem there. My problem is the resources of DSWD is all in that area, yung maibigay ang mga ayuda. Kapag nagkaroon ng calamity, mabigay ang ayuda. Again, no problem per se. But, on a day-to-day basis, we have neglected children, neglected and abused in their own homes. Their community, if it’s a small community, does not have the means or is not trained on how to take care of these children who are neglected in their own homes. Why are they neglected? Usually, it’s poverty. The parents could still both be there pero hirap na hirap ang buhay. Or they only have one parent, single mom or single dad. Wala talaga ang isang parent sa buhay nila. Or, yung isang parent nasa buhay nila or nasa abroad, or nasa city, nagtatrabaho. The point is, isa lang ang magulang. And the worse case is, wala talagang magulang. Iniwan lang sa kapitbahay, maraming ganyan. And they could be neglected, maybe they have a loving kapitbahay taking care of them, but in some cases, they don’t.
DSWD was not doing enough about that, and I hope, with our new Secretary, we can ensure that these children get the attention that they deserve. Kasi kapag inalagaan mo yan, yan ang future productive citizen of the Philippines, future contributor sa taxes at sa economic growth ng inyong mga city, correct? Would you rather they be that or the future criminals of your city? No brainer, you want them to be the productive member of society in your community, correct? So alagaan natin habang bata pa lang. It’s not enough na libreng education. Paano kung hindi siya pumapasok? Paano pag-uwi niya binubugbog siya? Paano pag-uwi niya, wala man lang magsasabing, ‘good job, son, good job, daughter.’ Wala. Most of us are blessed, and I am extremely blessed with wonderful parents. For those of you who knew my father or at least heard of him, sobrang istrikto yun pero also sobrang loving. But not everyone has the blessing of that kind of father. And the mother I had was a preschool teacher. So sobrang nurturing na, anggaling pa magbigay ng at-home learning activities. So itong mga batang ito, and pwede ngang hindi rin neglectful ang parents, pero wala naman alam na ang early childhood education is the most important. Ididiin ko yan sa inyo, ha? Early childhood is the most important. I-convert na natin itong mga daycare natin as genuine preschool of DepEd, okay? I am part of the EDCOM and we are looking into all of this now. Because ang gusto natin nagma-man ng ating daycare are qualified educators. Because that is the window of opportunity to make these children explorers of the world. Interested silang matuto ang concept ng division, multiplication. Hindi sila takot matuto. They are willing to take chances. Kids who have been exposed to challenges but with guidance become very willing to learn. Hindi yung takot matuto kasi sasampalin, papagalitan, that’s not the way you nurture a child.
So I can go on and on about these interventions. But I’ll leave it at that. My hope is you become thirsty to keep finding out what are the best solutions for our children and for our cities. And I will end by saying my office is always welcome. Alam n’yo naman passionate ako sa sports, so kung makakapagdala din ako ng programs sa mga cities niyo, I would love to do that. I will bring qualified coaches so they can teach your PE teachers, not just the skill in different sports, but also how to nurture these young people, these kids who, as I said, can be future leaders, in the business community, in the government. But at the very least, they will be responsible citizens of your cities and of our country.
So that’s our goal and thank you so much for having me, I hope to stay in touch with all of you. God bless. #
Mr. President, I rise to co-sponsor Senate Resolution No. 468, which considers Senate Resolution No. 523 that I filed along with Senate President Zubiri, Majority Floor Leader Joel Villanueva, and Sen. Chiz Escudero, expressing the profound sympathy and sincere condolences of the Senate of the Philippines on Roberto “Bobby” Velayo Ongpin, the former Minister of Commerce and Industry’s passing.
I’d like to acknowledge the presence of RVO’s family who are with us in the Senate today: Michelle Ongpin-Callaghan, along with her husband, Frank; Luis Ongpin, his brother; and Maribel Ongpin, his sister-in-law.
Today, I join the nation as we mourn the passing of a man with many talents – a business icon, management expert, public servant, entrepreneur, and an overall visionary who left his mark in finance, business, and the Philippine economy.
On the 5th of February 2023, Sunday, Bobby Ongpin, also known as RVO, passed away peacefully in his sleep while on Balesin Island, at the age of 86.
As a certified public accountant, RVO worked at Sycip, Gorres, Velayo, and Company (SGV) in 1964, where he became the firm’s youngest managing partner and substantially contributed in making it Asia’s largest accounting firm in the 1970s. During his years working in the firm, more than 80% of the Philippines’ largest corporations had SGV as their auditor.
From 1979 to 1986, at the age of 42, RVO became the country’s youngest Minister of Commerce and Industry during the term of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., where he made invaluable contributions that led to the country’s flourishing development.
I must add, dear colleagues, that he had asked my father to be his Deputy Minister, and that’s how I first met RVO when I believe I was in college. So that was my first encounter with RVO.
After his years as a public servant, RVO embarked on building his business empire which is highlighted by: bringing the Shangri-la Group of hotels and malls into the Philippines; founding Tagaytay Highlands, Alphaland Baguio Mountain Lodges, Alphaland Makati’s The City Club, and PhilWeb Corporation, among others.
Let me take time to talk about Tagaytay Highlands. One day, I visited Tagaytay Highlands with my father, with my family. Actually, as I said, my father had worked with RVO so they were friends. And we visited Tagaytay Highlands, and my brother, Lino, was marveling…we were all marveling at the beauty of Tagaytay Highlands, and my brother, Lino, said to me, ‘this is the kind of job you want.’ You want to be a lawyer in this kind of place. And I said to him, ‘I am the lawyer of this place, I had just been hired by RVO.’ I was about to start in a week or two.
RVO and my dad had a meeting a few weeks before that, and RVO told my dad, Rene, ‘I need a lawyer.’ And dad said, ‘I have the best lawyer for you.’ And that, my dear colleagues, was me. It has yet to be seen if RVO agreed that I was the best lawyer for him. It was a dream job because of the amazing projects that were already ongoing, some of which I got to work on. But it wasn’t an easy job. RVO was a tough and demanding boss. You could hear his booming voice across the hall with your door closed.
RVO is renowned for expressing his disappointment and his loud booming voice. Sa Tagalog, sisigawan ka talaga. I am proud to say never niya ako nasigawan. But I can say that I did disappoint him one time when I failed to get a government approval that he was looking for. I explained to him that there is just no way that we can get it. And he was mad, he was mad at me on the phone. That then prompted me to write him a letter wherein I offered to resign. I said, if I am not able to do the work, I will resign. Then I get a call in my room, and it’s RVO telling me, ‘Pia, you know I love you, don’t send me those kinds of letters.’ So as was mentioned repeatedly during the tribute to him last week, he was a tough boss, but inside, he was a softie.
In the mid 1990s, owning a cellphone was still a luxury. Using e-mails was not even a norm, especially if there is an attachment. Because it became too heavy and you will sit there for an hour sending that attachment. So the mode was fax. When RVO left for Europe, I just assumed my deadlines were extended. Lo and behold, shortly after noontime, his personal assistant, Jojo Manalo, would start sending me notes RVO dictated to her. She would also send me documents with his scribbled handwriting. And I said to her, ‘di ba wala siya?’ And Jojo says, ‘wala but he’s already awake in Europe and he is sending you all these corrections on the document that he already worked on.’
Thus, my training in always being ready was solidified under him. There is no such thing as a time difference, there is no such thing as a different time zone, work is work if you’re with RVO. I also learned from him never to say no. That phone call that I mentioned was really just one of the many discussions we had, wherein I learned from him to keep on trying, to never leave any stone unturned, to keep on exploring how you can get the job done.
So to my dear staff, some of whom are here, if you think I am harsh sometimes, take time to talk to the family of RVO, because aside from my father, he was another man in my life who really taught me that there is no such thing as saying no. You have to always try and never give up. Thus, ends my short sharing on my experiences with RVO.
In 1993, RVO established the Jaime V. Ongpin Scholarship Fund, a scholarship endowment in memory of his late brother, which has grown to fund 200 scholarships in 7 Ateneo high schools nationwide and Xavier School Nuvali. To date, 2,207 students have graduated from high school due to this scholarship fund, which enabled them to pursue further studies and establish careers in nursing, engineering, banking, accounting, and international organizations.
The nation mourns the loss of RVO, whose enormous contributions to government service, business, and industry have left indelible marks on the country’s economic landscape.
The last thing I want to say is this. I never really knew RVO as a sporty man, correct? Not really a sporty man. I can’t even say he ate healthy, although I do know for a fact that he would always have a sandwich for lunch, and not a healthy sandwich, like a bacon sandwich, something like that. But interestingly, he always built amazing sports facilities in all his establishments. So in Tagaytay Highlands, I had the benefit of working with him there and being able to take time off in between our meetings to work out in the amazing, top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art sports facilities. And although I have not been to the Alphaland facility, just when I was there for the tribute and I saw the listing of the facilities – squash court, badminton court, and so on and so forth – I was like, oh so typical RVO, always state-of-the-art, always the best, and though he was not a sportsman, always fitness and health facilities.
On that note, I join my colleagues in expressing our deepest sympathies to the family. Thank you, Mr. President. #
Thank you, Mr. President. Before I proceed, I’d like the people watching us to know that the Majority Floor Leader and the Senate President are very humble. The Majority Floor Leader is, well in the circle of basketball, a very well accomplished member of UST and the Philippine National Youth Team. And our Senate President is a world-champion in Arnis. And on that note, they are very supportive of women in sports and women in politics.
Mr. President, dear colleagues, I rise to co-sponsor Senate Resolution No. 471, which considers Senate Resolution No. 522 that I filed, congratulating and commeding Filipino International Marathon Runner, Julie Uychiat, who just finished the 2023 World Marathon Challenge. I will not repeat everything that the Majority Floor Leader has already said. But I will give you the inside story that I have gathered while chatting with Julie. I think she won’t mind.
So to emphasize, as the Majority Floor Leader has already pointed out, the World Marathon Challenge is seven marathons in seven days, okay? To be clear, if you read most marathon books, they would recommend that you only do one marathon a year. And then, if you wanna push it and you’re experienced, okay, maybe you can do two, but space it out really well, have a good break, maybe six months apart, and so on and so forth.
Not in any way to compare myself with the feat that our World Marathon Champion here has done. But I need you to put this into context, okay? So, as you all know, the Senate President is sending me to another IPU conference in Bahrain. And every October, that conference is held in Geneva. So what I would do in my earlier years in the Senate is I would look for a marathon in Europe because I was already there. And because of that, I ended up doing the Amsterdam marathon. I’ve done about ten marathons. Anyway, I’ve done Rome, Sweden, I am trying to recall the other ones.
But the point of my story is, in two weeks, I went to New York, two weeks in a row, and after the marathon in Europe, I did the New York marathon. And that was a two-week break. And at the time, my doctor was not happy at all. My sports medicine doctor was like: ‘Why do you do this? It’s not correct that you do this.’ Guys, I had two weeks of rest. Julie had barely 24 hours of rest every day for the next seven days. That’s the point I’m trying to emphasize.
It was already shocking for my sports medicine doctor to comprehend that I would do another marathon in two weeks. And yet here’s Julie, who did one every day. And my question to her was, is there a special recovery tip? And I know the Senate President is listening intently, because a lot of us are athletes here. And you know what she said? It’s really training for what you are about to do. So it’s training that way. There is no secret.
We are also told, though, and I am a believer of good recovery, so you have to learn how to really take care of your body, take care of your body, that’s very important.
So, to go back to some stories and to show the kind of fortitude this person has, she told me, and I’ll share it, Julie, that during one of the races, Madrid in particular, she fell and got a bad wound. But imagine that she had to run in less than 24 hours again. So instead of having it stitched, which was the recommendation of the doctor, she said I’d rather sleep and eat than have you keep me up and stitched up. So those are the sacrifices that she had to make. And in a way, you know your body well. You felt that you needed the rest more than anything else.
But this is something else that I want to share. And this is the story of anyone who has been successful, I think. So my staff gave me this list of the races that she did to complete the World Marathon Challenge, and it is one race per continent. And they listed it by order of her ranking. So first place, second place, third place, fourth place. But she told me the interesting story behind that. The very first race was the one in Antarctica where she finished fourth. If you’re going to set yourself up to run seven marathons, I would imagine, like Julie, her main goal, and I think most of the participants, is to survive. So you are not going to run out there and give it your best because you might not make it to the next six, right? So that’s what she did. She paced herself and finished fourth. And somebody told her, you’re much faster than that, give it your best, go faster. So the second marathon was in Cape Town, where she finished third. The third marathon was in Perth, Australia where she finished second. And then the fourth marathon was in Miami, where she finished first, and the next one was in South America where she finished first, and the next one was in Madrid, where she finished first, and the last one was in Dubai, where she finished first.
So that’s the story of perseverance. I mean, I am a marathoner, and anyone who finishes a 5k, a 10k, has the right to be happy. It is an accomplishment. It’s not about, I did this, you did this. It’s about what you did for yourself. To do seven marathons in seven different continents in seven days, and to finish the last four at number one, is just simply amazing.
And we are truly blessed to have this story that you shared with me, Julie, because it reminds us of what the human spirit is capable of. It’s not just physical, but it’s mental, it’s emotional. It’s what you choose to do. And it’s what you have chosen to do. So, Julie is 49. And she has accomplished all this in her late 40s. We are all told as runners that our peak is around late 30s. But clearly, either Julie would have been probably the fastest person in the world, if she started earlier. But at the rate you are going, you still could be, Julie. You still could be. And I am happy to know that she is continuing to set milestones for herself. She is continuing to set goals.
I’ve taken the opportunity to invite her to a few marathons that are coming up, one of which is in Sydney, which will be organized by no less than a Filipino, the ever famous Run Rio’s Rio dela Cruz. So I was hoping, Julie, that you can grace this race. He is actually also the host now of the Singapore Sundown Marathon, which is going to be held earlier, this one is in May. So the Filipinos, I am sure, will rejoice to see you there, runners, everywhere. As Julie herself has figured out, wala na sigurong bansa na pwede mo puntahan na hindi ka makakahanap ng Pinoy. Pero sa dami na rin ng tumatakbong Pinoy, makakahanap ka rin ng Pinoy na tumatakbo. I actually had the wonderful opportunity of running the Twin Peaks Race in Hong Kong. It’s a race of the two peaks in Hong Kong. and I ran it with ultramarathoners who are also Filipinos. And it’s just amazing to have these experiences with your kababayans.
So I hope that Julie will continue to break expectations, break down barriers. It’s timely that she comes here during Women’s Month because I recently said there was a FIFA World Cup Women’s Trophy Tour, it was here, we celebrated that last week. This is the World Cup Trophy that they bring around the world. And my message was it’s amazing that for the very first time, our Philippine women’s football players are going to the World Cup. Because when we see women out there playing – doing something that is traditionally the field of men, playing sports, playing soccer, during my time, no female played soccer – when little girls and little boys see these Filipinas making it to the World Cup, it’s the same way when they see Julie running all over the world, breaking barriers, finishing number one. That’s when we make it very clear that women have a seat at the table, women are equal in decision-making, in the board rooms, in the homes, in public office, in the corporate offices – everywhere and anywhere, women are equal partners.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Julie, and we wish you all the best. Thank you, Mr. President. #
I would just like to join our colleagues in honoring this man, who is a friend to many of us and who is a true public servant.
When I first heard about him, I was very impressed with his humility, not just his humble beginnings, but his humble stature, and how he carried himself. I didn’t know him yet when I first heard about him. I don’t even remember when, many, many years ago. Napakasimpleng tao, respetadong respetado ng kanyang mga constituents, naglalakad na simple lang, naglalakad sa bayan niya na naka-tsinelas lang, nakikihalubilo sa mga tao.
I was so impressed, your honors, because syempre katulad ng mga kasamahan natin, marami tayong nami-meet na iba’t ibang klaseng tao, pero yung pagka-pakilala sa akin sa kanya, I was very intrigued because yun nga sobrang humble. And then eventually, I met him, and totoo nga. Lahat ng sinabi nila tungkol sa kanya ay totoo. And I even understand that kahit wala siyang political party to back him up, kahit na nag-iisa siya fighting for his cause, tinutuloy niya basta pinaniniwalaan niya na makabubuti sa kanyang constituents.
And I’ve had numerous discussions, coffee dates din with him kapag bumibisita ako sa lugar nila. Nagsu-support siya ng aking initiatives on sports for peace, sports for youth development, and he was very happy about it.
And I am grateful that in my own way, I have been enriched, my life has been enriched to know somebody like him. But it also brings me a lot of sadness that this person will no longer walk with us on this earth, walk with us in our country. And to continue to be able to share all the good things that he has done, that is now in our hands, that there would be more public servants like him and that we who have known him can continue to support his legacy now that he is no longer with us.
Mr. President, dear colleagues, I take the floor to report on my official trip to promote sports diplomacy.
I joined the Philippine Women’s National Football Team as their head of delegation as they competed in the 2023 Pinatar Cup in Murcia, Spain.
It was such an uplifting experience to see our girls in action. Our athletes competed against Wales which is ranked 32nd, Scotland which is ranked 25th, and Iceland which is 16th in the international standings. The girls played very well against Wales, the score was just 1-0; against Iceland, it was actually 2-1 and although they lost, it was a great showing and a great experience. This was really the objective of joining the Pinatar Cup. The Philippines for the record is ranked 53rd in the international standings.
I am happy to share that Filipinos from different corners of the world also came to cheer for them. There were bus loads of our kababayans who came all the way from Madrid, Alicante, Valencia, Tarragona, the UK, and Rome. The chants from the Pinoy crowd were overwhelming and heartwarming, especially in the games against Iceland as it was a weekend and that’s when many of our kababayans were able to come and support our team.
The team’s journey is proof that Philippine women’s football has arrived. They made “herstory” by qualifying for the 2023 FIFA World Cup. This is the first time for any Filipino Football team – men’s or women’s – to secure a spot in the world’s most prestigious football game.
Seeing the girls play at a professional level also sends the signal to all, especially the little girls and the little boys that were watching, that women can thrive in sports, which only until recently, was considered a male-dominated field. In fact, when I was in college, women’s football was not yet a UAAP sport. I don’t even know of any organized league that existed at that time, save for a few girls who would just play on the field.
After the football event, I had the opportunity to promote another sport, Padel, which is a sport I recently took up. Padel is considered the fastest growing sport in Europe, if not in the entire world, where Spain is currently number one. Along with the Philippine Ambassador to Spain, Philippe Lhuillier, I met Spanish Padel Federation President Ramón Morcillo Valle.
As I mentioned earlier in my speech, to be able to have the opportunity to talk to the world’s best, to ask how they got to the point where they are, is really a learning experience that I could take home with me, and again, consistent with the mandate of our embassy to promote sports diplomacy.
Meanwhile, in Portugal, I had a similar meeting with Ambassador Celia Anna Feria and Portuguese Federation of Padel President Ricardo Oliveira.
In line with the mandate of the Philippine Embassy in Portugal to promote cooperation between the Philippines’ and Portuguese sports organizations, we discussed the existing Cultural Agreement between the two countries, with the emphasis on sports. Through sports diplomacy, the Embassy envisions many opportunities for the Philippines and Portugal to have closer ties.
I also discussed with Ambassador Feria a proposed labor agreement between the Philippines and Portugal that would make it easier for Filipinos to get a working visa in Portugal, since they are in much need of workers especially for their tourism industry.
I glanced at the Majority Floor Leader as I was delivering this, and already he was nodding his head, because I really was going to point this out to him. As we here in the Senate have witnessed the – “sloppy” is a very soft word to use, “inhumane” is a better word – treatment of our kababayans in some countries, I actually welcome that there would be a proposed labor agreement between a country like Portugal and the Philippines. Like many of you, I would prefer that our countrymen did not have to leave the country for work. But if they were to leave, I would prefer that they would be in a country like Portugal that I’ve seen through my own personal contacts with Portuguese, have very similar values as us and who would truly respect our Filipino workers there. I think there is still work that has to be done to make this a reality, but I hope we will be able to do this.
And also joining us in the discussions was Member of Parliament Ricardo Baptista-Leite, and the one that can be seen in the photo is coach Bryan, who received his training both in Spain and in Portugal.
And then, back to Spain, I had the opportunity to join our kababayans, mostly women, in their post-Valentine’s Day celebration. It’s always a wonderful opportunity to mingle with our kababayans, especially this opportunity to celebrate with them a very special day.
So on that note, dear colleagues, that’s the end of my report. As I always say, I learned from the best, the late Sen. Nene Pimentel told me to always be sure to report on my official missions as soon as we come back. So thank you for this opportunity to share the official work that I did. Thank you. #