Speech Delivered at Ateneo de Manila University
by The Miracle Governor of Pampanga, Ed Panlilio
Eight hours from now, I will be speaking before a similar audience
at De La Salle University.
I know what you are thinking. You got first dibs at the governor
of Pampanga, and for that alone, the eagle has soared over the archer
once again. Tuloy, I am tempted to shout, FABILIOH!
By the way, I gave a talk in UP last week, so that probably settles
the implied question.
Beyond your deep-rooted and far-reaching rivalry, I am grateful to
you for giving me a forum to communicate the moral crusade in Pampanga.
I hope that the campus communities will respond positively and become
an active partner in the renewal that we all desire for our country.
You invited me to share with you my experience in responding to the
call of leadership in a time of crisis. I would prefer to rephrase
it as a response to a crisis in leadership. In order to make it clearer
to you, allow me to begin with a bit of an overview of the social
and political situation in Pampanga a few months before the elections.
Lilia Pineda, more casually called Nanay Baby, (nanay na, baby pa.
trust the Filipino to be that family oriented) broke into the turf
of the Lapid father and son when she began a series of so-called consultations
with the people, asking them two questions: first, if their lot has
improved with the ascent of the incumbent governor, Mark Lapid. The
answer of course, was quite obvious, leading to the second question,
if they have an alternative leader they would want to take over the
governorship. The answer was equally undeniable. Equipped with more
than adequate resources, she covered the whole province, practically
running a roadshow of grassroots building.
There was talk that Pineda, then a board member of the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan and the wife of Bong Pineda (who is quite notorious,
I mean, famous in his own right throughout Regions One to Five), decided
to face Mark Lapid head on in the coming elections because the governor
chose Con Laus, the son of a local businessman, over her own son,
who was the mayor of Lubao town. To make matters worse for the father
of the province, Pineda ally and Vice Governor Joseller Guiao filed
a case against him, alleging graft and corruption in the supervision
and collection of quarry taxes.
The stage therefore was set for a grand battle between the two political
giants of Pampanga. Every media pundit and sari-sari store istambay
were expecting a drawn out war of attrition, where no prisoners will
be taken and no resources will be spared. A senior citizen described
it with a mixture of expectation and dread, saying, "muran pera
king kampanya," or that it will rain money during the campaign.
So many of the poverty-stricken in the province excitedly awaited
the coming of the usual generosity, commonly experienced every three
years, but only this time it will come like wave after wave of blessings.
It was often said that it is only during this period that the poor
get the attention and assistance they deserve, so they better make
the most of it by playing one side against the other, conceding to
the highest bidder, as it were. Many among the Kapampangans, however,
were disconsolate at the prospect of having to choose between two
candidates they did not like. A good many of them have decided that
early to leave blank the space for governor in their ballots.
Before this backdrop, a group of people, a priest and some seminarians
among them (no, I was not the priest) regretted the state of affairs
that their province was in. If only to express a statement to the
world that Pampanga is not bereft of good leadership, they decided
to gather more of their like-minded friends and begin to search for
an alternative candidate. Enough is enough, they said, the pride of
the Kapampangan is at stake here. And if you know us, then you should
also know that our kayabangan is legendary.
And so began the series of consultations in search of a candidate
with the moral ground, the resources and the acceptability, who will
stand as a symbol for the Kapampangan dignity and conscience.
We had a great difficulty in searching for that candidate. It even
dawned on us that we might have been too idealistic, too far removed
from reality. Either our prospect could not measure up to our criteria,
or he would not be willing to get entangled between two battling giants.
"The election result is already common knowledge," one of
them said, conceding to the strength of one of the candidates, although
I will not say who SHE is.
In the midst of this desperation, one seminarian turned to me and
asked, "what about you?" My immediate and emphatic answer
was, "no way!" My heart and mind was then running on hierarchical
fuel. It was never an option for a Kapampangan priest to run for office
in any previous election. Kapampangans being such a pious people,
they revere their priests to a fault, conceding to them a spiritual
leadership that excluded political power.
Like any other Filipino, Kapampangans live with a compartmentalized
sense of morality. Our churches are filled every Sunday, but our jueteng
industry is equally robust. We declare ourselves cerrado catolico,
but we do not pay our taxes honestly. Our cars and jeepneys are festooned
with images and pictures of the crucified Christ and the Virgin Mother,
but they are not powerful enough to remind us to obey traffic laws.
Thus, what place is there for a priest to enter the secular world
The idea of a priest running for the governorship snowballed among
the people of conscience who have begun to call themselves the Third
Force. Slowly, my outright refusal gave way to sober reflection as
I thought of the people being under the yoke of patronage, and for
how long, since we all know how easily political dynasties can take
root and flourish. I looked back at my past to find a ground and a
horizon for my final decision.
Even as a seminarian, I have intently dedicated my life for the uplift
of the marginalized and the weak, and this had continued in my parochial
and archdiocesan work. Thankfully, I was assigned later to direct
the Social Action Center of Pampanga, more popularly known as SACOP.
This enabled me to delve more deeply into the plight of the masses
and be exposed to their needs and aspirations, and more importantly,
to identify with their situation. Thus, I made it a personal choice
to live a simple life and temper my wants to the more basic necessities,
for it would not have been in consonance with the Gospel had I enjoyed
affluence while people around me were hungry. If they did not eat,
I did not eat.
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo allowed me to work more closely with
government and non-government organizations in helping to ease the
plight of the poor and dispossessed. I began to realize that good
intentions were not enough, there must be a working structure that
would efficiently and effectively answer to the needs of the poor.
I also learned that I did not have the answer to all the problems
besetting the needy, that there are others who can creatively contribute
to the common pool of knowledge and wisdom. Thus, it was impressed
upon me that I was not a modern-day Messiah, but rather, a bringer
of grace from the Annointed One. On the other hand, I realized that
redemption has its social underpinnings, and that I join all other
people in a journey towards salvation. Having experienced all these,
there came a certain point in my life when I dedicated my priesthood
to the central message of the Gospel of John, that Christ came that
man may have fullness of life in all its dimensions, that we as clerics
must not only feed the soul, but also see to the nourishment of the
body and the mind. I celebrated the sacraments as essential signs
of relationship with the Divine, but encouraged my parishioners to
share their graces to the less fortunate they meet outside the Church.
In my own humble way, I persevered in my vocation and my service to
the archdiocese, giving my obedience to my spiritual fathers, first
to Archbishop Oscar Cruz, and then to Archbishop Aniceto, fostered
by my brotherhood with my fellow priests.
Thus, when I finally conceded to become a candidate for governor,
it was in response to a gaping need for moral resurgence in a despairing
province, and in a more personal way, a deepening of my ministerial
priesthood. When Kapampangans of known capability, respected stature
and proven worth would not want to give people an option to choose
a better candidate, I had to stand up for my people. But believe me,
I had to spend days of prayer and feverish consultations before I
made my decision. I had to resolve if this was a genuine desire for
good, or a hidden longing for glorification. Either way, I was made
aware of the consequences of my decision. The reasons for not running
were many and equally valid. Not a few friends came and gave me their
advice. I listened. In the end, I had to listen to and obey what my
conscience dictated. My own ministerial priesthood demanded that I
come down from the safety and security of the pulpit and incarnate
the Gospel message in the political world. The Church has been complaining
for so long about graft and corruption, but she was generally being
ignored. It would have seemed that she has lost her moral authority
over the considering that most of the suspected practitioners of graft
and corruption came from Catholic schools themselves, Ateneo included,
or probably, Ateneo specially. It was my belief that the extraordinary
situation prevailing in Pampanga at that time demanded an entirely
different and fundamental response. I took the leap and decided to
do something about it hands on. I leapt, and found that I was not
alone. I was joined by men and women of good will who were willing
to take a risk.
I honestly believe that the people who leapt with me, people from
all class and all manners of persuasion were driven by a common desire
to see through a crusade that will realize Gospel values in governance.
I do not deny the fact that Kapampangans are personalistic, more so
with their priests, but be that as it may, I have always explained
that the crusade was not about me, but it was about something bigger
than all of us combined. I was just a part of the whole, as important
as the campaign manager, but equally as indispensable as the poll
Who were these people of conscience? A classic example would be our
technical consultant on software systems. All his life he had never
voted in any election, or even participated by any means whatsoever.
He was a self-confessed apolitical and fence-sitting Filipino who
would just let political dogs lie, for as long as they leave him in
peace. But when the crusade began, he was convinced by his wife to
visit the EDquarters and offer whatever talent or materials he could
contribute to the furtherance of the campaign. We cannot quantify
his involvement in pesos, much less measure its effects, but because
of his free services, we were able to set up a text brigade, hook
up the EDquarters in a wi-fi network, and more importantly implement
an automated quick count system that helped us track down the results
of the elections accurately. Given the fact that as independent candidate
I was not privileged to receive a copy of the election returns, his
help was truly incalculable. What is more notable is that during an
interview, it was found out that he lived next door to a mayoralty
candidate of the City of San Fernando. He could have earned tens of
thousands of pesos, had he offered his services to him. But he chose
to give it to us for free.
Actively involved, too were a dozen former seminarians who were among
the workhorses of the campaign. Collectively known as Bakal Boys,
their background often provided a spiritual dimension in our daily
struggle. Where else would you find a campaign where strategies and
tactics were discussed along with conversion, metanoia and kenosis?
Many of them were influential in my decision to run, being members
of the core group that searched for an alternative candidate. Among
the Bakal Boys was one who lived quite an easy life in Cebu, earning
a salary that would be the envy of most single men of his age and
stature. But like Peter, he left everything behind, leaning on nothing
but his faith and his earnest desire to do something good for our
province. He is now a part of my team, involved in a sensitive position
that requires my utmost trust and confidence. Another former seminarian
came all the way from London, where his community produced the very
first U-Tube video in support of my candidacy.
Perhaps it is the presence of the Bakal Boys that allowed us to look
at the ordinary events of the campaign with the eyes of faith. The
confluence of all the events, such as the blessing of good weather
in both our grand miting de avances, the speed at which triumph was
achieved, the mystery of the experts in statistics and probability
being confounded by their own means, all pointed to the hand of God
actively involving Himself in the affairs of man. At every turn, we
looked for the sign of His presence, and we were not disappointed.
Ours was not just a moral crusade, it transformed itself into a divine
A very palpable sign of God's presence was the full support of brethren
from other faiths and denominations in the crusade for good governance.
Among the first to express their support on the day I filed my certificate
of candidacy were Methodist pastors. Leaders of born again fellowships
also boosted our stock, widening the spectrum of collaboration into
dimensions previously unknown. I believe that there is no other previous
experience in our nation where people of different faiths actively
involved and immersed themselves in a mission as one body. What we
were seeing was the Kingdom of God, a dedicated assembly of people
under one dream: to see good governance become a reality.
Cyrelle was your typical Among Ed volunteer: multi-tasking, energetic,
uncomplaining, except for the fact that she just graduated from a
private elementary school. She was everyone's kid niece or sister,
a favorite object of pranks, but equal to every joke thrown her way.
Forsaking a summer of visiting malls and beaches, she became the ultimate
factotum, preparing coffee, manning the photocopy machine, answering
the phone, encoding data and stapling sheets of paper. Not even four
years social studies in high school would match up to the wealth of
hands-on learning she attained during those months.
And of course, there were those who contributed their time, talent
and treasure from all walks of life and practically from every corner
of the earth. There was this public school teacher who was given a
one thousand peso bribe by another candidate. She took the effort
to visit our EDquarters and turn over the money to us. As fast as
people were taking posters and flyers from our office, equally consistent
were the kind donors who dropped by every day to deliver campaign
materials they had printed on their own. During our motorcades, ordinary
people threw coins into our showboats to share their support. Even
non-Kapampangans generously shared their blessings.
And finally, there was Jomar Nulud, a barangay chairman in my last
parish who was gunned down by still unidentified assailants days after
my proclamation. Kapitan Jomar switched allegiance after he learned
of my candidacy. The night before he was killed, he ominously told
me to be careful. "Hindi baleng ako and itumba, huwag lang ikaw,"
he said. His was the ultimate sacrifice. I am nothing compared to
A common thread that ran among all of these examples of people who
joined us in our campaign was the element of sacrifice. The Japanese
have a proverb: always replace a thing of value with that of a greater
value. In giving up something of themselves, whether as mundane as
a summer vacation, as abstract as a preconceived notion of a different
faith, or as irreplaceable as a human life, their surrender was for
a far greater cause. And because of this, they gained an ownership
of the crusade. This ownership has been multiplied a thousand times
and has reached the puroks and barangays, but we still need to reach
out to a lot more people and convince them to own this new politics.
Once, I expressed my misgivings to a supporter, rhetorically asking,
what if I got used to all the attention and the glory? What if I started
to enjoy it? What if I started to demand it? Thankfully, I am surrounded
by people whose presence always reminds me that the crusade is a team
effort. Even now, I am not "Gov" to them. I am still "Among
Ed," and to the more familiar, I am "Brods or Jo."
I allow this informality, because I know that I am just one instrument
among many volunteers, workers, contributors, prayer warriors and
well-wishers who gave a part of their lives to realize a vision. It
just so happened that my position warrants me to be a primus inter
pares, a first among equals, or more accurately a father to sons and
daughters who deserve my love, respect and attention, because they
gave so much so freely.
That we have won through a plurality reminds us that we have to be
gentle with our salesmanship. We have to convince the civil society
and the civil service, by way of example and education, that honest
governance works. We have to provide for a transparent, efficient
and effective delivery of services, that the people may pay their
taxes with cheerful hearts, knowing that their hard-earned money does
not find itself in some bureaucrat's pocket. Arriving much sooner
than expected, as it were, we are quite pleased that the Capitol leadership,
as well as the rank and file have for the most part adapted to our
program of government quite quickly. I credit this to the government
employee's innate goodness and willingness to work. I have to admit,
though that the adjustment period was quite tenuous. But when the
Governor sets the example in punctuality, simplicity of lifestyle,
openness to the constituents, dedication to work and pleasantness
of disposition, the most taciturn employee has no other recourse than
Today, our province earns an average of a million pesos a day in
quarry revenues. Suppliers have lowered their bids dramatically after
being reminded that the days of SOPs are over. A system of fiscal
discipline is being instituted. We have streamlined the manpower to
make it more citizen-oriented. Our primary attention is now given
to the equipment, staffing and development of our provincial and district
hospitals. We are at the moment studying systems and processes that
will make quality service be delivered on time.
Capacity and confidence building measures are being undertaken in
order that the bureaucracy can pride itself as a working and effective
body. For the first time in the history of the province, a draft three-year
executive agenda will be submitted to the people tomorrow for their
comments and suggestions, in the spirit of consultation and collaboration.
But for society to be transformed, it is not enough that government
employees be empowered and motivated. The desire for positive change
and the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good must not only
trickle down, but must engulf every barangay. A visual way of describing
the approach to this objective is that of the way the bibingka is
cooked: heat on top, heat at the bottom. We should inflame the governing
and the governed. The inured system of political patronage and dependency
may take a little more time and may require a more extensive strategy
for the people to realize that in the end, the benefits to the community
will outweigh any personal gain. Good citizenship must take root until
following the law, paying taxes honestly, respecting the environment
and upholding one's dignity shall become second nature to every person.
I don't think that God meant me to endure five seminaries just to
become a Governor or some other public official. I love my vocation,
and at the end of this temporary detour into politics, I shall desire
nothing more than to have my priestly faculties once again, and be
a shepherd of the faith anew. A personal glory shall be that day when
I shall hold aloft the transubstantiated body and blood of Christ,
recalling my first mass after my ordination. It is from this vantage
point that I say that I really do not encourage the entry of priests
or ministers to the electoral arena. It would be utter presumption
and even a complete falsehood to maintain that only the clergy posses
the moral superiority to lead the nation. A layman with the proper
motivation and popular support can lead any province to glory, in
the same manner that an elected priest with less than honorable intentions
can bring the province to its knees. Every believer has a divine mandate
to do good and cast out evil. For the sake of the beggar out in the
street, for the sake of the baby who is fed with rice water, for the
sake of the sick patients in our public hospitals, for the sake of
every Filipino who persists in the hope of a brighter horizon, I ask
you to help us prove that we are essentially good, and that we uphold
the common good.
It has been said so often that Pampanga right now is a laboratory
mouse in a grand experiment upon which almost every eye of every disillusioned
Filipino is fixed, steadily observing how the dream of good and honest
governance is realized, and if it can result in the improvement of
the people's plight. Historically, our province has always been the
breeding ground of social unrest and revolutionary thought. Once again,
there is something revolutionary going on in Pampanga. With fervent
prayers, consultative and exemplary leadership, participatory and
law-abiding citizenship, collaborative and dedicated service, together
with the application of better organizational systems, technological
processes and innovations, I believe that we can overcome and transform
the individual and the society. Then shall our success in Pampanga
be translated in every province of the nation. Let us all join forces
to transform ourselves, and in turn our beloved Philippines.