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Valedictory Speech of Senator Loren Legarda

June 4, 2019

Valedictory Speech of Senator Loren Legarda

4 June 2019 | Senate of the Philippines

 

In 1998, I received my first mandate from the Filipino people as Senator of the Republic. By the end of this month, I will have completed my third term, for a total of 18 years in the Senate. It will be a coming-of-age.

 

My two decades of work as a journalist prepared me for the Senate, and my three terms in the Senate readied me for public service in my home province. I feel that I have come full circle. But before I assume my position as Representative Legarda and transfer to the Bigger House, I wish to bid farewell to the Senate, my home for almost two decades.

 

The decision to run in 1998 was not easy. I had a fulfilling career as a journalist and I was a mother to two very young sons. But journalism cuts one’s soul open to expose the raw, and I was convinced that it was time I did something more; aside from exposing the ills of society and the challenges of the everyday Filipino, I had to be a part of the solution.

 

I was humbled by the overwhelming mandate I received from the Filipino people.

 

I was 38 years old then, the youngest among the Senators of the 11th Congress, and honored to be working alongside legal luminaries—then Senate President Marcelo Fernan, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., former Senate Presidents Juan Ponce Enrile and Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and former Senators Renato Cayetano, Raul Roco, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Former Senator Blas Ople, who became Senate President upon Senator Fernan’s untimely demise, was a friend and colleague of my Lolo Pepe, Jose P. Bautista. Manong Johnny, former Senator Juan Flavier, was my seatmate then who patiently guided me and taught me about parliamentary procedure during the first few months. I was then the Benjamin of the chamber. Now, I am a “Tita” to the younger senators, but still the youngest among the senior legislators—Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Gringo Honasan—all of whom were also my colleagues in the 11th Congress.

 

Although the youngest, I was ready to engage and defend my convictions. I had in me the fierceness of a young soldier ready for the first battle.

 

I remember my first privilege speech on the delineation of forest lands. Then up to this day, I continue to speak about the environment and how climate change has altered the course of our future.

 

My first big assignment was to represent the Philippine Senate at the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Young Parliamentarians Meeting held in October 1998 in Cebu City. Now, I have represented not only the Senate but also the country in various international conferences here and abroad.

 

As I exit the Senate after three terms, allow me to report to the Filipino people whom I serve, my accomplishments in the past two decades.

 

Environment and Climate Change

 

The environment has always been my primary advocacy. Although it was an advocacy considered then as merely populist and, in most people’s minds at that time, somewhat trivial, I somehow knew that greater challenges awaited humanity in the future, if we did not care enough for the environment.

 

As I commenced my legislative work, I also organized the Luntiang Pilipinas Movement. While introducing environmental laws in the Senate, we took the needed action to revitalize the environment through the movement. As we grew two million trees in the country and created several forest parks, especially in public schools, we also crafted the country’s landmark laws on environment—the Clean Air Act of 1999 (RA 8749), Ecological Solid Waste Management Law of 2000 (RA 9003), Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001 (RA 9147), Clean Water Act (RA 9275), Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008 (RA 9512), Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (RA 9513), and the more recent Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas or E-NIPAS Act (RA 11038).

 

We received recognition for these environmental efforts. I was named one of the Global Leaders for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2000; a United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) laureate in 2001; an awardee for the environment by the Priyadarshni Academy in Mumbai, India in 2004; and a Distinguished Alumna for Environmental Protection and Climate Change Adaptation of the University of the Philippines in 2013.

 

But the greatest recognition would be seeing these laws in action, resulting in increased awareness of rural folk, urban citizens, and national and local government leaders on our deteriorating environment; and pave the way for crucial lifestyle changes such as the implementation of plastic bans, waste segregation, disaster preparedness, geohazard mapping, and even the dawn of eco-fashion, reusable and recycled bags, eco-modes of transportation, green buildings, and business opportunities in recycling.

 

Aside from these laws on environmental governance, we also introduced laws on climate and disaster resilience. While closely linked to the environment, climate change, as I have explained numerous times, is not merely an environmental issue. It is an all-encompassing threat to our basic human rights—the right to food, water, health, shelter, decent livelihood and life itself.

 

In my climate advocacy, I had to hurdle many challenges—from creating a standing committee on climate change in the Senate, to working on the passage of the Climate Change Law (RA 9729) that created the Climate Change Commission headed by the President; from sponsoring the Paris Agreement, to mainstreaming climate and geo-tagging into our budget processes.

 

We have also legislated the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Act of 2010 (RA 10121) and the People’s Survival Fund Act of 2012 (RA 10174), which both complemented our resilience-building efforts. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) hailed our Climate Change Act and NDRRM Act as among the best laws in the world.

 

Having been appointed as the Global Champion for Resilience of UNDRR, National Adaptation Plan Champion of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and Commissioner of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), our efforts went beyond legislation. We initiated grassroots projects, on-site hearings, public consultations, capacity-building programs, and information, education and communication campaign through video documentaries and written materials such as the Disaster Risk Reduction Handbook.

 

We gathered legislators and government leaders across Asia Pacific and beyond, to call for increased action and investments to address the climate crisis.

 

It has been excruciatingly painful, especially for a highly vulnerable country like the Philippines, to wait for results. But while the actions are gradual, we cannot lose hope and we cannot give up. We need to continue to be the voice of the vulnerable to demand industrialized nations that have caused this problem to act urgently and provide us the means to adapt to the changing climate, which has brought extreme weather events and also slow onset impacts such as sea level rise and coastal erosion. We must persistently shape global decision-making towards ambitious and equitable climate action, for the sake of future generations.

 

We must continue doing our part not only in the climate negotiations, but also in our own initiatives to transition to a green economy. Evidently, the government has increasingly taken a whole-of-nation approach in reducing vulnerabilities and building climate resilience. This must be sustained.

 

I leave behind a robust climate crisis agenda that I hope will be sustained by new Senate leaders. We must address climate change as a crisis that threatens nothing less than our country’s long-term economic viability. I ask those who will lead the climate debate in the Senate to wear a special lens that allows one to see beyond term limits. We need to look farther, because the future is in our hands.

 

I also implore the next finance chair to think of climate change too because it is an economic challenge as well. Instruments unique to the world of finance must be used to avert the worst impacts of climate change on our long-suffering people.

 

 

Protection and Empowerment of Vulnerable Sectors

 

The empowerment of vulnerable and special sectors—women, children, senior citizens, persons with disability (PWDs), the poor, and the indigenous peoples—is also a vital concern that we hope to address through legislation.

 

Hence, we authored laws such as the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710), Anti-Child Labor Law (RA 9231), Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (RA 9262), Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (RA 9208) and its expanded version (RA 10364), Domestic Workers Act (RA 10361), the Expanded Senior Citizens Act (RA 9994), Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of PWDs Act (RA 10754), and the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act (RA 10821).

 

We have enough reason to believe that these laws are serving their purpose, if effectively enforced. More women have become empowered not only in the workplace but also in the home. Senior citizens are enjoying the benefits due them. We have also achieved Tier 1 ranking in the Trafficking in Persons Report of the US Department of State, which signifies compliance with the minimum standards of the US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).

 

In the 17th Congress, among the laws we authored for women, children and other special sectors include the Mandatory PhilHealth Coverage for PWDs (RA 11228), Institutionalizing the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (RA 11310), the Magna Carta of the Poor (RA 11291), the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law (RA 11210), and the Masustansyang Pagkain Para Sa Batang Pilipino Act (RA 11037).

 

By protecting and empowering these sectors we provide them with opportunities for personal growth and allow them to be responsible citizens contributing to nation-building.

 

 

Health, Education, Livelihood

 

To ensure inclusive and equitable development, we worked on measures for quality and accessible education and health care, decent employment and livelihood opportunities.

 

Among the laws we authored on education include the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (RA 10533), the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act (RA 10687), and the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931). Many Filipino students are already benefitting from these laws especially that we have ensured that the Free College Law is funded under the national budget.

 

While access to healthcare services is important, we recognized that more would benefit from preventive healthcare. Thus, aside from the National Health Insurance Act of 2013 (RA 10606), we also authored the Philippine Ear Research Institute Act (RA 9245), the Newborn Screening Act of 2004 (RA 9288), the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening and Intervention Act (RA 9709), the Mental Health Act (RA 11036), the Healthy Nanay and Bulilit Act (RA 11148), the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act (RA 11166), and the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (RA 11215).

 

On support for jobs and livelihood, we crafted the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (RA 9501), Barangay Kabuhayan Act (RA 9509), Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act (RA 10000), Microfinance NGOs Act (RA 10693), Go Negosyo Act (RA 10644), Green Jobs Act (RA 10771), Public Employment Service Office Act (RA 10691), JobStart Philippines Act (RA 10869), and the Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act (RA 10969).

 

We need to bolster assistance provided to local entrepreneurs and communities in the grassroots as part of poverty alleviation and to promote domestic economic growth. MSMEs have a huge potential to be the main driver of our economic development and, given sufficient attention and support, this sector will no doubt accelerate socio-economic empowerment of various sectors in the society, including women, youth, and the indigenous communities.

 

Foreign Relations

 

During the 15th Congress and at present, I was tasked to chair the Committee on Foreign Relations. Through the agreements we forge with other nations, we hope to strengthen bilateral relations and promote the welfare of Filipinos in the country and abroad.

 

Under this representation’s watch, we sponsored 33 treaties that benefit the country in terms of economic and technical cooperation, such as the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation Between the Philippines and the European Union, and the Free Trade Agreement Between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States and the Philippines, among many others.

 

Just yesterday, the Senate concurred in the ratification of the Agreement between the Philippines and Indonesia Concerning the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Boundary. Among other benefits, this treaty will protect the rights and well-being of Filipino vessels and fishermen, as well as serve as basis for resolving any conflict involving nationalities of both countries, if any, who were arrested, detained or meted punitive actions for fishing in the overlapping EEZs.

 

Many of the treaties we concurred in would also directly benefit overseas Filipino workers, such as Social Security Agreements with Spain, Germany and Sweden, the ILO Convention 189 Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, and the ILO Convention 151 Concerning the Protection of the Right to Organise and Procedures for Determining Conditions of Employment in the Public Service.

 

Peace and Unity Efforts

 

Through these agreements and in crafting laws that address the basic needs of our people, we hope to build a peaceful society. As someone who had been involved in negotiating releases of military and police officials who were held captive by the New People’s Army (NPA) when I was a neophyte senator, I have seen the sincerity of all sides to end this conflict and have felt the intense desire for peace.

 

We remain hopeful that despite the varying views on pursuing national development, we can find a common ground through laws that would truly benefit the people and an annual national budget that supports both the national growth and the progress of every Filipino. We have funded the strengthening of our police and military forces to equip them to battle lawlessness and extremism.

 

We also aim to foster better understanding among religions and cultures, because we believe that we can promote unity amidst diversity. Thus we authored laws declaring the Eidul Fitr (RA 9177) and Eidul Adha (RA 9849) as national holidays, and celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day (RA 10689).

 

Culture and the Arts

 

To further promote the nation’s diverse culture, which is part of our heritage as a people, we have been initiating programs alongside the crafting of policies that will encourage every Filipino to embrace our rich culture.

 

Our culture is our soul and while many do not realize, we need to release our cultural energy, which is the motivation to work and to engage in meaningful social interaction.

 

Art is also a form of cultural diplomacy, which is a soft opener to our political and economic initiatives with other nations. This is why we have efforts such as: our participation in the Venice Biennale, the oldest and most prestigious global platform for contemporary art; support for our museums and Philippine exhibitions here and abroad; the establishment of Bantayog-Wika to locate the origin of Philippine languages; the conservation of Gabaldon school buildings nationwide; and the expansion and improvement of our cultural centers in our embassies and consulates known as Sentro Rizal.

 

We have brought to the Senate several exhibitions showcasing our heritage. We also created the Hibla, Baybayin and Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA) galleries at the National Museum, while supporting the expansion and improvement of the museum and its regional branches. Hibla travelling exhibits with lecture and demonstrations are being held abroad. We supported the Philippine exhibit at Musee du Quai Branly in 2013 titled “PHILIPPINES: Archipelago of Exchange”, and we have been participating in the annual Frankfurt Book Fair.

 

Our aim is to promote both the contemporary and the indigenous, which is why we have the Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN) at the Vargas Museum in UP Diliman, while we also created an Indigenous Peoples Resource Center in Western Visayas, and we will have more in other parts of the country. We promote our schools of living traditions (SLT) that preserve indigenous knowledge and traditions, but we also support the conduct of curatorial intensive, which is a development program for curators. We propagate knowledge of our culture through television programs like Dayaw and Buhay na Buhay, while preserving indigenous knowledge through books created by our state universities and colleges (SUCs). We also support cultural enterprises and local artisans through the National Arts and Crafts Fair (NACF), in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

 

We have many more programs and collaborative projects with art and culture institutions abroad—the exhibit of Dr. Jose Rizal Textile Collection from the Berlin Ethnological Museum; the Federico Aguilar Alcuaz Art Protis Exhibition in Prague; the Philippine Studies Program at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London, as well as in Humboldt University and Ruhr University in Germany, in Universidad de Complutense in Madrid, Spain, and in ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

 

While these projects are beyond my scope of work as legislator, the art enthusiast in me could not let these programs go unsupported. These projects are realizations of our legislative initiatives such as the Tropical Fabrics Law (RA 9242), the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 (RA 10066), and the Gabaldon School Buildings Conservation Act (RA 11194).

 

Art and culture are indispensable tools of national integration and international diplomacy. A citizenry immersed in its culture and creative talents comes out more energized and inspired.

 

 

 

Chair of Committee on Finance

 

In my 18 years as senator, I have chaired numerous committees— Environment and Natural Resources, Tourism, Economic Affairs, Social Justice and Rural Development, Agriculture and Food, Health and Demography, Climate Change, Cultural Communities, Foreign Relations—and served as Majority Leader in my first term. But the most challenging has been to head the Finance Committee, tasked to scrutinize the annual national budget. It is a tedious job that requires not only intellect but a great amount of patience. It is both mentally and physically taxing. But I am proud of each budget measure I have sponsored and defended.

 

The first budget I handled was for fiscal year 2016 and I was determined to ensure it was not budget as usual. It was a budget aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and proactively addressing the impacts of climate change with programs, projects and activities for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation lodged in different agencies of government.

 

Through the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA), we funded, for the first time, capacity building programs for the implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and we also allocated funding for the National Coral Restoration Program because we need to protect and revive not only our forests but also the health of our seas.

 

We introduced more than 20 new special provisions that integrated disaster and climate resilience in the programs of government. We wanted to be as specific as possible—from the integrity of the buildings and evacuation centers under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to the climate-readiness of agriculture and agrarian reform communities under the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)—to show that every agency is capable of using its resources towards building sustainable, resilient and inclusive communities.

 

It was also in the 2016 GAA that the government funded for the first time the total administrative disability (TAD) pension for surviving spouses of deceased World War II veterans and partial payment for TAD pension for living post-war veterans.

 

For the 2017 GAA, a leap in infrastructure spending was one of the priorities given its indispensable role in poverty reduction, raising productivity, and in spreading the benefits of economic growth. But funding for social services was never wanting.

 

It was the first budget that ensured PhilHealth coverage of all Filipinos, closing the gap in membership for the remaining eight percent of the population, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

 

We have allocated budget for free irrigation for farmers; free tuition in SUCs; increase in teachers’ chalk allowance from P1,500 to P2,500; construction of additional health facilities and drug rehabilitation centers under the DOH, and support for the Doctors to the Barrio program; Small Business Corporation to provide loans at almost no interest to microenterprises; pension of Post World War II veterans and the one-time cash grant for centenarians; combat and incentive pay of the military and police. We also provided funds to support the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) fight against illegal drugs, for increased subsistence allowance of prisoners, and for rehabilitation and construction of jail facilities.

 

Meanwhile, the 2018 GAA was dubbed as a pro-people budget that placed heavy importance on providing for the people’s actual needs, such as education, healthcare, livelihood, shelter, peace and order, and other support and services to the public.

 

Among the highlights of this budget is the P62.8-billion allocation for the increase of base pay of military and uniformed personnel, as well as the P40-billion funding for free college education in all SUCs for the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

 

For education, we also provided additional P10-million for capital outlay of each SUC to purchase equipment and improve campus facilities. Under the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), there is funding for installation of Wi-Fi in SUCs; while under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), we allocated funds for free tuition for medical students enrolled in SUCs. Teachers’ chalk allowance was increased once more, from P2,500 to P3,500 per teacher.

 

We also allocated additional budget for the following: PhilHealth Plus to provide for the health insurance of government employees under the Executive Department; Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP) Program, medicine for cancer patients, and the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP); rehabilitation of social welfare and activity centers and Bahay Pagasa juvenile detention centers; DTI’s Shared Service Facilities (SSF); construction, restoration or improvement of small-scale irrigation projects, and construction of facilities and procurement of agricultural machineries and equipment, on top of the irrigation fees subsidy.

 

We allocated P10-billion under the NDRRM Fund for the quick recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City; P1.647-billion for the payment of total administrative disability (TAD) arrears for surviving spouses of World War II veterans; and additional budget for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for funding of existing consular offices and embassies, opening of new embassies and consulates, cultural diplomacy programs, training programs, and hazard pay of DFA employees in hardship posts.

 

For the current 2019 GAA, we allocated P800-million for the special allowance of teachers to be given during World Teachers’ Day; we restored the P15-billion for HFEP and provided P4.797-billion for Human Resource for Health Development; and we increased allocation for medical assistance for indigent patients, as well as provided funds for medicines of cancer patients.

 

This year’s budget also funds the following: implementation of the National Feeding Program in schools, and additional allocation for school buildings and textbooks; salary adjustment of teachers in SUCs; the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) emergency repatriation of our OFWs, worker protection and welfare program, employment facilitation program; DTI SSF and Negosyo Centers; construction, repair, rehabilitation of the Bureau of Corrections’ (BuCor) prison facilities in Palawan, Davao, Leyte, Mandaluyong and Zamboanga; ICT industry and countryside development, national broadband and cybersecurity and augmentation for the operating requirements of National Telecommunications Commission; the PNP’s 911 Command Center and additional motor vehicles for patrolling; the Bureau of Fire Protection’s firefighting equipment and fire trucks; and the increase in allowance and hiring of additional troops of the CAFGU.

 

These are just highlights of the budgets for fiscal years 2016 to 2019. Each year, we strive to craft a budget that will support the national government’s priority programs, while ensuring that social programs are adequately funded.

 

In all these budget laws, we have made certain that ecological integrity, clean and healthy environment, risk-sensitive investments, and disaster preparedness are mainstreamed in government programs. We believe that building an inclusive and prosperous economy requires us to continually strengthen our resilience to natural hazards and impacts of climate change.

 

We have also been monitoring the utilization rate of agencies. Slow utilization and deliberate underspending have been the scourge of the national budget, because underspending translates to missed opportunities; it means denying our people the services due them. We are glad that this has improved over the years.

 

To the next chair of the Senate Finance Committee, be ready for a tough job, but please put all your heart and soul into it because the Filipino people deserve no less.

 

Farewell and Thank You

 

At this point, I would like to thank everyone who has been part of my journey for the last two decades. First and always foremost is God who is the source of our strength, wisdom, peace, and life itself. The Lord’s graciousness has allowed me to achieve everything that I have now. I am eternally grateful.

 

Thank you to my family—my Papa, who taught me the value of hard work and honesty; my late mother, who pushed me to pursue my dreams and passion, and I know until now, she continues to watch over me; my Nanay Fely, who has been one of my pillars of strength and a great source of comfort from birth; my two sons, my greatest source of inspiration; my brothers and the rest of our family who have supported me all these years.

 

Thank you to each and every colleague I have worked with in this chamber. All of you have contributed to my personal and professional growth. Some have mentored me, but all have become my friends.

 

Senate President Tito Sotto – your leadership is exemplary. The current Senate is one of the most productive and has achieved very high trust rating, thanks to you.

 

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto – a very dedicated public servant who keeps the balance in promoting economic growth and ensuring that social services are brought to the people. This institution greatly benefits from your wisdom and dedication.

 

Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri – the one who baptized me “Tita Ganda.” Thank you for always showering us with compliments and for always making sure the Senate is in order. Your diligence is admirable.

 

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon – I continue to learn a lot from you. Your wisdom and fair criticisms make the Senate a productive and balanced institution. Your efforts in Iloilo serve as my inspiration as I propel my province of Antique to its long overdue development.

 

Senator Sonny Angara – very intelligent and hardworking. Thank you for helping me in the budget as my vice chairperson. I will always be ready to help and guide you.

 

Senator Bam Aquino – thank you as well for helping me in the budget. We shall continue working together in our shared advocacies on education and micro entrepreneurship.

 

Senator Nancy Binay – my BFF seatmate, one of the kindest senators I know. Thank you for your friendship. Continue to be an inspiration, especially in finding positivity in all things and turning challenges into opportunities for growth.

 

Senator Leila de Lima – I admire your resilience and your hard work even in the most inconvenient circumstances.

 

Senator JV Ejercito – hardworking, intelligent, and reliable. One of my vice chairpersons in the budget, thank you for helping me work on and defend the budget, especially on the area of housing, transportation and health.

 

Senator Chiz Escudero – eloquent, sharp and witty; very easy to work with. Congratulations and good luck, Governor!

 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian – your work ethic is admirable. Thank you for sponsoring several important measures I authored in this Congress, particularly the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act and the Philippine Innovation Act.

 

Senator Dick Gordon – a man of both words and action. We learn so much from your manifestations and I salute you for your humanitarian work.

 

Senator Greg Honasan – very respectable, humble and an upright man. He is a man of few words, but very wise.

 

Senator Risa Hontiveros – thank you for your valuable contributions in improving various Senate measures, especially the budget. Continue fighting for the rights of women, the LGBT, and the vulnerable sectors of society.

Senator Ping Lacson – a very principled man. He is like the disciplinarian of the chamber, always intent on upholding the Constitution. Thank you for both helping and challenging me especially with the budget.

 

Senator Manny Pacquiao – your willingness to continue learning is admirable; your humility despite your prominence is an inspiration.

 

Senator Kiko Pangilinan – thank you for upholding human rights and championing the causes of the marginalized and voiceless.

 

Senator Koko Pimentel – intelligent, hardworking and dignified. Continue to be an inspiration for excellence.

 

Senator Grace Poe – we have a special bond because I was the running mate of your late father, FPJ, in the 2004 elections. I salute you for keeping an independent stance while diligently working to pass measures that have positive impact on people’s lives.

 

Senator Sonny Trillanes – I salute your tenacity and your untiring advocacy against corruption.

 

Senator Joel Villanueva – your zealousness is contagious. Thank you for standing up for Filipino workers. Keep up the good work!

 

Senator Cynthia Villar – also my BFF seatmate and my vice chairperson in the budget, particularly on agriculture. Hanep-buhay is a very apt description of your work because you have been untiring in your efforts to uplift the lives of ordinary people by providing them opportunities for growth and success.

 

I also wish to thank the Senate Secretariat, particularly the committee staff, the Office of the Senate Secretary, and all the various departments, including the Office of the Sergeant at Arms and the Office of Administration and Financial Services who all make sure that our day-to-day activities in the Senate are conducted seamlessly and with a strong sense of professionalism.

 

Special thanks also to the support staff of the Committees I chaired over the years, especially the Senate LBRMO whom I have closely worked with in the past four years that I chaired the Senate Committee on Finance. I always say that the discipline and hard work of the LBRMO should be the benchmark of what government service should be: never complaining and never leaving any task undone.

 

Thank you for helping us, your senators, in accomplishing the daunting but very fulfilling task of being legislators. We could not have done this much without the hard work of each and every employee of this institution.

 

Lastly, I would like to thank my Senate staff for their loyalty and dedication, and for having joined me in my journey over the years. I am grateful to have you.

 

Twenty-one years ago, I entered the halls of the Senate hoping to make a difference. I was a journalist-turned-senator filled with idealism, determined to give nothing but my wholehearted commitment to serve the Filipino people through legislation and beyond. I saw history unfold before my own eyes. With that, I have seen the good and the bad in politics, which taught me to discern well.

 

The journey was not without struggle, and heartaches both from personal and political failures. Filled with passion to serve and strengthened by political will to get things done, I surpassed three Senate terms and I am ready to face a bigger battlefield, ready to engage in more debates and forge alliances for the good not only of my constituents in my home province of Antique but of all the Filipino people.

 

I will end my speech, but I do not wish to say goodbye, because certainly, I will see you all around. Duro-duro gid nga salamat. Palangga ko kamo!

 

Thank you, Mr. President.