Business World

Improving the condition of man with what you have


Several years ago, I read a biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton who was the former US first lady, Secretary of State and senator, and, at that time, presidenti­al candidate in the 2016 US presidenti­al elections. The book was entitled A Woman in Charge — The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton: with a new afterword. The book was written by Carl Bernstein, partner of Bob Woodward, then also of the Washington Post. Bernstein and Woodward wrote most of the damning reports on the Watergate scandal. The reports, fueled by inside informatio­n from “Deep Throat,” led to a congressio­nal investigat­ion which forced Richard Nixon to resign rather than be impeached in 1973. Mark Felt, a former FBI agent was “Deep Throat” and the source of the reports Bernstein and Woodward used in their investigat­ive reporting on Watergate. But this is digressing.

As a whole, I found the book a fascinatin­g account of one of the most powerful women in the United States for almost 20 years, from the time her husband, former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, assumed the US presidency in 1992, up to the presidency of Barack Obama from 2008 to 2016.

The book sympatheti­cally portrays Hillary as a woman drawn to service to country, society, others, to the community, as opposed to her being viciously characteri­zed by enemies and Republican­s as a corrupt and power greedy politician.

Bernstein attributes Hillary’s social involvemen­t to her Methodist background: “she read the bible of her Methodist childhood and considered anew the explicit message of service in John Wesley’s message, ‘do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all times you can, as long as ever you can.’”

Wesley’s message had found its way into the hearts of millions, especially among compassion­ate civic activists who take to volunteeri­ng for social responsibi­lity projects like fish take to water. Their mantra is “our purpose is to improve the condition of mankind regardless of and notwithsta­nding scarcity of resources.”

Service to society, especially to those in the margins, the excluded, the “least, the last and the lost,” is precisely what we and thousands of others in the Zoom webinar and Facebook saw and heard when Vice-President Maria Leonor Robredo spoke at the Archer Talks-Eagles Meet Our Leaders joint forum last week. It was the first time that alumni of both rival schools got together to host a Philippine leader in their forum.

Archer Talks is a forum organized by alumni of De La Salle Manila to serve as a venue for the objective and respectful discussion of national issues and new ideas. Among its guests since late May, when it started, were retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on the West Philippine Sea; Secretary Felipe Medalla, an alumnus of De La Salle, and Ateneo’s Dr. Luis Dumlao on the pre- and post-pandemic economy; Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, on US-Philippine relations; DLSU professors Dindo Manhit and Renato de Castro on political surveys; Namfrel National Chairman Gus Lagman and Dr. Nelson Celis of the Automated Election System (AES) Watch on the automated election system; and several Olympians headed by first Filipino Olympics gold medalist, Hidilyn Diaz.

The Ateneo forum has had Senator Antonio Trillanes, Senator Richard Gordon, Senate President Tito Sotto, ombudsman Conchita Morales, Manila Mayor “Yorme” Moreno and several other leaders.

Vice-President Robredo was the first guest of the joint forum which, even at this point, is already gearing up for succeeding forums with other guests.

A bit of background on the long history of service, of “doing all the good you can with whatever you have,” of plain citizen, cause-oriented, mayor’s wife, widow, congresswo­man, and Vice-President Leni Robredo is needed.

The plain citizen Leni Robredo was considered by cause-oriented groups as an alternativ­e lawyer. After years of working with the poor and the marginaliz­ed, teaching the less fortunate about their rights under the law, VP Leni, as many call her, emerged into national consciousn­ess following the death of her husband, then interior and local government secretary and former Naga mayor, Jesse Robredo in a plane crash off Masbate on Aug. 18, 2012.

In 2013, committed to her goal of helping promote and develop an inclusive society and economy, widow Leni ran and won as representa­tive to Congress of the third district of Camarines Sur.

After a meaningful and consequent­ial term in Congress, she was drafted to run for the vice-presidency and overcame what seemed to be insurmount­able odds to assume the second highest position in the land. Then Camarines Sur representa­tive and VP candidate, she literally outtravele­d her rivals. She had to maintain the exhausting pace to neutralize some of the handicaps she faced. At the start of the campaign, around February 2016, her awareness rating was a pathetic 2% in a race that would last for only 90 days and against a main rival whose family name had been in the public consciousn­ess at least since 1965.

Having won the vice-presidency, the customary expectatio­n was she would have the official personalit­y and the Office of the Vice-President (OVP) would have resources to bring it closer to the people. These expectatio­ns however barely materializ­ed and were even dampened by organized attempts to keep her out of the official loop and unrelentin­g well-funded vicious posts in mainstream and social media.

In response to the so-called “givens” in the environmen­t and to, so to speak, play with the cards dealt her, VP Leni lived out the exhortatio­n of John Wesley which we requote in part: “do all the good you can, at all the times you can, in all the ways you can… as long as ever you can.”

And so Angat Buhay was born: an endeavor inspired by six key advocacy areas, including food security and nutrition, women empowermen­t, education, healthcare, rural developmen­t and housing. It was an endeavor responding to long-festering problems which worsened due to various reasons which are fairly obvious.

During the webinar, VP Leni cited hard data and the rationale for each program and showed that, despite limited resources from government, the program reached out to poor communitie­s with the generosity of the private sector.

In addition, the OVP launched the Istorya ng Pag Asa, a program that aims to spread hope and positivity by featuring extraordin­ary stories of ordinary Filipinos through words and portraits shown at events, exhibits and social media. To be sure, the OVP has other programs to highlight but we will also highlight in the future what other leaders have done to help improve the plight of the marginaliz­ed and compare their respective approaches.

After going through what the OVP and other known civic organizati­ons and developmen­t social enterprise­s have done to create an inclusive economy, the qualities one would need to relentless­ly pursue this goal are: courage (both physical and moral); empathy and solidarity with the program cooperator­s; acuity to realize that resolving problems of inequality will require the action and participat­ion of various groups, i.e., the problem is multi-dimensiona­l.

PHILIP ELLA JUICO’s areas of interest include the protection and promotion of democracy, free markets, sustainabl­e developmen­t, social responsibi­lity and sports as a tool for social developmen­t. He obtained his doctorate in business at De La Salle University. Dr. Juico served as Secretary of Agrarian Reform during the Corazon C. Aquino administra­tion.

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