Weighing My Options: The Agony of decision.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, July 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Weighing My Options: The Agony of decision.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


WHERE does duty and honor point me? This column is like a page from my Journal which I have described elsewhere as secret archives of the heart. It is like sharing the agonies of decision with the readers of this column and the public in general.

All my friends know I have always practised humility and I have never been burdened with an exaggerated sense of self-importance. But in the wake of the so-called Guingona affair I have found myself under the spotlight of public attention and scrutiny. The truth is that up to the moment this is being written, I have not finally made up my mind on whether or not to accept the overtures for joining the Administration as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Neither has there been made any formal offer to me, although mutual friends are arranging a one-on-one meeting between the President and me in the next few days.

There is a saying popularized by a former Speaker of the US House of Representatives that in the end all politics is local. That is the reason I conducted a final consultation meeting with my friends and allies in the province of Bulacan yesterday at the Manila Hotel. Their opinion was split, but there was a preponderance of advice for me to accept the offer if formally made, not as a political matter, but strictly as a challenge for public service.

Throughout a long political career, beginning with my stint as an assistant of President Magsaysay in 1953, I have always thought of public office not in terms of exercising power and gaining personal benefits but in terms of making useful contributions to the general welfare, both in my country and in the world at large. The focus must always be on contributions.

The last time I had the opportunity, as labor minister in 1974, I focused on the problem of unemployment and created the overseas employment program, building a global infrastructure for it. This policy unlocked the gates of the world labor market to millions of Filipinos who were able to transform their lives and those of their children. The only economic miracle that has happened since that day is the miracle of transformation wrought by overseas employment. The amount of inward remittances from this source, $7-$8 billion a year according to the Central Bank, has helped sustain the economy especially in critical times.

To this day, official delegations come to Manila from many developing countries to study how the Philippines has pulled off this economic miracle. The Philippine Labor Code that I then authored, based on international labor standards, has also been held up by the ILO as a model to other developing countries especially in Southeast Asia. …

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