Farewell to the Senate & Report to the Nation

Manila Bulletin, June 11, 2004 | Go to article overview

Farewell to the Senate & Report to the Nation


(Valedictory speech by Sen. LOREN LEGARDA delivered in the Senate session hall on June 10, 2004)

SIX years ago, I was sworn into the Senate on a fine and glorious day for democracy an event that marked a smooth transition from one president to another. Today, I am bidding farewell to the Senate in a context of a political cumulus, dark and foreboding. And the elementary search for truth seemingly as hopeless as finding the cure for our political cancer.

But I have to cast aside these personal doubts and fears for now to bid farewell to this respected institution, briefly summarize my six-year stay in this august chamber and, essentially, make a personal and faithful report to the more than 15 million Filipino voters who elected me to the Senate in 1998.

My full Senate term covered the Eleventh and Twelfth Congresses. The first three years involved learning, legislating, and fighting for causes. The second, in my capacity as the first woman Majority Leader of the chamber, involved legislation, advocacy and forging concensus on issue critical to the nation and our people.

In a sense, I became a senator without much transition pains. My 20 years in broadcast journalism which gave me the chance to help chronicle the public affairs of the nation and the public lives of our leaders prepared me for the Senate. My years in journalism also gave me a ringside seat in the delicate and complex task of crafting public policy.

Environment was the forgotten cause I first took on in the Senate. I fully realized that this agenda would give no public recognition, no sound bites on the prime-time news, no entry point into the political and media loop. Even in a sophisticated democracy like the United States, then Senator Al Gore was a lonely voice for the environment. But I plodded on, doing my part to help in combatting the scourge to our environment.

I helped pass two environmental landmark laws the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001, which I principally sponsored, and the Philippine Clear Air Act of 1999, sponsored by Sen. Gregorio Honasan. I took the cudgels for people getting terminally ill from the toxic waste left behind by US military troops in their former bases in Subic and Clark. I appealed to the US government to get rid of this unwanted killer legacy and help forge an international alliance to help address this concern. I did my share to stop illegal mining activities in Compostela Valley and elsewhere. Any place where pollution reared its ruinous head, I was there to fight it.

And as I speak before you today, I am fulfilled with the thought that more than 1 million trees are growing in the forest parks which Luntiang Pilipinas has established throughout the country an endeavor which the United Nations Environment Program has duly recognized.

The Senate leadership also appointed me chair of three important committees: environment, economic affairs and tourism. I did not regard them as marginal committees and instead took my responsibilities seriously and intensely.

In 1999, the firmness of my core and fundamental beliefs came to a test through the vote against the Visiting Forces Agreement. I have nothing but admiration for the American people and its democratic institutions and Americas basic sense of fairness. But the VFA was, to me, anti-Filipino and unconstitutional. I voted No, against the wishes and advice of everyone close to me, my husband included. I told then President Estrada my No vote was not an act of defiance, but a vote for my country and my conscience.

In between legislation and advocacy, I helped secure the release of five police and military officers held captive by the CPP-NPA-NDF in various parts of the country. …

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