Icons of Entrepreneurship and Nation Building

Keynote Address delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN at the General Membership Meeting of the Junior Chamber International Manila (JCI-Manila) on April 19, 2016 at the Tower Club, Philamlife Center, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.

Have you heard the story of a Jaycee who was the proud father of three boys whom, through his perseverance and hard work, he was able to send to the best schools here and abroad. One son became a much sought-after cardiologist, the second a high-earning chief financial officer in a blue-chip company and the third a smart lawyer, a name-partner in a top law firm.


Before he died, the father had a strange request born of his love for perfect preparation. As a token of appreciation for his effort in seeing through his sons, he asked each of them to put P100,000 in his coffin to help him, so he believed, start his new life after death.


When the inevitable day came, the doctor-son was broken because, even with his expertise, he could not save his father. So he tearfully put P100,000 cash on the cold chest of his dad. Then came the wealthy CFO who promptly shelled out his P100,000 in crisp bills. Finally, the sobbing lawyer’s turn came. He took out his check book, wrote a check for P300,000, put it in the coffin, and took the P200,000 cash as his rightful change. I understand he is now a candidate for a congressional seat in the coming elections.



          Ladies and gentlemen, may I assure you that the lawyer is not a member of the JCI Manila. With that assurance, may I thank Mr. Ramiro Villavicencio, your president, for inviting me as your guest speaker during this general membership meeting? He asked me to speak on the Ramon V. Del Rosario, Sr. Award for Nation Building which, together with the Asian Institute of Management and the Del Rosario family, you sponsor annually.


Since it was launched in 2009, I have been privileged to be invited each year as the Chairman of the Board of Judges.  I am happy to witness at close hand how successful it has become and how it has symbolized the twin advocacies of the late Ambassador, which combine the challenges of business with a consuming passion for nation building. I know that since its founding by Ambassador Del Rosario about half a century ago, JCI Manila has consistently undertaken projects that redounded to the benefit of society. In the process, it also fulfilled the members’ pursuits for interpersonal teambuilding, social interaction and communication skills.


The RVR Award itself has attracted nationwide attention for personifying these twin values of entrepreneurship and social responsibility. Indeed, the Award has chalked up an illustrious line-up of awardees, who all exemplify the best of private business and social progress. I would like to call them the icons of entrepreneurship and nation building.


Past recipients

          These icons are former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, who founded a large banana plantation, La Frutera, tilled by, among others, former rebels in Muslim Mindanao; former Ambassador to Great Britain Jesus Tambunting, the founder of the micro-small-and-medium-enterprise-focused Planters Bank now merged with China Bank; the visionary and high-minded Oscar M. Lopez, chairman emeritus of the Lopez Group which espouses the “Power of Good;” Philanthropist Washington Sycip who founded and headed SGV, the largest auditing company in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia; former Senator and Trade Minister Vicente T. Paterno (now deceased) who organized the Philippine Seven Corporation in the country and promoted the Medium and Small Scale Industries Coordinating Action Program (MASICAP); the young and energetic Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman of the country’s oldest business conglomerate involved in real estate, banking, telecommunications, water distribution, and business process outsourcing, as well as the leader of several educational and charitable causes and foundations; and the multi-talented Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of several conglomerates, here and abroad, involved in telecommunication, digital commerce, electric power, water distribution, tollways, railways and other infrastructures, hospitals and health services, broadcast and print media, mineral resources, and at the same time the unassuming  head of the Philippine Business for Social Progress and many other huge foundations, including some that promote sports here and abroad.


Uniqueness of Award

          The RVR Award is unique because, as I earlier explained, it aims to promote entrepreneurship and social responsibility, traits that quite a number of people still treat instinctively as mutually exclusive and separate, when in fact, they should be, and are, mutually inclusive. Together, they create inclusive progress, which in turn ultimately benefit business as well.


Yes, when business helps in proper education, people invariably become good citizens and in the process consume higher quality food, purchase more homes and appliances, wear better-sewn clothes, travel more frequently and use more mobile phone services. In this manner, they move the economy and help the country.


When employees and laborers are paid correctly, treated with fairness and respect, and amply rewarded for work done well, they become efficient and loyal, thereby helping their employers advance the interests of their shareholders, customers, community and the nation at large.


So too, when farmers are assisted in planting, harvesting and marketing their products, they multiply their resources. When out-of-school youth are trained to sharpen their vocational skills, they get employed and contribute their share to nation building. When ex-convicts and former rebel are given a chance to work in farms, factories and offices, they reform themselves and become useful members of society, instead of going back to criminality and their old contumacious habits. And when young athletes are trained in a world-class environment, they bring honor to our country and to themselves.


Our RVR icons do all these and more. They devote a great part of their time, talent and treasures in helping the least, the last and the lost. Yes, entrepreneurship and social responsibility are the values held in common by the RVR awardees.


Immersing With Poor

I am sure all of you dear Jaycees would want to lead or at least be involved in these examples of social responsibility and nation building. But even beyond just giving your resources and time, I urge you to have real solidarity with the poor and the marginalized by having actual or vicarious experiences with their almost pitiful situations in life, to wade with them in their struggles to free themselves from the shackles of poverty, illiteracy, disability and sickness.


Some of you may in fact have been in their situation, have been poor and deprived so this may no longer be necessary. In my case, let me tell you that I have experienced the pangs of extreme poverty and want. As a young boy, I had to hawk newspapers, shine shoes and peddle cigarettes in the streets of Manila. To be able to continue studying I had to maintain my scholarship and to sell textbooks to my classmates at the beginning of the school year to have a free copy as my commission from the publishers. This became especially difficult when my father, who was our lone breadwinner as a lowly government employee, passed away during my first year of prelaw studies. My exposure to extreme want and my personal struggles to triumph over it gave me firsthand experience to empathize with and assist the needy, and incidentally also, they accorded me first hand experiences in private entrepreneurship to enable me to finish my studies.


I underscore this mutually inclusive relationship because it is in keeping with my own beliefs. As many of you may be aware, I have always espoused “Liberty and Prosperity” as the twin anchors of my being as a lawyer, as a jurist and as a citizen. I have written Supreme Court decisions, articles and books, and spoken in various fora here and elsewhere, explaining and espousing this philosophy.


Liberty and Prosperity

Even in retirement, I still continue my advocacy for these twin beacons. Thus in 2011, five years after I hung my black robes in the judiciary and celebrated my 75th birthday, I organized the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity.  The Foundation’s philosophy is very much in line with the goals of the RVR Award.


In fact, FLP’s basic tenets are echoed also in the “Jaycee Values” which all Jaycees recite at the beginning of every activity: “That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise; that government should be of laws rather than of men.” These values are really a restatement of the philosophy of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law.


Verily, FLP believes in liberty and prosperity, ethics and economics, justice and jobs, freedom and food, peace and development; and, corollarily, it also believes that these twin beacons must always go together; one is useless without the other. It also espouses my view that the best way to conquer poverty, to create wealth and to share prosperity is to unleash the entrepreneurial genius of people by granting them the freedom and the tools to help themselves and society. And liberty, ethics, justice, freedom and peace are what create the most suitable environment for private entrepreneurship to flourish.


If the great majority of our business leaders embrace these twin traits of a pioneering spirit and a passion for nation building espoused by the RVR Award and their corresponding equivalents of liberty and prosperity, the net result would be the expansion of private business and inclusive economic growth for all our people, both for the rich and the poor, the fortunate and the less fortunate, the privileged and the underprivileged.



We need only look at our Asian neighbors for a validation of this advocacy. For instance, as I mentioned in a speech before the Asean Law Association on February 20, 2011 (copy may be accessed in my personal website, cjpanganiban.com), let us go to China, the second most powerful economy in the world and the prime promoter of the communist system. True, Mao Zedong led the masses in a revolt that dislodged the corrupt and inefficient government born of an outdated monarchy. But it was Deng Xiaoping who led this nation to unparalleled economic prosperity by unleashing the entrepreneurial ingenuity of the Chinese under his “One-Country-Two-Systems” philosophy.


Another example is Korea. As a result of World War II, this country was divided into North and South, which unfortunately could not accept their division and engaged in a terrible war that ruined their economies and impoverished their people. Rising from the ruins, South Korea relied on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Korean people and built on their private initiative as well as on the notion that innovation, creativity, freedom and hard work would enable them to conquer their poverty, provide for their family’s well-being and attain affluence.


In contrast, North Korea – despite its technological and military bravado – wallows in abject poverty as a result of its tight grip on creativity and inordinate fear of the entrepreneurship, education, freedom and prosperity of its people.


Some members of the ASEAN, like Singapore, have attained first world status. Malaysia and Thailand are exemplars on how to propel economies. And during the past few years, the VIPs of the world – Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines – have exhibited enviable records of GDP growths.


The common denominator underlying the success of these countries is the unleashing of their peoples’ entrepreneurial spirit (even if inadequately in some places) for the benefit not just of the entrepreneurs but for all stakeholders, the employees, the shareholders, the customers, the community and the people in general.


Some of us may ask, “But isn’t it true that some of these countries, like China and Vietnam, propelled their economy at the expense of the civil liberty of their people?”


My answer is simple: The peoples of the world have different histories, traditions, cultures, ideologies and mindsets. But I dare say, all of them need liberty and prosperity. Some countries, taking into account their unique backgrounds, start with improving their people’s economic lives first and restrict temporarily in measured stages their political liberty. Some others begin with political liberty, thinking that their economy would flourish as a necessary consequence. Still some others rise with a combination of both liberty and prosperity at the very beginning. I think that such differing starts and focuses are inherent in the diverse growth of nations. But, I also firmly believe that eventually and inevitably, all the peoples of the world need and deserve liberty and prosperity in equal measure.



          As I conclude my speech, let me hurl a little challenge to all of you tonight. By your sponsorship of the RVR Award, you have manifested your adherence to Ambassador Del Rosario’s twin values of entrepreneurship and nation-building. By inviting me to be your guest speaker, you have kindly allowed me to expound not only on these twin values but also on their counterpart values of liberty and prosperity, ethics and economics, justice and jobs, freedom and food, peace and development; which must go together for one is useless without the other.


It is my fervent wish that you will end this evening firmly believing in and fervently advocating these inseparable values and that you will aspire to become, like our RVR awardees, the icons of entrepreneurship and nation building and the promoters of liberty and prosperity under the rule of law.


          Maraming salamat po.  

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