Message at the ACPAPP and ACPAPP Foundation Inc. Induction Ceremony of 2018 Officers and Members
Thank you very much. Kindly take your seats.
Atty. Arminda Acyatan-Guerrero, President of the Association of Certified Public Accountants in Public Practice (ACPAPP); Mr. Carlitos Cruz, President of ACPAPP Foundation; Ms. Marifi Maring, Executive Director of ACPAPP; Atty. Antonio Acyatan, ACPAPP Inducting Officer; Ms. Ma. Cecilia Ortiz, Mr. George Villaruz, and other past presidents of ACPAPP; directors, officers, and members of ACPAPP and ACPAPP Foundation; representatives from government regulatory agencies; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!
First of all, thank you very much for inviting me here today as we induct your new set of officers and welcome new members of your organization—a fitting way to welcome the new year and to remind us of why we do what we do.
The ACPAPP has come a long way in developing a space where our CPAs in public service can grow, receive professional support, and learn best practices. Through your programs and guidance, we are confident that our accountants will remain true to the principles that make them trustworthy and professional. The values of integrity, accountability, and responsibility are critical for our country, especially during these extraordinary times, when our institutions are facing challenges.
In the past year, the theme of your association was “Moving Forward Together”—a message that resonates beyond your organization’s core. It sets the tone for everyone to make ACPAPP a more accessible channel for all CPAs in public practice. I wish you success in reaching out to more individuals of your profession, allowing more CPAs nationwide to join you in giving quality service for the benefit of our people.
The pain that followed the financial crisis of 2008, which shook the foundations of the accounting profession around the world, made it necessary to raise the standards for financial disclosure. It was a painful awakening, but one that made your profession stronger and protected investors and consumers around the world. Today, the daunting task of ensuring that every financial statement is factual and correct, and that nothing falls between the cracks, rests on your shoulders.
But more than that lies the deeper responsibility of having a strong sense of what is right and wrong. I know this is easier said than done. Do we choose the difficult right or the easy wrong? More than anyone, the duty to uphold integrity and accountability in any group or institution is something that is deeply woven into your every professional decision.
Being a public servant entails living these very same principles—to be accountable, transparent, and faithful in our service to our fellowmen. In more ways than one, you and I share the same task: to make sure more, if not all, of our citizens benefit from effective and good governance.
Since I was in my early 20s, I saw how critical financial accountability is in creating an environment of trust in our country, which is, in turn, extremely necessary for our growth as a nation. My late husband, Jesse, was Mayor of Naga City for a total of six terms. It was a conscious effort on our part to live simply and made sure our children were not raised to feel any sense of entitlement. But it did not end there.
Jesse instituted several measures to make sure that everyone—from the messenger to the Mayor—will be honest and accountable in the course of their duties, believing it is not enough for public officials to be good. There should be systems in place which will ensure that he will continue to be good.
As soon as he assumed office in 1988, he created transparency boards so that financial statements are posted in public places and ordinary people will have the power to assess whether their government is honest in using taxpayers’ money. This became the seed for the Full Disclosure Policy, which he instituted in DILG when he was appointed Secretary of the Interior. He also created the Naga City Citizen’s Charter to further make the City Hall transparent to everyone.
But looking back now, I think what made the people appreciate the kind of public servant that he was, was the fact that his honesty as a public servant was not just a slogan or a mere campaign promise. It was how simply he lived until the day he died, which is a manifestation of his inner values.
These are the same values that we espouse today at the Office of the Vice President. We have one of the smallest budgets in the bureaucracy, and I’m sure you know that, so our programs—Angat Buhay Partnerships Against Poverty; Angat Kabuhayan, which is our push for livelihood and employment; and Istorya Ng Pag-Asa, our attempt to fight fake news, hate speech, and divisiveness in society today—all of these are funded with both taxpayers’ money and donations by our development partners, private corporations, organizations, and some multilateral donors. Since we launched Angat Buhay in October of 2016, we have reached out to more than 89,958 families, mobilizing P182-million worth of projects in 176 local government units.
Together with our private partners, we have built school buildings, playgrounds, libraries, play gardens, and dormitories. We have turned over fishing boats, school books, farming equipment, water pumps, multicabs, solar kits, and carabaos. We have also organized job fairs, provided free medical and dental check-ups and legal services, initiated feeding programs, and distributed relief goods. As of last month, we have visited more than 138 cities and municipalities across the country.
One of those places we visited was Agutaya. I don’t know if you have ever heard of Agutaya, but it is in Northern Palawan. Perhaps many of you have not heard of Agutaya yet, but it is a small island municipality in Northern Palawan. You have to take a 10-hour boat ride from Coron just to get there. We went there two Novembers ago. When we arrived, most of the people who met us were in tears—the mayor, the adults, the children—and we were told later on that not many government officials visited them because of their distance.
In Brgy. Diit in Agutaya, we met Mer Abus. Mer is 33 years old and the youngest of four siblings. Her mother is a buri hat and pandan banig weaver, while her father is a fisherman. When her siblings got married, Mer became the sole breadwinner of the household. Given the lack of opportunities in the island, Mer struggled to find a steady job to support her parents.
Through the help of one of our partners, Andres Soriano Foundation, Mer learned how to weave baskets. Now, her products are displayed and sold in Amanpulo and other (Aman) luxury hotels.
In Bukidnon, one of the stories that I love is that of Bajekjek. Grabe iyong pangalan, ano? Bajekjek. I am sure—that’s her real name—I am sure you have heard of the farmers who walked in 2007 from Bukidnon to Manila to protest their decade-long struggle to own their ancestral land. Pinanalo nila iyon sa Supreme Court, so they got their land back. When I was still a human rights lawyer, the organization I was involved in—SALIGAN—handled the case of the Sumilao farmers in Bukidnon. Bajekjek was one of the youngest of those who took part in that march.
Last year, our partner, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, partnered with OVP to provide integrated farming and bio-systems training to 244 local farmers in Sumilao; 256 farmers from Tampakan, South Cotabato; and 190 farmers from Tinambac, Camarines Sur.
I personally attended their graduation last October and I am happy to tell you that Bajekjek was one of those who finished the program. Thanks to our partners, farmers like her now have easy access to innovative and sustainable farming techniques to improve their produce.
Every single peso we are generously given by our lawmakers and our government, we hope to match with funds donated from our private partners—and all of these resources, we account for meticulously because they represent the hard work of every taxpayer in our country today.
This is why I admire your theme for this year: “Rising as One.” It is a continuation of your last year’s call to action to take this journey of transformation together as an organization. We hope that you will be able to pull more people into your cause, as our country steps into a widely expected era of economic growth, resulting from our demographic window.
Working in government and even the private sector, these themes also serve as a reminder to us public servants to ensure that no one is left behind as our nation progresses. It asks us to go beyond our comfort zones, and consider the welfare of others—our fellowmen, those outside our circles, those who need our help the most.
Earlier, I mentioned our programs at the Office of the Vice President. Every week, we allot two or three days to visit our Angat Buhay communities—kadalasan po Biyernes saka Sabado, iyon po iyong aming provincial visits. This is not included in the mandate of our office, but we believe that we cannot sit for six years doing nothing. Noong umupo po ako, tiningnan ko iyong aming budget, wala kaming budget to implement programs. Iyong budget namin pangsuweldo, operations of the office, and ceremonial work. There was nothing there for programs, so we raised money with our private partners. By visiting these communities, we would be in a better position to help our countrymen in need, dahil nakikita po namin nang personal kung ano ang pinagdadaanan.
From day one, our dream has been simple: to put those in the margins at the front and center of our advocacy. This means rolling up our sleeves and getting to work to ensure that no Filipino is left behind in our growth and development as a nation.
Through Angat Buhay, we partner with different development organizations to address gaps in food security and nutrition, public education, rural development, women empowerment, housing and resettlement, and livelihood. By securing the needs of the Filipino family today, we are laying the groundwork for a better future for the next generation.
Working with the private sector has proven to us that collaboration is key in solving the pressing problems we face today as a nation. Together, we were able to sponsor feeding programs for malnourished children. Partners from different industries have shown their support in providing jobs for our people in rural communities. Classrooms have been built for students who used to walk several kilometers each day to go to school, and basic needs such as water and electricity have been turned over to families in far flung areas. We would not have done any of these without the trust and support of other organizations who trust us and believe in our advocacies.
Which is why it is my hope that as you reach greater heights, you also turn your gaze towards those beyond your usual circles. One of your missions as an organization is to “strengthen [your] advocacy role and come out with activities that will solidly unite [your] members.” I believe this is an opportunity to put those in the fringes of our society at the front and at the center of what we do.
Jesse once said about integrity, and I quote: “Hindi sapat na tayo ay matino lamang. Hindi rin sapat na tayo ay mahusay lamang. Hindi lahat ng matino ay mahusay, at lalo namang hindi lahat ng mahusay ay matino. Ang dapat ay matino at mahusay upang tayo ay pagkatiwalaan ng pera ng bayan.”
It is a reminder to us of what our outlook should be in our line of work. It is not enough that we are matino if our work does not reflect this ideal. It is not enough as well to be just mahusay, if we do not work to serve our purpose properly. We need to be both matino and mahusay to become worthy of our people’s trust.
Because ultimately, it is a reminder to always keep in mind the bigger picture that makes our work meaningful: the Filipino people. Our mission is not simply to spot errors and improve systems to meet certain standards. It is about making our processes work better, because we want to deliver better services for our countrymen.
You are not in this alone; we in government are fortunate to find partners in ACPPAP, for your continuous support in strengthening the capabilities of our CPAs and empowering them in their work in public service.
So to our newly inducted officers and members who are here today, we hope that you take this opportunity to realize your strengths and become your best selves. Take pride in becoming part of an organization that values being matino and mahusay, and strives to embed the same to its members. With professionals like you in public service, we can work towards a government that truly works for the benefit of the people.
So thank you very much for having me with you this afternoon, and I wish you all a very productive seminar. Congratulations po sa inyong lahat. Magandang hapon pong muli!