SPEECHES & INTERPELLATIONS

Speeches

3RD CORPORATE GOVERNANCE IN A WORLD OF LAWLESSNESS AND CORRUPTION AT KOTA KINABALU, MALAYSIA, SEPTEMBER 3-5, 2009

Privilege Statement of Sen. Nene Pimentel at the Senate, September 8, 2009

On September 3, 2009, I flew to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia at no expense to the Senate to participate in a conference whose subject matter attracted me.

           

The conference was about “Corporate Governance in a World of Lawlessness and Corruption.” A question was posed at the end of the subject: ‘Is there an option?’

 

            Incidentally, the conference was held at the Sutera Harbour Resort, a fabulous hotel owned by Datuk Edward Ong, a Singaporean, in Kota Kinabalu.

 

Argentinian organizer

 

            The main organizer, who I only met at the conference, was Ed Silvoso, an Argentinian, who told me he had wanted to be president of Argentina but wound up as the founder and leader of Harvest Evangelism.

           

His group had been tackling the problem of corporate ‘lawlessness and corruption’, as he calls it, and the conference in Kota Kinabalu was the 3rd such international  gathering.

 

Factual examples

 

As a graduate of Xavier University, a Catholic educational institution in Cagayan de Oro City, I’ve heard the religious premises of the issues discussed at the conference many times before.

 

            But what really carried the days of the conference for me were the factual examples of how at least three men changed the corrupt or immoral environment of the places where they worked.

 

Cape Town, South Africa

 

            Graham Power works in Cape Town, South Africa. He is the owner of Power Group which employs some 2000 in engineering, development and construction works.

 

            In his group, Graham started innovations to uplift the employees work conditions and pay and has begun “co-ownership” arrangements with 420 of their long time workers.   

 

            But more to the point, Graham initiated a campaign for corporations in South Africa to be “Unashamedly Ethical”. In practical terms that meant no under-the-table deals or corrupt practices or bribery for the corporate members of the group.

 

            The group has sought the backing of the people at ‘the market place’, meaning in the cause of Graham, not only corporations as such but also the people in general.

 

             In 2001, 45,000 Christians filled up the Newlands Stadium under the leadership of Graham to pray for the needs of  Africa.

 

            It is claimed that the spirit of the “Unashamedly Ethical” slogan has now infused the work ethic of many corporations in South Africa.

 

Phuket, Thailand

 

            Another man whose story struck me for its realism was Brian Burton, pastor of the Phuket Christian Center in Thailand.

           

Brian who comes from the UK went to Thailand with his wife several years ago. He started a church with a handful of  members until it grew to 700 at its latest count.

 

Tsunami

 

            What brought Brian into the limelight in Thailand was not the number of the members of his church. It was rather the tsunami of 2004. Appalled by the disaster wrought by the tsunami, Brian decided that he and his church would get involved in rebuilding the community.

 

            From a pastor who was mainly concerned with doing services inside his small church ministering to its few members, Brian was transformed into a community rebuilder despite his utter lack of credentials as an engineer.

 

            One of his biggest success stories was the rebuilding of a school that was devastated by the tsunami. As he told the conference, while the usual government agencies called for bids to qualify contractors to build the school, all he did was submit a sketch plan of how he saw the school should be rebuilt and the facilities it should offer but without the usual monetary estimates. He and his church members had prayed over the plan before it was submitted to the local officials for evaluation.

 

King’s support

 

All the bids and Brian’s sketch plan were subsequently sent to Bangkok for the King’s approval. To Brian’s surprise, the King chose his plan over the bids of engineering firms and contractors. Then, he said, money started to pour in from many people – including school children from all over the world - and from the King, himself, who also made construction equipment and other support services available.

 

            The school was finished in due time. It is now the most advanced public school in Phuket with modern technological facilities unseen in the area prior to the tsunami. Hundreds of poor children who otherwise would have no access to good education - were it not for the shift in the focus of Brian’s ministry – are now enrolled in it.

 

            The expansion of his ministry from one of pastoring church-goers from the inside of his house of prayer to pastoring people in the market place brought fulfillment to his otherwise frustrating calling.

 

            Another fruit of his ‘pastoring people in the market place’ was the transformation of the mayor of Phuket into a man of prayer. The mayor, however, got into legal problems recently when he openly fought against the overpricing of a government hospital being constructed in the area. Apparently some contractors retaliated by charging him with corruption before the local court.

 

Brian believes in the innocence of the mayor and has stood behind the latter’s corner in the legal battle that probably by the time this report is submitted would already have been resolved.

 

With the help of the mayor a red-light district in Phuket has been transformed into straight business centers. Like what is told in the next paragraphs, a bordello was converted into a church after the owner was reached by the ministering hand of Brian ‘in the market place’.

 

Parañaque, the Philippines

 

            The third man, a Filipino, amazed me with his report. Ricardo “King” Flores worked to rid the  government of Parañaque City of corruption. With the cooperation of the mayor and his administration, the city turned around from being saddled with millions of unpaid debts to one that now has a surplus.

 

King’s message in video was that the mayor and his people received God’s word that they would not to resort to corruption or bribery in the service of their constituents.

 

            The implication was that the elimination of corruption from the city administration led the people of Parañaque to pay their taxes more faithfully now than in the past.

 

            The video presentation of how the City of Parañaque was transformed from worldly city to a city where the spirit of God is at work was quite impressive.

 

Motel into a Church

 

             With the help of the mayor, King told of a businessman who heeded God’s word and converted his sizeable motel-chain (‘prostitution dens’) into family friendly townhouses. Like the brothel house in Phuket, one of those motels in Parañaque was turned into a Church.

 

            There’s much to be said of the ‘miracles’ that ordinary people like Graham, Brian and King had done.

 

            In my view, God works his miracles through people who need not be outstanding in their own fields but who are willing to submit completely to the Lord.

 

            Still the extraordinary deeds of the three men could not have happened without the support of their ‘co-parishioners’ or other people - who having received the word of God in their own hearts – now went out of their way to back up what their leaders were doing.

 

            I guess that what happened in Cape Town, Phuket and Parañaque illustrates the truism that nobody achieves anything without God’s blessings and the assistance of other people.

 

            The three men could not have done anything had their people not responded with their generosity in various ways to accomplish what they believed was their mission in life.

 

Challenge

 

            If corporations and businesses in our country were to be “Unashamedly Ethical”, who would corrupt the corruptible public officials and politicians?

 

            If local officials would heed the laws against corruption and the injunctions of  Ten Commandments were would corruption come in?

 

            If the people of God (the Christians, the Muslims, and believers) of the country were to do likewise, we’d see the golden age of the Philippines:  corruption free and with enough money and resources to tear down the walls of poverty.

 

            In my view, the will of God need not remain in the heavens.  It may be done on earth, yes, in our country if we will only try.

 

Important aside

 

            As an important aside in our report, let it be said that in history, Sabah whose main city is Kota Kinabalu, the conference site, is ours. Ours in the sense that it was given in the late 19th century by the Sultan of Borneo to the Sultan of Sulu as a reward for the latter’s assistance in fighting off the enemies of the former.

 

            Having seen Kota Kinabalu for the first time in my life, I must say that it is a pity that we are unable to assert our ownership over Sabah.

 

            In any case, this is not the place for a thorough dissertation to buttress our claim to Sabah.

 

            Suffice it to say that under the British colonial rule, the North Borneo Company paid the Sultan of Sulu rent for their occupation of Sabah. And after the British left and Sabah became a part of Malaysia in 1963, the latter continued paying rent, 5000 ringgits, to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.

 

            It is hoped that future generations of our people could somehow find a reasonable way to recover Sabah from the jurisdiction of Malaysia and bring it back to the sovereignty of our country for the benefit of the Republic and the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu. 

 

Trivia

 

  1. Noynoy Aquino made the second page of the Borneo Post of September 3. The headline of the bottom page story told of his setting his “sights on running for president”.

 

  1. The newspaper also carried an item on the arrest of Gov. Vic Valera of Abra for his alleged involvement in the killing of Congressman Luis Bersamin some three years ago.

 

  1. Three members of the assembly of Sabah were arrested for trying to hold a demonstration within 30 meters of the Perak Darul Ridzuan building where the state assembly hall is located.

 

  1. Two personnel from our embassy in Kuala Lumpur met me at the Kota Kinabalu airport Vice Consul Shirlene Mananquil and Mr. Rusty Vilando.  They were documenting our citizens without papers there.

 

Apparently there is a law that prohibits public demonstrations within 30 meters from the building.



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