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Burning bridges

I have attended many State of the Nation Addresses (SONA) in the halls of Congress. In my stint as member and Speaker of the House of Representatives, and as member and President of the Senate, I have heard presidents explain their vision for the country.

I must say that the SONA delivered by newly elected President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was a refreshing, unique, and powerful experience.

In his typical no-nonsense and straightforward manner, President Duterte bared his thinking about the problems of the country and presented his vision to uplift the welfare of the Filipino people.

In their typical predictable manner, critics, pundits, and other political observers all have something to say for or against the President’s SONA. I will leave to them the task of dissecting the speech. But I want to write something about it that struck me the most.

I was impressed right at the beginning of his speech when he said: “We cannot move forward if we allow the past to pull us back.” This has been the same philosophy that I have in life, which I found very appropriate during my time in politics.

Many of you are aware that I have been the focus of some vicious lies throughout my political career. People tried to besmirch my reputation when I first ran for speaker of the House of Representative. Opponents and some media organizations accused me of using my political position to benefit my businesses.

This was a complete lie. The simplest proof of this is the fact that I was in the Forbes billionaires list before I entered politics and was excluded in the list when I became a legislator. A few years after the end of my term, I was on that list again. Politics made me poorer!

Still, I understand and accept it because when I made the decision to enter politics, my focus was on serving our people. I wanted to share my life experiences of conquering poverty and achieving success for my family with all our kababayan.

Despite the nastiness of that race to become Speaker, I managed to convince my fellow legislators that I was the right man for the job. And on top of that, I managed to become very good friends with my foremost nemesis for the speakership, the late great Joker Arroyo.

Although we were rivals at that time, we became the best of friends. I held no grudges. I burned no bridges. And I am glad because I was able to see in my former adversary a kindred spirit.

This is an important advice to all of us, especially the young who are just about to begin their professional career – do not burn bridges.

I have always believed that human beings are inherently good, and that sometimes we make bad decisions that might hurt other people. I do not think that someone who has done me wrong is an evil person.

During the 2010 elections, I was also the subject of malicious black propaganda from media and my opponents. And all of them were downright fabrications!

They tried to tie me to former Gloria Macapagal Arroyo because she was very unpopular at that time, despite the fact that I have never been close – politically or personally – to her. In fact, when there was a discussion about the Senate presidency, GMA preferred Senator Franklin Drilon over me! Add this to the fact that it was under my leadership in the Senate when we started a serious investigation into some of the questionable acts of the GMA administration.

But I hold no rancor. My mother always taught me not to be vindictive. And when President Benigno Aquino III and the Liberal Party offered to coalesce with our Nacionalista Party during the 2013 elections, we gladly accepted because the job of making our country better was far more important than feeding one’s vengeful desires.

Personally, I do not like to dwell on past quarrels and hostility. I believe that the past should teach us lessons. I believe that we should remember and learn from history. But I also believe in moving forward rather than getting stuck in the past.

As President Duterte put it so well, “I wish to assure everyone… that vindictiveness is not in my system.” This is an important message. This should send a clear signal to everyone that we cannot dwell on the past but rather imagine a future full of possibilities for our people.

Let the God of justice and mercy judge those who committed sins against us. Our job is to build a future for our children.

(For comments/feedback email to:mv.secretariat@gmail or visitwww.mannyvillar.com.ph.) (Senator Manny Villar)