Last night the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution of thanks to Brother Jun Erguiza for his stewardship of CEAP over the last three years. Let us together give him a grateful round of applause.
First of all, I would like to thank the heads of the schools for electing me Trustee-at-large. It is because of that generous vote that I was made again a member of your Board of Trustees, and so, with all the other members of the Board, eligible for President. Last night, your Trustees saw fit to elect me your President. Apparently, however, it was not an easy decision for them. They wanted to make sure that if I became President, it would not be my agenda that is pursued, but the agenda of CEAP. They wanted to make sure that if I became President, the members of the Board and the regions would not be disregarded in the strength and independence of the public positions we take. They wanted to make sure that what appeared to be a personal feud between myself and the CHED not hinder the legitimate representation of the concerns of the regions at CHED. They wanted to make sure that my loyalty to the Church, its moral imperatives, and to the CEAP is stronger than my loyalty to President Duterte, who for the record is not my spiritual directee. These are legitimate concerns for members of your Board. Perhaps, if there were another member of the Board willing to take on the responsibilities of this position, they would have elected that person. But there was not, so they elected me.
In accepting this responsibility, allow me to thank the Board for reposing on me its trust, despite its initial misgivings. Allow me to assure the Board and all of you that my personal agenda shall be the agenda and the concerns of the CEAP, whether this involve the implementation of the K-12 reform, the relationship with PEAC, academic freedom, quality assurance, or the promotion of private public partnerships. I believe this has been the case in my long years of service on the National Advocacy Committee of the CEAP and in my personal engagement for the revision of the CEAP Constitution and ByLaws to strengthen the regions and formally recognize the role of the superintendents in the organization. It is my very deep conviction that effective leadership of this huge national organization is not possible without the considered and free support of the members of the Board and of all the regions. By support, I do not just mean a vote that thrusts one into office, or the regional conviction that it can be served by an effective national office, but the willingness to actually engage personally or institutionally in achieving the goals of our shared cooperation. Shared cooperation will mean shared prayer, shared discernment, shared conversation, shared negotiations, shared action – even when controversial – towards our common good, the advancement of Catholic education, and the common good of all. Allow me to assure all that this discernment will necessarily apply to the manner in which we interact with government: with the Congress, the Judiciary, and the Executive under President Duterte, including the DepEd, TESDA and the CHED. Our senators and congressmen are not easy to deal with; our judicial system is flawed in its ability to deliver justice; our President is pursuing a controversial war on drugs, but he is also in impassioned pursuit of peace, national security against foreign aggression, the elimination of stubborn corruption in government, the protection of the environment, and, in a word, social justice. In this President we perceive a window for change, the change we have longed for over many administrations.
It is in this context that we in CEAP are challenged anew to transformative education based on our intimate knowledge of and commitment to Jesus Christ, who comes “to bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10). After forty years of Jesuit priesthood this year where social justice has always been an abiding personal concern, allow me to assure all that our dealing with government will be in promotion of the particular interests of our schools and of our association, but in obedience to the moral imperatives of our Church, in pursuit of the common good that includes not only our schools but multiple actors, interest groups and diverse confessions and relgions in our plural society. Sent as sheep among wolves, we will seek as the Gospel mandates to “be shrewd as snakes and gentle as doves” (Mt. 10:16): “we” not just we here in leadership, but we together as CEAP.
It is with these personal assurances and personal expectations, that in the 75th year of our existence as an organization, I accept to be your President. I pray that in re-appropriation of our vocation as Catholic schools and in renewed commitment to the common good, we be granted new fervor and new spirit in transforming ourselves and our world according to the goodness of our loving God.