[Address to the ADDU College Graduates, April 7, 2018.]
The developmental goal of the Duterte administration for this country is a worthy one. It is articulated in Ambisyon Natin 2040. It is basically a vision of a society where there are no scandalously rich and where there are no extremely poor. All are educated; all are smart; all contribute to the shared prosperity of all. In this society, families are strong, not torn apart by people having to work abroad; they can come together on weekends and enjoy one another’s company; they can come together because they all work in the Philippines and because the public transportation that brings them together is actually functioning.
I think it is a national goal worth pursuing. It is a goal that can be embraced by Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, worshippers of tribal deities, agnostics and atheists. Citizens belonging to different religions can contribute to the richness of this goal, but no interest group will control the whole. In the end, the whole will be governed by the common good.
If you think this is a worthy national goal, I hope that as graduates of the ADDU today you offer yourselves to help in its realization. We are far from a situation that is free of the scandalously rich, and even father from a situation where there are no egregiously poor. You may yourselves be graduates of the ADDU College, but already you are educated more than the majority of Filipinos in this country. Many of your erstwhile fellow students have dropped out of formal education; many of them have not had the quality of education that you have enjoyed.
Most of you are graduating at the age of 20. Should Ambisyon Natin actually be achieved by the 2040, that is only a short 22 years from now. In 22 years each of you would be just past midlife at about 44 years of age. Within 22 years you ought to have made your contribution to bringing about a socially just, intelligent and prosperous society in the Philippines. And you would have the second half of your lives to enjoy it.
But consider well all the things you would need to contribute to, after you have adequately prepared yourselves to make your contribution through education:
First, peace, lasting peace, in Mindanao. The BBL is being deliberated on in Congress. Even if it is passed, it will not bring about peace automatically. All in Mindanao and throughout the Philippines will have to contribute to a socially just society where Muslims and Christians and members of all faiths are integrated into one peace-loving nation. You must embrace your role in peacebuilding.
Second, the effort to restructure our political society through constitutional change. There is much talk about federalism and breaking the hold of imperial Manila on national resources. There is talk of a Federal State run by a parliamentary government to replace the current. But how does this constitutional change change the persons who constitute Philippine society. Is moral reform necessary for successful constitutional change, or is constitutional change expected to effect the moral reform? Your active, intelligent and critical participation in this process could be crucial.
Third, you will have to work hard to advocate and contribute to an economy that brings about prosperity in the Philippines without forcing its sons and daughters – or mothers and fathers – to work in the labor markets of Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Riadh, Dubai, Canberra, or Auckland. You would have to have the innovativeness to create new business and social enterprises and secure for your co-workers more than a living wage.
Fourth, you will have to work for genuine quality education for all. The recently passed Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is as much about quality as it is about access. You will have to work so that this in the implementation of this law free education is not equivalent to lousy education, and that through education all can contribute to the knowledgeable and smart society that is envisaged.
Fifth, you will have to contribute to charting a course for the Philippines that preserves its sovereignty but deals genially with its ASEAN partners and with China, Japan, and Korea to attain the national interest.
In this context, as you graduate from the ADDU College may you prove yourselves to be ADDU sui generis leaders, interested not only in your private good, but committed to the common good. In this pursuit may you find your strength in your relationship with God, knowing that your contribution to the common good of humanity is also your contribution to building the Kingdom of God on earth. May you therefore always be strong in your faith, strong in your relationship with God, fortes in fide!