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Raul Sagarbarria Roco
The Manila Times and Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs

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The Honorary Ma'am is a sure-footed survivor

On his life's defining moments:

The defining moments in my life begins with my parents. My father was a
farmer and therefore, he believed not in politicians but because a farmer
has to rely on himself and his work, and God and nature. Self-reliance
and individualism, a strong streak of individualism tends to be present
in farmers, because they must rely upon themselves. My mother was a
public school teacher that's why she told me that the only chance we had
was in education. That is why I tried to study hard. When I was a
student when I came to Manila, I became for one reason or the another, up
to now I don't know why it happened, but I became president of the
National Union of Students of the Philippines. I traveled for the first
time in my life. I became fairly cosmopolitan in my view, nobody else in
my family had traveled.

Then I became Con-Con delegate, that was a defining moment... Where was I
when martial law was declared? I was at home, I was there harboring a
safehouse for the kids, I had three kids sleeping there. At 12 midnight,
Eugene Gray from Ateneo and Freddie Arceo came to give me a .45 gun
because they wanted it to be kept in a safehouse. Those two came back to
tell me that martial law had been declared and so I said please, because
everybody else has been arrested, I called Ninoy in the house he was
arrested, I called JoMari Velez, he was arrested, I called Bobbit
Sanchez, he just escaped the house before the troops got there. So, I
decamped, I had a .357. I thought I was a brave man at that time. I
thought all the thought of revolution and change in Philippine society
had come, and so I took my Land Rover that I borrowed from my
father-in-law, and went to Gerry Roxas' place and the Liberal Party were
meeting there, I said, 'Let us then rise,' that is what they've been
telling me, I was then 30 or I believed then in revolution. Now,
sometimes, I think we should have had really a real revolution but it was
not meant to be they said take it easy, and I said, let us have a
communications network. They did not want it because it would pass over.
After one month, the whole country was supporting martial law. The
church was supporting martial law. Everybody was saying it was all for
the good because they were softened into believing that martial law was
there. We were still distributing little leaflets, they were called,
Tinig ng Kalayaan. We were distributing it in Cubao until some of the
kids got arrested but because I was sleeping in St. Joseph's College
among the nuns, they could not find me. But when the kids were arrested
I felt it was unfair that they were arrested and I was among the nuns
hiding behind the nunnery and they could not arrest me. That was the end
of our struggle... Then, I started looking at the alternatives, that was
a sad day because we were compelled to agree to the Constitutional
Convention and up to now if there are any regrets in my life it was the
Constitutional Convention that I most regret and I carry it as something
that I must learn from...

As president of the Integrated Bar (of the Philippines), I was apolitical
I did not like to. That was a time when I was in the ascendancy as
corporate lawyer, I represented a lot of the corporations, I was with
ACCRA and I thought that I was one of the best lawyers in the country.
Even now, I think I am one of the best lawyers in the country, you know.
Forgive me, but after all, self-confidence is essential to
professionalism. Then they elected me EVP of the Integrated Bar and I
said, 'Jesus Christ, now I represent the bar, I cannot ignore all the
illegalities that go on.' And so we moved that there must be rooms so
that the prisoner who were still in prison would have private counsel. In
fairness, Ramos, who was defense secretary, granted that and he built
small rooms.

We went to the Supreme Court when they said the military can kill on the
basis of 'an eye for an eye' principle. All my corporate clients except
one avoided me for months on end but then ACCRA was doing well. But our
clients really never interfered. One particular client said, 'Raul was
only my lawyer, what can I do I don't own him,' and that is why I

On pork barrel:

Pork barrel, identifying projects, is the function of Congress. The
problem is when Congress, whether senators or congressmen, start
implementing. Earlier I said, everybody should do his duty. According to
job definition, we should legislate, the executive implements. I think
the next president should make sure he implements.

On Marcos billions:

As early as 1992, when President Ramos and I were newly elected, I've
always stated that the government should support the (human rights)
victims' claims. They fought for it, they were there from the beginning,
they won, all of a sudden the government was claiming that they should
participate, it's wrong. Sila ang nagsaing, iba ang kumain. Mali, 'di
ba? So that's very clear in my mind. The PCGG can bargain for the
remainder but the victims who fought for it from the very beginning, give
it to them, they deserve it, they fought for it. That's very clear in my
mind. The Swiss have gotten away with keeping wealth for too long but
because of pressure from the United States, they have yielded now.

On poverty and globalization:

Poverty, to me, is really the deprivation of choices. You cannot control
or determine for yourself what you want to do with your life when you're
totally helpless. That to me is poverty. To most, it means no income but
to others, it is the lack of opportunity, the lack of education. That
is my concept of poverty and that is why to me economic development means
the generation of opportunities and options and choices for people. Now,
globalization you say is lack of choices it is to me a fact of life. But
you can use globalization against them, against our competitors. You
cannot escape it because we cannot pull out of the planet earth, so you
must fight them.

On party network, campaign fund sources:

Alternative to the people, I will not join the United Opposition,
because I think they are confused... maybe we will go it alone, because
all over the groups that we network with were saying 'Let's go it alone,
let's challenge the Filipino people. EDSA has given us democracy today
and that was brought about by ordinary people. We are looking to harness
a network with them.'

Money, I cannot believe all this prognosis that you need P2.5 billion. In
the first place it is illegal. Anybody who says, he has P2.5 billion,
don't vote for him because he's violating the law. I think we are
entitled to, at most, P800 million. No matter how I compute it P500
million is more than enough in all my campaigns... Money is available to
those who are good candidates.

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