Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Philippine Business for Social Progress

After my stint at the Ilocos Norte Provincial Board, I wanted to continue helping people.  But since I was covered by a year long ban to work in government, I had to do it in the private sector.

I found out about Philippine Business for Social Progress, allegedly the largest corporate-led foundation for social development in the Philippines.  It is comprised of over 200 member companies who pool in their resources to empower the poor and underprivileged through social development projects like building schools, awarding scholarships, providing credit facilities and conducting livelihood programs.  Member companies include Smart Communications, Landbank, Petron, Nestle, IBM, Aboitiz, TV5, and ICTSI.

PBSP also acts as program managers of development agencies.  The foundation currently implements projects for USAID, AECID and Global Fund, and has potential projects with AusAID and CIDA.

We have so many projects that its hard to keep track of each and everyone of them.  There's the Smart Schools Program where SMART donates 2 computers with 1 year internet connection to public schools all over the country.  The program includes training the teachers on how to use the computer.

Then there's the school building program funded by the Angelo King Foundation and Coca Cola, among others.  Just like what FCCCI and other NGOs do, PBSP also builds classrooms in public schools.

Like I mentioned PBSP has a scholarship program as well.  We implement the scholarship program of Petron and Landbank.  We support the student from high school all the way to college.

For health, we are implementing the Two Billion Peso (PhP 2,000,000,000.00) Sustaining TB Control and Ensuring Universal Access to Comprehensive Quality TB Care Program of the Global Fund.  It is our biggest project to date, which aims to reduce TB in the country.  Did you know we rank #9 in the world in terms of TB cases?

PBSP is also into microlending.  We provide financial assistance to small and micro enterprises, sourced from USAID and KFW.  Other poverty reduction projects include empowering mutli-purpose cooperatives with their livelihood and building livelihood centers for them.

I joined PBSP last November as their legal officer.  Among other tasks, I review all contracts and agreements entered into by the foundation.  I draft legal documents.  I act as Assistant Corporate Secretary.  And I also represent PBSP in its cases--the ones I can handle of course.  More delicate stuff is handled by our partner law firm.

PBSP recently celebrated its 40th Founding Anniversary last January 25.  The foundation is headed by Rafael C. Lopa as its Executive Director and Nicolaas Oreel as its Chief Executive Advisor.  The Chairman of the Board of Trustees is Manny V. Pangilinan.

PBSP Headquarters in Intamuro, Manila

PBSP Regional Office in Davao City, Mindanao

Management Team Meeting led by Executive Director Rapa Lopa and Chief Executive Advisor Klaas Oreel

PBSP Board of Trustees Meeting led by Chairman Manny Pangilinan

Annual Membership Meeting (25 January 2011)

40th Founding Anniversary of PBSP with Pres. Noynoy Aquino as Guest Speaker

PBSP is open to all companies, whether small business or MNC, to join the foundation to help reduce poverty in the Philippines.  Member companies contribute a small portion of their gross income to PBSP so that we can implement various social development projects.  Or, member companies can opt to fund their own projects through PBSP, like what Smart, Petron and Coca Cola did.

For more information, visit the PBSP website at http://www.pbsp.org.ph/ or call Membership at +632 5273742.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Life after losing in the elections

Nine months ago I lost in an election contest to represent the 1st District of Ilocos Norte in the 15th Congress of the Philippines.  It was a tough race between 5 candidates:  Reynolan Sales was a former town mayor of Pagudpud and was running for congressman for the 3rd time; Rudy FariƱas was a former city mayor of Laoag and governor of the province; Chito Ruiz was a former town mayor of Sarrat and a family friend; Renato Peralta, was a colleague at the Provincial Board; and myself.

I campaigned hard for 45 days, going from one house to another, informing voters of my platforms and legislative agenda.  Looking back, I think the stands and positions I took on a number of issues were unpopular to a lot of voters and I lost their votes.  For example, I was in favor of the national government having a comprehensive reproductive health program.  The church was not happy about that.  In a congressional debate, the other candidates said they were devout catholics and the RH bill was against their beliefs.  Well, I couldn't lie.  Not even just to please the priests.  I said I was a christian in favor of a national reproductive health program.  I believed then, and I still do today, that it is the duty of the State  to educate the people about reproductive health, especially since we cannot solely depend on parents to do so.  The State has an obligation to provide its people access to reproductive health programs the same way it provides them access to other health concerns like TB, Measeles and Dengue.  Was my stand final?  No.  I admit I don't know everything about the subject-matter and I'd still like to hear other arguments against having a state-sponsored RH program.  If I won, I would have organized town hall meetings in schools, the farmlands, the hospitals, the church and far-flung barrios, so that I can get the pulse of the people.  But I guess, here in the Philippines, just because you're in favor of a reproductive health program, the church conveniently and immediately labels you as anti-life and not deserving to be elected to office.  Never mind the womanizer, the gambler, the drug addict and the killer--you can elect them.  But an RH advocate?  Junk him in the elections.

I also was pro-environment--another unpopular stand.  In 2007, I lobbied for a province-wide conversion of 2-stroke engines (used by 60% of tricycles) to direct in-cylinder engines, which were more eco-friendly.  My proposal was met with opposition from, surprise surprise, the tricycle groups.  And they even threatened not to vote for me if I pursued the measure.  This did not deter me, but my colleagues in the provincial board told me to go easy on tricycle drivers.

In 2009, I sponsored an ordinance imposing a special green tax on the use of plastic bags and an ordinance banning the use of styrofoam products in commercial establishments.  These two products clog our canals and waterways, not to mention poison the sea and kill marine animals.  Guess what, it was opposed by businesses, and both measures were tabled by the Committee on Trade and Industry.

To cut the long story short, I made a lot of unpopular stands during my 3 year term as local legislator and it may have contributed to my loss.  Do I regret making them?  No.  Definitely not.  I think it was important for me to communicate to the voters where I stand on national issues.  They had a right to know, and I didn't want to lie or deceive them.

And if the voters didn't vote for me because we didn't share the same views, I accept it.


I came in second. But it wasn't even close.  I lost in all 80 barangays of Laoag City.  I even lost in my barangay.  In towns I thought were my bailwicks, I lost.  I lost in Bacarra, Pasuquin, Sarrat and Vintar.  On the bright side, I won in Burgos, Adams, Carasi and surprisingly, Bangui.  If I hadn't thank the people of those four towns yet, let this blog make it known that I am forever grateful for their votes.  That also goes to the 40,000 voters from all over the 1st District who believed in me.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  If there's only a way for me to know who voted for me, I'd go to each of my supporters and thank them personally.  I hope that some day, I'll be able to serve you again.


Life after losing in an election is not all that bad.  It's not the end of the world.  Sure, I won't be able to continue doing what I enjoy doing, which is to help shape policy, but I get to appreciate the important things I took for granted when I was busy, like family. : )

These past 9 months, I got to get closer to my wife and help her in raising our baby daughter, Bea.  I took Bea to the doctor's office when Ria went back to work.  I was there when Bea took her first solid food and when she started to crawl.  I give her baths and make timpla her milk.  Na-sukaan na ako.  Na-ihian na ako (iniintay ko na lang na ma-taihan eh).  I enjoy being a dad, more so now as Bea is transitioning from infant to toddler.  She still needs me to hold her hand when walking, but one of these days she'll be able to walk on her own.  I only feel bad that I am not able to do everything my wife does for Bea, but I try to compensate in other aspects.

I also got to finally do the stuff I put in the backburner the past few years, like organizing our family's foundation.  The Governor Roque and Manuela Ablan Foundation was registered at the SEC last August 2010, and it will get its DSWD accreditation this February 2011.  We already have a number of scholars in MMSU and have a law scholarship for MMSU, NWU and UP.

I got to read a lot of books, including, Shop Class for Soul Craft, Sway, Black Swan, Outrage, Free Lunch, Team of Rivals, and, yes, even Eat Pray Love.


Having lost in the elections, I am banned from government employment for one year, not that I am patay-gutom to go back to government.

There were several opportunities for me to revive my commercial law practice, but I am just not interested to join the corporate world again.  I tried that before and it left me feeling empty. 

Working in the provincial government gave me the opportunity to help people, and I wanted to continue doing that.  I applied for positions in international aid agencies like AUSAID, AECID and USAID, but the problem is I haven't logged in enough experience in development projects. 

And then I found out about Philippine Business for Social Progress, the largest corporate-led foundation for social development here in the Philippines.  It is composed of almost 300 companies contributing a percentage of their income to implement projects designed to reduce poverty in the country.

I joined PBSP in late 2010 and I've enjoyed my work so far.  Sure, corporate pa rin, pero at least it wasn't interested in just making profit, but in helping people.  We're working with Petron and Landbank in funding scholarships for over 200 poor but intelligent and deserving students.  We're working with Smart to equip public schools with computers and internet connection.  We're working with Coca-Cola and the Angelo King Foundation in building classrooms and laboratories.  PBSP is the implementing agency for the tuberculosis program of Global Fund and USAID.  And that's just the educational and health parts.  We also have projects for the the environment and livelihood.


I lost in the elections.  My dream of representing the 1st District of Ilocos Norte in the 15th Congress was shattered. 

It sucks.  Really.

But the world continues to turn

and life must go on.