By FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER JOSE C. DE VENECIA, JR.
Three days ago, we celebrated our 83rd birth anniversary in Dagupan City, Pangasinan, land of our birth, with our family, relatives, close friends, and our beloved constituents.
Since we retired from Philippine politics nine years ago in 2010, we hadbeen holding our modest birthday celebration in Manila. This time, wife Gina and we decided to spend it once again by the banks of Bonuan Beach in Lingayen Gulf, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed for the liberation of Luzon after the Leyte landing.
We always try to come home on December 26 to be with the people who have always supported us, wife Gina, who was elected and served as congresswoman for two terms, followed by our son, incumbent Congressman Christopher de Venecia, in our respective political journeys.
We and our family, including daughter Sandra, a New York patent lawyer, and son-in-law Mark Haner, a scientist, daughter US journalist Leslie in New York City, daughter Vivian and husband Dr. Dennis Garcia of Davao and Manila, and Joey III, an entrepreneur at home and in the Middle East, and wife Karen, who occasionally does business syndications, are most grateful to our Pangasinan and Ilocano constituents for their unwavering trust, confidence, and support all these years.
As we had earlier mentioned, we were elected congressman for the first time in 1969, during the 7th Congress, at the age of 33 but were not able to finish our term since President Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972, and padlocked both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
When Philippine democracy was restored in February, 1986, and congressional elections were held a year after in 1987, we decided to run again and won, after serving briefly as ambassador-at-large under then President Corazon Aquino, who had dared and fought the dictatorship and won.
We represented our constituents in the Fourth District of Pangasinan during the 8th Congress, where we served as acting chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Before martial law, we were elected in the 2nd District, representing then Dagupan City, Binmaley, San Carlos City, then bailiwick of the late popular Speaker Eugenio Perez, Basista, Urbiztondo, and Mangatarem.
Eugenio Perez was the last speaker of the Commonwealth and the First speaker of the Philippine Republic.
After martial law and after the congressional redistricting, we were transferred to the 4th Congressional District, this time encompassing Dagupan City, Mangaldan, San Fabian, San Jacinto, and, to our delight, the miraculous Virgin Mary town of Manaoag.
We were elected in the succeeding legislative elections and thus served in the 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th Congress.
We served in the House of Representatives for seven terms, a total of 23 years, five terms of which, or some 14 years, as speaker of the House, which observers said was somewhat unprecedented in Asian politics at the time.
For some time now, and at 83, we have been feeling our “batteries” slowing down but we are not complaining.
Looking back, we have taken part in some epochal events in our country’s life. We have known up close and worked with men and women who have shaped our country’s destiny.
We have also initiated a few things that have become game-changers and landmarks in our economic, political and social history.
We are most proud of our historic Dollar Remittance Program for overseas Filipino workers, which now raises some $30 billion a year for the Philippines, and which has helped bankroll the Central Bank up to now and, more importantly, give jobs to tens of thousands of Filipinos overseas up to this day; the B-O-T (Build-Operate-Transfer) Law, which has become a model for other developing countries and the formula for Private-Public Partnerships; and the Military Bases Conversion Law, which turned the former American military bases on Luzon island — the biggest of them being Clark Airfield in Pampanga and Subic Naval Base in Zambales, Baguio City’s Camp John Hay and La Union’s Camp Wallace and Poro Point — into thriving export zones and one free port.
The law also converted the Filipino military camps Fort Bonifacio into the now booming Bonifacio Global City and the old Nichols Air Base into the now Resorts World, both in Metro Manila.
As our modest contribution in advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, understanding and cooperation in Asia and the international community, we wish to mention, with humility, that we founded the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), now composed of some 350 ruling, opposition and independent political parties in 52 countries in Asia; the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), which we transferred from Manila to Tehran, composed of 40 parliaments in Asia; and helped establish the Bangkok-based Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council (APRC).
We also initiated the Interfaith Dialogue in the UN in 2006 which the UN approved and has carried out and which remain popular and relevant to this day.
Overall, we feel good about turning 83 years old, since it has been said age and wisdom occasionally converge, when one is lucky and has no dark motives.
It has also been said that the most telling sign of old age is when one does not care anymore. For us, we believe a man is not really old and decrepit for as long as he is trying still to accomplish something worthwhile, and he and his wife and children are devoted to the Lord, our living God.