Alex Lacson wants to bring nationalism to Senate

By Mark Angelo Ching
May 8, 2010

04f8ae864Senatorial candidate Alex Lacson and his standard bearer, Noynoy Aquino, have a lot in common. The most glaring similarity is that they were initially hesitant to play their roles in this year’s elections. But Lacson was ready to answer the call of the people like Aquino, the instant he heard it.

“The first time I was really reluctant,” Lacson told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) in a recent interview. “Kasi actually, November 9 [2009] nila sinabi sa akin na yung pangalan ko was included in the senatorial line-up. I was informed na by president ng Liberal Party, si Butch Abad. Pero 10 days later, November 19, I asked Butch Abad to remove my name because I was not sure if politics is for me.”

He continued, “November 25 ng gabi, tumawag si Butch Abad sa akin, ‘saka si Mar Roxas, na especially asking kung tuloy ako sa line-up. I said yes, pero may pag-alangan at reservation sa sarili ko. On November 30, it was supposed to be my launch. Parang ipo-proclaim ako ni candidate sa Pampanga. Si Noynoy was there, si Mar was there, and Liberal Party. And si Governor Among Panlilio prepared. I was not able to go because I was not sure if I would run. So the following day, alam na nila na baka di ako tutuloy. Kinausap ako ni Noynoy sa phone on December 1.”

December 1 was the deadline of the filing of the certificate of candidacy in the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“After December 1, I was relieved. Sabi ko, tuloy na ‘to. Handa na ko.”

PUSHING NOYNOY TO RUN. Lacson, 45, said Aquino was hesitant to choose him at first.

“He was hesitant to get me dahil I was one of those who encouraged him to run for President. Yung group po namin is Tuloy PNoy. Yeah, I was the founder of that, I was the chairman of that also,” he explained in a soft voice.

Tuloy Pnoy started in 2005 as Ano Ang Taya Mo? (ATM), a group that espouses nationalism. ATM evolved into Tuloy Pnoy when former President Cory Aquino died in August.

“When she passed away on August 1, may nag-uusap-usap na na, ‘Alex, mukhang si Noynoy na ang hinanap ng tao na maging Presidente. Are you willing to make the call? Ikaw ang mag-lead sa amin to encourage Noynoy to run for President,'” Lacson explained.

He agreed, and they made a public gesture to encourage Aquino to seek the highest office of the land.

“Pumunta lang kami sa bahay niya, August 31, kasama yung grupo naman. Naglagay kami ng drum in front of their house, and we encouraged everyone that if they want Noynoy to run for President, they give their contribution dun sa drum.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

TWELVE THINGS. Alex Lacson, a lawyer, lecturer, and author, may be new to politics, but he’s not new to the spotlight. Since 2005, he had always been invited to several speaking arrangements all over the country. All these because of a little book, 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country, which he authored.

The 103-page book lists 12 actions anyone can do to instill love for the Philippines. These are:

  1. Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.
  2. Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt.
  3. Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino.
  4. When you talk to others, especially foreigners speak positively about us and our country.
  5. Respect your traffic officer, policeman and soldier.
  6. Do not litter. Dispose your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.
  7. Support your church.
  8. During elections, do your solemn duty.
  9. Pay your employees well.
  10. Pay your taxes.
  11. Adopt a scholar or a poor child.
  12. Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love our country.

“The book came out in 2005,” explained Lacson. “Tapos in almost a year I would get a lot of invitations, because of that book. Then later on, yun nga,maraming nag-gravitate na group that really promote love for the Filipino, para ma-verbalize natin yung love na ‘yon.”

(One of the groups that resulted from the book was ATM.)

Lacson said he thought up the idea of writing a book when he and his wife Pia delayed migrating to the United States to seek a better life.

“Naisip ko, bakit hindi natin kayang ipakita ang pagmamahal sa bayan?” he asked sincerely. “Siguro, sa maliliit na pamamaraang ito, makakayanan natin baguhin ang bansa natin. Madali lang naman gawin ‘yan.”

The book was self-published in 2005, but grew to be a bestseller when it was reviewed by several famous personalities, including the late columnist and journalist Max Soliven. He also knew of an instance when Cory Aquino asked her daughter Kris to feature the book in one of her TV shows.

“Salamat sa kanila, maraming nakakakilala ng libro. Maraming gumagawa ng bagay na naisulat na dito.”

He once heard of a school here in Metro Manila that did recommendation number 11. The noble students of a public elementary school chose to adopt a student their age from the provinces. Their efforts to raise funds, including collecting used bottles and old newspapers, got them featured in a national broadsheet.

“Siguro kung maraming gagawa nito, maraming makakapag-aral. Dapat tayong magtulungan,” Lacson enthused.

INSPIRATION. Lacson did not have an easy childhood. His mother, Fe Lacson, was a public school teacher, and his father left them when he was 14. Living in rural Kabankalan, Negros Occidental also left him with no ambitions.

Add to that that there was no “culture of excellence” in his family. None of his older siblings excelled in school, thus he was not given a good motivator.

“When I was in elementary, from grade 1 to grade 4, I was always in section B, not the honors section. Sa pamilya namin, wala kaming achiever. Yung father ko hindi naman nakapagtapos ng college. Yung mother ko public school teacher. Sa amin walang culture of academic excellence. Pinapabayaan nila kami. So, sa pamilya namin, walang gumraduate with honors, walang scholar,” he said.

Good thing a young teacher in his Grade 4 year took notice.

“Yung teacher namin, batang-bata. Ang bait-bait. May special attention siya sa akin, di ko alam kung bakit. Nasa Grade 4, section B ako. And dahil ang bait niya sa akin, parang may special care siya sa akin, I was inspired. Nag-aral ako. Nung nag-aral ako tumataas yung grades ko, hanggang nag-Grade 5 ako, napasok na ko sa honors class,” he narrated.

From then on, Grade 5 was easy. “Nung nasa honors class na ko, ang gagaling ng mga kasama ko. So, aral ako nang aral. Eventually, when I graduated, I was top 4 in our batch.”

The momentum was so strong that he almost graduated valedictorian in high school. Heroism took over, however, and he was forced to sacrifice his top recognition.

“Ako yung tinitingala na leader ng batch. Rural ito, maliit lang yung school namin. I was class president, and I was also the corps commander. May isang classmate ko na siya yung nagga-guard sa gate. Yung officer of the day. One day, yung husband ng isang teacher namin, gustong pumasok sa gate, kaya lang hindi siya pinayagan ng officer na ‘yon, classmate ko.

“Nung hindi siya pinayagan, nagalit, pinagmumura yung kadete. ‘Saka umuwi, ‘saka nagdala ng sasakyan, nagdala ng baril. Hindi naman tinutok yung baril, pinakita lang, pinantakot. Syempre, natakot yung bata, napa-ihi sa pants. Nagsumbong sa nanay at tatay, nagalit, nagsumbong sa eskwelahan. Humingi ng justice. So sumulat sila sa principal, sa school director. Hindi inaksiyonan.”

Lacson was forced to mobilize his classmates against the injustice. “So, yung parents ngayon, lumapit sa akin. I was the class president, I was also the corps commander. From there nag-rally kami, yung ibang Fourth Year. Na-suspend yung klase for several days because of me.”

He concluded, “Kahit ngayon pag nagkikita-kita yung batch.. To this day, parang legend ‘yon. So everytime na nag-a-alumni gathering, yun yung usapan to this day.”

MORE HEROISM. After high school, Lacson was accepted to the Philippine Military Academy. But another act of heroism made him quit the prestigious school for soldiers.

In his own words, “I was a member of the honor committee in our batch. We were in charge of implementing the honor code. The honor code says that the cadets do not lie, cheat, or cover up for those who do. Then there was a cheating scandal that happened in our batch. Eventually, around 50 cadets involved towards the end.”

“I was chairman of our section. So they asked me to report. I refused. I left the PMA instead. Kasi alam mo sa PMA kasi, maraming mahihirap, siguro mga 95 percent. And I looked at them, I was not sure if they really were a part of it. I had the names. Doon sa honors committee, walang repeat doon. I believed that there was something wrong with the system. I want them to stay and have a chance to a better life. So I just decided to leave.”

Lacson then transferred to the University of the Philippines where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science as a working student. He then took up Law in the same university, and passed the Bar Exam in 1996.

Lacson also took up postgraduate studies at the Harvard Law School in 2002.

GOOD LEADERSHIP. Lacson did not volunteer the tales about his past by himself. Rather, this reporter had to grill the information out of him. Lacson is that humble.

A softspoken young man. A lawyer. An author who dreams of changing the Philippine landscape through leadership and governance rooted in nationalism. This sums up Alex Lacson.

“We are the builders of the greatness of the Filipino,” he said, towards the end of the interview. “We are the builders of the nation. And we have to keep fighting for change. Running for public office is fighting for good leadership in the country. Each one of us should do his part. At this time I was given this opportunity to fight for change and I want to continue with it.”