Bernardo M. Villegas
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Jun Magsaysay

           I have known Ramon Magsaysay Jr. since our high school days at De La Salle in the mid-1950s.    He was just two years below me in high school and then we were school mates when he took up engineering while I enrolled in the LIA-COM program of the same college.  The first time I met him was when, as the son of the President then, he arranged for a field trip to Corregidor Island for a group of De La Salle students.  From that very first meeting, I was impressed with his simplicity and humility.  Despite his being a presidential son, he mixed with all of us just as any other ordinary student, devoid of any airs.  His wanting to be always of service to others, a result of the upbringing he got from his parents, was a trait that stood out even in his adolescent years. That is why when his father died in a plane accident on March 17, 1957, the eighteen-year old engineering student at De La Salle matured even more rapidly when he assumed greater responsibilities in his family, enabling him to realize even  more the value of perseverance and hard work.

          A few years later, our paths crossed again during our graduate studies in the United States.  While I was studying for my Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University, I coincided with him in the Boston area where he spent a year at the Harvard Business School, after which he moved on to New York City to obtain his MBA from the New York University Graduate School of Business Administration.  The combination of a degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA would prepare him for his careers, first in the private sector as a technology-savvy entrepreneur and later in the legislature as a lawmaker who complemented the legal minds in Congress with his down-to-earth practicality as an engineer and entrepreneur.  The first major reason why I want to see him in the Philippine Senate again is to make sure that there is at least one person among twenty four who is familiar with the real world of business and especially of technology-oriented business.  We cannot afford to have our upper chamber overloaded with brilliant orators, famous faces and populist activists.  We need the serenity, practical wisdom, technical savvy and business acumen of Ramon Magsaysay Jr.

          As a public figure, Jun Magsaysay has been completely faithful to the adage made popular by his late father:  "Those who have less in life should have more in law."  Almost immediately after his return from his graduate studies in the U.S., he entered politics in 1966 when he ran for and was elected Congressman in the lone district of Zambales where he exercised the preferential option for the poor by focusing on projects that would benefit the struggling small farmers.  Ever since, his focus has always been on the welfare of the rural folks, serving as a counterforce to the conventional wisdom of that era when there was a rush towards capital-intensive industrialization that left behind the countryside where most of the poor Filipinos reside. 

          After a short stint in the lower house, he decided to sharpen his business skills which would prove valuable later on during his two terms in the Philippine Senate.  A gifted entrepreneur and learned in the ways of technology, being an engineer, he pioneered the cable TV industry in the country in the early 1970s when very few had heard of cable television.  Thanks to his pioneering work, today there are some 900 cable operators nationwide.  He is often referred to by his colleagues in this multi-billion peso industry as "the Father of Cable Television."  Not content with the entrepreneurial skills he honed in this industry, he later on moved closer to the countryside by engaging in the dairy business in the province of Laguna, again pioneering in what is now known as a social enterprise, a for-profit business put up primarily to help the underprivileged.  As the ever active entrepreneur, he made sure that the wealth of technology and expertise among the professors of the U.P. School of Agriculture in Los Banos would be applied to enhancing the income of the small farmers.   It was only logical that when he served as a Senator during the period 1995 to 2007, he was chair of the Agriculture and Food Committee and the Science and Technology Committee.

          As the Philippine economy moves to a higher level of economic growth in the next six years, our Legislature direly needs someone like him who can help develop a roadmap for improving agricultural productivity, especially in the coconut industry.  He was appointed under the present Administration in the board of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund, together with former Senator Wigberto Tanada, another statesman who has devoted most of his professional life to promote the welfare of the underprivileged.  Together, these two former Senators have been looking for ways and means to improve the productivity of the coconut oil mills and the entire value chain of the coconut industry.  If elected Senator next May, Jun Magsaysay can play a major role in setting the stage for the next phase of agrarian reform in which the focus will be improving the incomes of the close to 5 million small farmers who have been beneficiaries of CARP but continue to be the poorest of the poor because of inadequate infrastructure support from the Government.  Because of his keen interest in research and technology as well as in human resource development, he can champion legislation that will improve the climate for applied scientific research and skills development for both agriculture and industry.   I can think of very few people among the Senatorial candidates who can equal his qualities, both human and technical, that can help sustain the high-growth path already initiated by the team of President Benigno Aquino III.    Concerned voters should make sure that he is at least Number Six in the final ballot. He deserves no less.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.