Sen. Risa Hontiveros

Maayong gab-i sa inyo nga tanan. Congratulations to the new batch of officers to be inducted tonight. It is an honor for me to be with you tonight, in our beloved home province of Capiz, and the Rotary Club of which my Uncle, Tito Rene, was a chapter member. Your invitation tonight gives me this opportunity to thank all Capiznon for trusting me with your votes, and making me the #2 Senator in Capiz. Madamo guid na salamat sa inyo nga tanan. As most of you might know, the Hontiveros family traces its roots to Capiz, my father and his siblings being born in Capiz and with my grandfather serving as Governor of the province in the early 1900s. Ako ay isa ka proud nga Ilongga! Mula sa isang kasimanwa, madamo nga salamat sa inyo.

Sen. Risa with Roxas Rotarians

Let me say that your theme for 2016-2017, “Rotary serving humanity” inspires me. In the midst of so much strife in the world from Orlando to Baghdad to Nice, when humanity has at times been its own worst enemy, “serving humanity” sounds huge. Larger than life. So I cannot help but admire organizations that aspire towards this. It is also something that resonates with my ideals in life as an activist, advocate and legislator – first in the Lower House and now in the Upper House. My first stint as a legislator started in 2004 as Akbayan Partylist representative in the House of Representatives.

But I would consider my experience in public service to have started when I became an activist at a young age. My worldview has been largely shaped by, on the one hand a world long-suffering from oppression and injustice, and on the other, the enormous potential of the same world for doing good. This perspective has greatly contributed in shaping my principles and has guided my actions, not only as a public servant but as a person. When I ran my campaign for the 2016 elections – yes, my third campaign, or rather, the tail-end of a seven-year campaign – I ran on a platform of universal health. “Healthy Pinoy, Healthy ‘Pinas!” di bala? My healthcare advocacy is framed by the belief that lack of access to health care is its own oppression. Consequently, the fight f

Sen. Risa with cousin Maan Hontiveros during the
Fellowship night singing Top of the World

or universal health is a fight for justice. And, in its own way, a way of serving humanity. Or at least, working within the space I am given, serving the Filipino people.

But what does universal healthcare mean in concrete terms? This means providing adequate, quality health care accessible to all. This means not being okay that 7 out of 10 Filipinos die without ever having seen a doctor. This means believing that universal health care is not just an admirable vision, it is an obtainable mission. That is why last June 30, ‘pag sampa ko sa akong panunungkulan, I filed the first three of my health bills: BHW compensation, expanded maternity leave, and amendment to Republic Act 8344 or the Anti Hospital Deposit Law, the latter creating measures to better implement RA 8344 but also providing tax incentives to private hospitals so that government and the private sector can work together to bridge the public health gap. This week, I filed three more bills – the HIV bill, a bill to create a Health Promotion Institute, and a bill to provide automatic PhilHealth coverage to Persons with Disabilities or PWDs.

(l to r) PP Megs, Inspiration Speaker Ms. Maan
Hontiveros, PDG Mark, Pres. Jo, PP Pip and PP Mel

All these are in line with my vision for universal health care, which I know you share. I am aware of the work that Rotary is doing globally in the field of healthcare: for example, your contribution to the goal of eradicating polio in the developing world. In the Philippines, Rotarians have worked hand-in-hand with the government in helping deliver basic health services. I am aware that you have helped our fellow Capiznon by providing schools and renovating school buildings, especially after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the Visayas. You inspire me. And I am ready and eager to sit with organizations such as yours to see how we can learn from each other and develop best practices in the service of the Filipino people.

I don’t want to get too serious during an ‘80s party, so let me wrap up now. Dear Rotarians,

consider me your friend and ally in the Senate. I can only hope that we can work together to forward our common goals not only for universal health and access to social services, but for a fairer, more just world for all.

Fellow Capiznon, madamo guid nga salamat!