Yep, it was Jose Joey Lina, all right. It was the erstwhile secretary of the Metro Manila Development Authority, two-term Philippine senator, twice-elected governor of Laguna Province, secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and now president and chairman of the board of the prestigious and historic Manila Hotel who was out there at the clubhouse of Fairbanks Ranch in Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego, California performing in a mini-concert and singing The Impossible Dream before his quite impressed Filipino audience.
It was supposed to be a reception hosted by his good friend, long-time San Diego resident Tony Pizarro, chairman of Integrity Management Enterprises, during a short visit of Lina and his wife Lory in San Diego. Tony was returning the favor for the many hospitable gestures Joey had given him during the latter stints in his many government positions, including a guided tour of Laguna Province by the then governor himself, complete with an army of bodyguards. Yet, the evening ended with Joey regaling his new-found friends with at least four songs (thanks to Karaoke!) justifying his insistence to give a sample of a talent that earned him a place in the Philippine governments Three Terrors, err, Tenors (after the opera singing trio of the late Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Careras, and Placido Domingo) that included two other high government officials, Angelo Reyes and Bayani Fernando. The three actually performed in concerts held at the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel to raise funds for charity. Called Highway Robbery, the concert, according to Lina, prevented people (Mostly our relatives and friends who were strong-armed to buy the tickets, he joked) from leaving the venue, not because they were mesmerized by the performance, but because then defense chief Reyes soldiers, secretary of the Metro Manila Development Authority Fernandos metro aides and then secretary of DILG Linas security group were guarding the doors.
Tony recalled how he and Lina first met. It involved his daughter Wendy, one of the most outstanding Filipino American students ever to graduate in San Diego. Wendys long resume which included a litany of awards like graduating valedictorian at the University of San Diego High School, prompted me to write an article, The Unusual Resume of a Sixteen-Year-Old Filipina American published in our San Diego Asian Journal. Years ago, Wendy needed to do a research work on the Philippine Government while she was a law student at Harvard University. She contacted top Filipino business people and corporations, but not after asking her father to lead the way in contributing to a good cause. Among the Filipino corporate giants she contacted were the Ayalas, the Lucio Tans, the Gokongweis and the likes. In the Philippines, she met Joey Lina who was then the head of the local government department. Wendy and her classmates were even able to wring a 15-minute audience with then President Fidel Ramos in Malacanang. To make a long story short, her father eventually met Lina and the two became personal friends, even calling each other compadre.
Joey Lina bills himself as the poor boy that made good. I have yet to hear his rags to riches story, but he was already midway into the story as an economics student at the University of Santo Tomas when his life account was told to us. During the reception, he met an old classmate, the husband of banker officer and Bataan Association leader Evelyn Constantino who swore that his classmate in philosophy (Lina later shifted to economics) looks as young as he was before.
Linas own wife, Lory, one of the early broadcasting graduates of the Institute of Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines admitted that Joey took years to earn his degree. This was because like her, Joey was deeply involved in student activism, becoming a full-fledged member of the parliament of the streets.
I met my wife at a barricade, Joey recalls. During the early seventies, students would barricade their schools or government buildings to protest government policies.
We protested against fascismo (fascism), militarismo (militarism) at asawa mo (your wife, referring to the dictator Ferdinand Marcos profligate wife, Imelda), he said.
Despite his years of activism however, Linas animosity against Imelda melted away when she attended his concert and praise him for his talent.
Ngayon, kaibigan ko na siya (Now shes my friend), Lina admits with a smile, proving that the adage music gets people together is true. In fact, we had dinner a few weeks ago.
My wife and I dated for eight years, Lina remembers. Hindi muna siya pumayag magpakasal (she did not agree to marry me) until I earned my law degree from U.P.. Sigurista rin !
He was already a lawyer doing legal service for the poor when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983.
Nabuhay muli ang pagka-aktibista ko (my activism was re-ignited).
He joined the parliament of the streets as he and his wife became one of the leaders of the protest movement against Marcos.
We organized people in my grandparents community in Sampaloc, Manila, recalls Lory. Those were dangerous times as Marcos agents were all over.
When Cory Aquino assumed the presidency, Lina paid her a visit at her temporary headquarters (Malacanang, the presidential palace where the president lives and holds office, was still being readied for her) at the Cojuangco Building on Ayala Avenue in Makati. He was about to tell her that his work in the protest movement was done since they had already achieved their goal of toppling Marcos and that he planned to return to his private law practice.
But Mel Mathay, the vice governor of the Metro Manila Development Authority (Imelda was the governor) was also there tendering his courtesy resignation to the new administration. Upon seeing him, Cory asked Mathay to help in the smooth transfer of MMDAs affairs to Joey. Before he knew it, Joey found himself appointed as the new governor of Metro Manilas governing body.
The Philippines later ratified a new constitution calling for the creation of the legislative branch of the government. Joey found himself at the right place at the right time. At 35 years of age, he was asked to represent the youth of the country in the Senate. He ran under the Cory Aquino ticket, which was so popular that it won majority of the Senate seats, making Joey the youngest senator at that time.
I got 11 million votes. I found out that marami akong kamag-anak (I have a lot of relatives) that voted for me. My father was an Ilocano from Nueva Ecija so I got the Ilocano votes, my mother was from Pampanga, so I got the Pampangueno votes, I grew up in the Tagalog Region, so I got the Tagalog votes, I have a cousin who lives in the Visayas, so I clamed to be a Visayan, and I have an uncle who is a resident of Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao, so I appealed to the Muslim votes, he jested to the delight of the audience.
To top it off, he claimed that there are millions of Linas in the Philippines.
So I got their votes also, he said. Then he identified them all: The Carolinas, the Angelinas, the Marcelinas, and even the cartolinas, the bartolinas, the gasolinas and others.
Judging from the response of the audience to his jokes, it was easy to understand why Joey Lina was able to endear himself to the electorate.
After finishing his four-year term, he was reelected. He was prevented from running again for the same office for the third time because of term limits. But instead of accepting another appointive government post, he set his sights on local governance. He ran for and won the governorship of Laguna Province on his promise of reform and good government.
He set up a multi-project development program, with the promise to finish them during his term. When he was elected, he found out that the provincial coffers had no money to finance the projects.
Bahala na ang Diyos (God will take care of it), he told himself. While he knew that God would help him, he also knew that he had to do the hard work to realize his projects. He presented his projects in workshops he organized in different areas in the province. When he got the publics enthusiasm on them, he told them that for them to accomplish the projects, everybody in the province had to pay their taxes. As a result, he raised tax collection from about three hundred million pesos to about one and a half billion pesos a year, providing the province the necessary revenues to fund the projects Joey promised. During his term, Laguna became the richest province in the country, and number one in revenue collection. He said there were no overpricing and kickbacks in his administration.
Lina also raised the morale of the employees of the provincial government by raising their pay and making them proud of their role as public servants. During his two terms as governor, Lina was elected president of the League of Provincial Governors and his province became number one in a lot of accomplishments and received numerous outstanding awards.
During my term, ang probinsiya ng Laguna ang pinakamalinis, pinakamayaman, at ang pinakaguwapo na gobernador (Laguna is the cleanest, the richest and the handsomest governor), then he paused, ay hindi po ako (was not me). It was Bong Revilla, the movie actor who was then the governor of Cavite, he admitted.
He was supposed to run for a third term, but the newly-installed President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, asked him to become the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments.
Tutal, may experience ka na sa (since you already have a lot of experience in) local governments, considering your accompliments, the president told him, you are much needed in supervising all the local governments, municipalities and provinces alike, instead of governing one province alone.
Lina took this as another challenge. One of his major accomplishments was getting rid of illegal gambling during his time as DILG secretary. He did this by re-assigning a number of generals in the army after he found them co-habiting with illegal gamblers.
This is why compadre, he turned towards his friend Tony. I needed those bodyguards. The police themselves warned me that by antagonizing those generals and other law enforcement people, I earned their ire. They were worried that if something happened to me, they would be blamed and be accused of dereliction of duties. Kung ang pinuno nila na sekretaryo ng Local Government hindi nila maprotektahan (if they cannot protect their boss who is the secretary of local government) how much more could they protect other people and officials?
Mahirap mag-maintain ng bodyguards (its hard to maintain bodyguards), he admitted. You have to give them extra allowance out of your own pocket, pakakainin mo pa (you also have to feed them).
Joey credits his wife for urging him to join a Catholic Charismatic Movement.
I became closer to God, he reveals.
He believes that fear of God should be an essential element of a government official, if not everyone. He explained that public servants should possess the Three Cs: a God centered life, competency and commitment.
That way, matatakot magnakaw ang taong gobyerno dahil alam niyang nakikita siya at parurusahan siya ng Diyos pag gumawa siya ng kasalanan (A person will not steal because he knows God sees him and will punlsh him if he commits a sin). Kung hindi dito, mayaman na sana ako (If not for this, I would have been very rich).
It was evident that Joey Lina was able to convince his audience with his sincerity. Somehow, it changed their perception that Philippine public officials are all corrupt and that the country is hopeless. In Joey Lina, they saw a glint of hope and they easily warmed to the idea that their guest of honor would be an ideal presidential material that could initiate, if not completely reform, the country.
Before he could do that however, at least during that enjoyable evening, he had to sing and give the guests the mini-concert he promised. After all, as he himself admitted, he is afflicted with that dreaded disease called A.I.M. No, not Asian Institute of Management. Try, Ayaw Iwanan ang Mike! – AJ