Moving forward

But as a man who never takes anything as a loss, Gordon has kept his fire and has moved on – still a public servant through his role in the Red Cross and as a husband, father and grandfather who now has more time with his family.

Richard Juico Gordon has donned many hats throughout his career as a public servant. And he has definitely made waves in every position he has held – whether as the youngest delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, the tough mayor of Olongapo City, the no nonsense chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the aggressive Secretary of Tourism, an assertive Senator or as the passionate chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross.

In the 2010 national elections, he threw his hat in the presidential ring and started his bid for the highest position in the land. Unfortunately, despite his wide experience and expertise, he lost to President Aquino.

But as a man who never takes anything as a loss, Gordon has kept his fire and has moved on – still a public servant through his role in the Red Cross and as a husband, father and grandfather who now has more time with his family.

THE LOBBYiST (TL): How is life after your 2010 Presidential run? What’s keeping you busy these days?

RICHARD JUICO GORDON (RJG): Life goes on. I’m enjoying it. I have more time for my family, for myself. I’ve lost weight since I now get to exercise everyday. I travel a bit for the Red Cross and also for my own leisure. I’m really happy and I don’t consider myself as having lost any election. If I ran for Senate and I lost, that would have been a loss. You have to look at me from my standpoint when I ran for the presidency. I ran principally because at that time I felt if I didn’t run, I would be doing a disservice to my country. I felt that none of the candidates at that time presented the criteria needed by the country. 

Modesty aside, I have done many things. I was a ConCon delegate, I was very successful with Subic where investments grew and we created jobs. I did the same thing when I was Tourism Secretary. I helped place our country on a better note. In the Senate, I authored and sponsored many laws: automated elections, tourism-related laws, holiday economics, disaster preparedness. I also exposed corruption and even made recommendations. I’ve also done quite a bit here in the Red Cross. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m a winner. I have done quite a bit for my country.

gordon 3TL: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your bid for the presidency? 

RJG: I don’t look at it negatively. Sa akin positive lahat eh. I know I violated my rule that I will not run unless I was organized – but how will we learn if we remain pragmatic? Do we just stay on the sidelines? I have always stood my ground and I will not follow if I know it’s not right. Sure, I felt sad when we didn’t have the money for meetings or to visit a school. Pero ang pinakamasakit sa akin is you’re not allowed to run unless you have lots of resources to reach the people, that you’re not allowed to debate so that people can hear you. 

TL: Were you satisfied with how the automated elections went? What areas do you think need to be improved?

RJG: It was fast. But I would like the Comelec to come out with a report on the accuracy of the machine and what improvements need to be made. Everywhere I go, they always say, “I voted for you, I voted for you. Magaling kayo.” Tumatawa lang ako. Kung talagang binoto ako, maniniwala ka bang 500,000 lang boto ko. Nagpapa-check up ako dun sa St. Luke’s, sabi sakin nung doctor, “Sir, I have a confession to make. I wanted to vote for you pero baka masayang boto ko. Talo eh.” Ah, so panalo ka ba? No regrets? Is our country better today?

TL: How would you rate President Aquino?

RJG: It’s too early to tell. I’m not disappointed but neither am I pleased. I know him. He’s hardheaded and that can be a good thing. I’m like that too. He’s also reasonably smart. Ang kulang niya ay (What he lacks is) management expertise. I’m not saying I’m the most intelligent person but look at it this way: Some people can be Einsteins but they can’t be Presidents. 

As president, you only serve for six years so you have to have the best people with you. You don’t just go in and take people out; you have to look at their capabilities first. His present Cabinet seems to have the qualifications but they must also have the will to change. Or else, what are you there for?

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TL: Would you run for the presidency again?

RJG: I don’t know yet about 2013 or 2016. Who knows? (laughs)

TL: What was the most memorable thing that you did during the campaign?

RJG: I cried, during a motorcade. Although not out of frustration but because sabi ko kawawa naman ang mga tao. Ang nakikita ko maghapon, nakaparada lang lahat ng tricycle, either natutulog o naglalaro ng tong-its. Tapos sa palengke, sa gabi makikita mo nagpapaypay sila ng barbecue, yun ang hanap buhay nila. Sabi ko, pano ka mananalo dito lahat ng tao gusto instant gratification, pera kaagad. What has happened to our country?

TL: You have been an old advocate of disaster preparedness. Having seen disasters happen one after another, what do you think we can do differently to avoid casualties during calamities?

RJG: It’s not just an advocacy. It’s something that we all have to do; we must do. We’re going to see and experience more and bigger (disasters) and we’re going to see a world that’s tired of giving donations to other countries. That’s why we should start making changes because there are many things that need to be changed. We should start with how we’re preparing, our practices. We can make analysis of the disasters but there’s really no way to predict them, which is why we need to always be prepared. For example, if we know that earthquakes cause buildings to collapse, then we better make sure magaling ang itatayo mong building. Hindi ka puwede magtayo sa earthquake prone areas. Huwag ka din magpapatira malapit sa dagat dahil maraming ocean surge.

Ang problema sa atin pagkatapos ng bagyo okay na naman tayo until the next one. There’s a cycle of disaster and poverty. Nobody wants to stop it. I’ve been trying to stop it. Look at Subic, tinamaan kami ng Pinatubo at bagyo, infrastructures were destroyed, we lost jobs, businesses went under pero nakabangon kami.

When I was in the Senate, we already set laws in place to improve government preparation and response during calamity situations. First, you need to know risk reduction management and then you have to practice. “Plan. Prepare. Practice“, that’s very important.

TL: In the context of climate change, did it change the way we should prepare for disasters?

RJG: It should change more briskly now. We must adapt more briskly. We have to adapt to climate change. We must lessen practices or avenues where climate change can be exacerbated. For one, we can go into more renewable energy.

But preparedness is relative. Dapat ang tao ang prepared. Huwag mong iprepara ang gobyerno lang, dapat pati ang tao. Kapag ang tao hindi prepared, wala rin. 

gordon 5TL: You have also been known for your work when you were Tourism Secretary, what should each Filipino do to help in encouraging more people to visit the Philippines?

RJG: Last year, 880 million people traveled internationally with expenses of about $880 billion. We should get a bigger pie of that. May pag-asa pa naman. If you see something you can promote, be creative and do something. For example, when we wanted to promote the butanding, we invited the US Ambassador and took photos to show our country’s beauty as well as tell people that it’s safe to visit our country. Now there are many tourists trying to see the butanding in Sorsogon. 

As a private citizen, you can do many things also. You can be a guide. You can study about Intramuros for example and then advertise it on the internet. Encourage people to visit and tell them you will serve as their guide. You can also organize clean-up drives so we can showcase other areas like Chinatown, among others. We can do many things in our own way.

TL: What is the one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? 

RJG: I’m very open. I may sound tough, but I’m really a pussycat. (laughs) I’m just an ordinary human being. I am a happy person. I laugh when I need to laugh and I cry when I need to cry. Hindi ako nakakatanggi sa mga taong nahihirapan, kung kaya ko sasabihin ko, kung hindi ko kaya sasabihin ko (I can’t say no if I know I can help others in need). It’s that simple. 

Also, I always teach no matter who you are. I don’t try to position myself as somebody special but I do make demands. I am a very demanding man especially with my subordinates. I will lift you up; I will make you do things that you think is impossible. I will make you work harder, longer and I demand high quality. Many of my people tell me: “Sir, hate na hate ko kayo dati, pero ngayon mahal na mahal ko kayo. (I used to hate you but now I love you.)” They thank me for training them and they know I did that to make them better.

Photos by: Leluck del Rosario