NON SCHOLAE SED VITAE Accountancy and Accountability

February 22, 2018

 

By Rep. Karlo Nograles

 

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by Rep. Karlo Nograles (1st District, Davao City) during the Awarding Ceremony of the Most Outstanding Alumni of the College of Business and Accountancy, University of Nueva Caceres, last February 17, 2018 at Villa Caceres Hotel, Naga City:

Thank you very much Mr. Wenifredo Efondo for the kind introduction.

Mr. Alfredo Ayala, President of the University of Nueva Caceres;

Dr. Nora Elizabeth Maniquiz, Vice President for Academic Affairs;

Dr. Armin Fullante, AVP for Student Affairs and Services;

Dean Cerila Sanchez of the College of Business and Accountancy;

The Outstanding Alumni awardees and their families;

The Faculty, students and staff of this University, and everyone gathered here tonight:  MARHAY NA BANGGI!

First of all, I would like to thank Ms. Maribel Ballon, the head of this event, for inviting me to be your Guest of Honor tonight. Ms. Ballon mentioned in her invitation letter the main reason for inviting me here tonight, and I quote, “Your mere presence and message to all the awardees will definitely give an inspiration especially that you are best known for your commitment to Education.”

Yes, she is right. I am most committed to Education and its value among our people. But before I talk to you about that, I also would like to tell you that we have something in common. You may have heard it when I was introduced that I myself am a graduate of a college of business in Manila. I finished Management Engineering at the Ateneo de Manila University.  And so, I thought that I would be able to connect with you in a special way tonight.

The College of Business & Accountancy; the Faculty

I understand that majority of the people attending tonight’s awarding ceremonies are faculty, students, and alumni of the College of Business and Accountancy of the University of Nueva Caceres. Having graduated from a similar college, please allow me to remind you of the importance of what you teach – for the teachers here present, and by analogy, to the non-teaching staff; what you learn – for the students; and what your mission is to society – for the alumni.

Have you ever thought why the words “Accountancy” and “Accountability” are profoundly connected? The first is a technical process and practice; the second, a ‘truth’ principle.

But whether in private life or in government, we are all expected to conduct our business and financial dealings with honesty and integrity. Hence, “accountancy” and “accountability” simply mean adhering to the principle of TRUTH – otherwise referred to as honesty and integrity – and applying it in practice and through the processes of the business you are engaged in.  In short, this is all about: accountability through accountancy.  And that applies in a larger context not only in business but in life in general.

Today, as part of the celebration of the 70th foundation week of this proud institution, University of Nueva Caceres, the College of Business and Accountancy has found it fit to confer awards of recognition to its outstanding alumni for their achievements in their respective fields of endeavor. I feel privileged to witness this conferment today. Indeed, being an advocate of Universal EDUCATION and of Total Human Development, which embraces adherence to the universal moral imperatives of honesty and integrity. I will seize every opportunity like this one to advance such advocacy.  

Allow me to recall here two interesting stories about two individuals, one an ordinary man, the other a noted personage in business and finance.  

In a recent popular column in one of our national dailies, I encountered this account.  I am quoting the writer and paraphrasing from his article: A Malacanang Palace on-call pianist told me, his contact to perform at all casinos owned by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. was terminated abruptly in 2013, after he refused to sign a document saying the government-owned agency owed him P100,000 in entertainments fees, when the amount involved was only P10,000.  The entertainment manager said the P90,000 was for the boys’ but I didn’t want to steal money from the government, Nonong, the pianist, told me in tears.  During dinner, I brought up Nonong’s sad experience with the President, who called him to our table.  After hearing Nonong’s story, Mr. Duterte called for Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and told the latter: have the entertainment manager dismissed and replaced by this man, pointing to the pianist.

That is about a small-time pianist, Nonong, an ordinary man, but possessed of big-time, extraordinary character.

The other person I wish to tell you about is most certainly known to most, if not all, of you: the late Washington Z. Sycip, founder of SGV & Co., the country’s foremost accounting firm. He left us recently at a most ripe age of 96, with his legacy of compassion, honesty and decency intact and unquestioned.

Philippine Tatler, a reputable magazine on luxury and lifestyle, wrote, and I quote: “Having lived through 14 presidents in his lifetime, he has a unique take on politics and the country’s leadership.  For those who knew him well, he is known for his distaste for corruption and his contributions on inspiring better governance.  One of his more famous quotes is how he believes that sustainable democracy only occurs when the people voting are no longer in poverty and are educated.

Tatler reports further: In an interview with Karen Davila’s show, Headstart, back in 2013, he was asked: What words would you say to describe yourself?  He shied away and with a quaint chuckle, he described himself as a fairly decent guy. At the end of the day, once a person passes, he is not remembered by the wealth he accumulated but by his character and values.

Nonong, the pianist, and Mr. Sycip, the industrialist – they were both the epitome of uprightness and simplicity.

All of us could take inspiration from their example. As alumni of University of Nueva Caceres, particularly of its College of Business and Accountancy, you have benefited from your institution’s teaching and learning traditions. You, like all citizens who have had the good fortune of gaining liberal college education, are in a better position than most Filipinos to be at the forefront of advocating for and adhering to the TRUTH PRINCIPLE – of accountability through accountancy; of the value of honesty and integrity; of being vocal against corruption – in your places of work, whether in the private sector or in government.  As well as in the social milieus of your communities and most especially, as role models of these virtues in your own homes.

In my case, as chair of the House’s Committee on Appropriations, I have a strong attachment to the practice of accountancy and principle of accountancy.  We are dealing here, after all, with the budget appropriations for the entire government. That involves the money of the people of this country – that which would fund the projects and activities and programs that would benefit them, our people!  And that requires diligent accounting.  That requires an acute sense of accountability to the citizens.

And it is for this reason that we take pride, as perhaps one clear examples of practicing what we preach, or to use another idiom, of walking the talk, in mentioning here that the Philippines has been ranked 19th out of 115 countries in the Open Budget Survey 2017, done by the International Budget Partnership, which looks at the budget processes of nations with respect to transparency, public participation, and oversight.  As reported in Business Nightly of ANC on its February 13, 2018, 10pm episode: “The Philippines scored 67 out of 100 in transparency – 25 points above the global average. It was also the highest score in Asia…The Philippines’ score has also been going up since 2012.  In other words, Filipinos have substantial access to budget information which makes it easier for any citizen to double check spending plans and priorities.”

We spoke of adhering to the truth principle.  This is one way of being true to our word.  To our self.  By and for our people.

I thought of citing Mr. Washington Sycip in this conversation because the issues he championed coincided with mine.  And I drew strength from that fact, even if I did not know him in person.  In the Life’s Lessons he enumerated in his Tatler interview, Mr. Sycip mentioned this as his lesson #1: “To solve poverty, the key is education.”

May I just mention that that has been my conviction since joining government, and I am pleased to mention here that precisely because of that belief, we have championed the passing of the Free Tuition Law of 2017, and even when it faced the threat of not getting the required funding in 2018, as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, we went out of our way to identify their sources.  We found them and we appropriated them.  Today, all college students of state universities and colleges, numbering to about 1.1M, as well as their families will no longer have the burden of supporting their education.  The government takes care of it.  In a few years, our country will reap the dividends of our government’s investment in the education of our ‘iskolar ng bayan.’  I am sure Mr. Sycip would be pleased with this pioneering and enlightened piece of Law.

But doing well by our people and serving them well is not exclusive to legislators like me, or industry giants like Mr. Sycip.  We have Nonong, the pianist, who did his part by heroically refusing to participate in graft, at the expense of his livelihood.  This is to say that every one of you, every citizen of this nation, by being honest, by being accountable to their fellowmen, by their acts of heroism in upholding truth in everyday life, they, you, me – we all contribute to building a better future, a better life for all of us, a better nation for all Filipinos. We have the power to make it happen. Together.



The University

I draw inspiration from your University motto, “non scholae sed vitae”.  Of all the available mottoes, the one chosen by the university must be that theme that would and should distinguish her alumni from among the rest. And being outstanding alumni, not just of the College of Business and Accountancy, but to some extent, to the entire University of Nueva Caceres as well, I invite you to be faithful to the motto, NON SCHOLAE SED VITAE.

The full Latin text of the motto is actually, “non scholae sed vitae discimus.” It means “We do not learn for school, but for life” or “We learn, not for school, but for life.” Another translation says, “We learn not in the school, but in life.”

I am not saying that we do not learn from what is taught in school. We learn a lot in school, and there are many things that we would not have learned were it not for the lessons we had in school. However, we also know that life has its own lessons to teach us. And the two do not contradict each other. They could actually be harmonized.

Just last month, I was surprised to hear that Mr.Jack Ma, the founder of the Alibaba Group, China’s e-commerce giant, talking about the need to teach values, faith (believing) and care for others in school, during the World Economic Forum in Davos. Let me quote to you what he said in full: “Education is a big challenge now. If we do not change the way we teach, the things we teach our children are the things from the past 200 years: It is knowledge-based. And we cannot teach our kids to compete with machines – they are smarter. Teachers must stop teaching knowledge. We have to teach something unique, so that a machine can never catch up with us. These are soft skills we need to be teaching our children: values, believing, independent thinking, teamwork, care for others. These are soft parts. Knowledge will not teach you that.  That is why I think we should teach our kids sports, entertainment, music, painting, arts – to make sure humans are different. Everything we teach should be different from machines.  If
the machines can do better, you need to think about it.”

And your university motto precisely speaks about that – the need to learn from life, not just from school; and the need to learn not just for school, but for life. We need to keep, live and cherish those universal values and virtues that make life worth living, so that as we advance in our knowledge and skills, and as we acquire more prestige, we continue to grow in our value and go deeper in our faith.

My earnest congratulations to the recipients of achievement recognition whom we are honoring tonight. May you all be heroes in your own right.

Dios Mabalos po saindo gabos.

 

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