I assume leadership of our organization in a free and democratic exercise. An outcome in accordance with our constitution and by-laws, novel in the use of technology. We credit those who ran our electoral processes with competence, dignity, and transparency. Thank you to those who participated in the complete process: candidates, voters, supporters, well-wishers.
My mandate is being hailed as historic, as the first woman president of Alpha Phi Omega Philippines. Yes, for we sail through a historic, unprecedented storm. A pandemic. Severe economic and social crises. Divisiveness within and outside this great fraternity and sorority. It will test everything in the ship. The captain, the crew, the very bolts and rivets that hold it together. The forces that keep it forward and the frame that keeps it afloat. We must navigate with competent leadership at every deck with a crew moving in unison to the rhythm of one mighty drum.
I take this leadership more with resolve than in fear.
Know that this term is not about gender, neither about chapters nor about legacy. It is about breaking barriers, doing the improbable, raising the bar. It is about uplifting voices, to reshape and reunify. My first act as president is an urgent call for tolerance and understanding.
These APO elections continue to reveal how deeply divided we can be because of that most fraught of words: politics. APO is a ship that can hold together, as long as everyone on board can agree that it must stay afloat.
Our disagreements, and sometimes bitterness, must not lead to disunity for as long as our discourse are rooted in principles, ideas and a vision for our greater good. Perhaps, there is no inherent malice in our views and beliefs. Instead of our differences, let us look at our shared identity as APO. Or better still, look into the angsts and inner pains in these perilous times and develop empathy among brethren.
A bigger wave threatens to sink this ship. The oncoming Philippine elections. It is a foundation of democracy, yet the divisiveness that has taken hold leaves scars, many of which have barely healed. We need to rely on our resiliency and fraternal bond. We must beware of the tendency to moralize against each other.
Resilient organizations and societies have a foundation of tolerance. It means granting equal freedoms and rights, particularly to others whose beliefs, values, and actions we disagree with. As President John F. Kennedy once said: “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”
Tolerance does not mean compromising values, but rather allowing others to live life as they wish because our reasons to endure these differences overwhelm our reasons for objection.
APO is a broad cross section of Philippine society that extends to almost every corner of our majestic archipelago. Regions, tribes, cultures, disciplines, generations, and schools. Tolerance is what makes possible true diversity, true inclusivity. Tolerance functions as a check to discrimination. By creating social spaces and norms where we can share our lives with people with whom we disagree, it offers room for dialogue and mutual understanding. Conversation with civility. Constructive criticism instead of trading insults, trolling and public bashing especially on the internet and social media. Speaking of social media, this administration will put more teeth to our existing Internet Code of Conduct to ensure responsible discourse in cyber space.
I will be clear. We embrace difference, not deviance. We are governed by laws and acceptable behavior and conduct. There should be no room for rogues or saboteurs and those whose acts threaten the very existence of our organization. They will be dealt with swiftly, decisively and with the full force of the law.
The next two years shall be governed with transparency and regularity; plans and programs, with creativity but sustainability.
Current national projects that have proven themselves shall be continued. Especially so for those that reflect our social responsibility. APO Telemed foremost among them. As of today, this intervention has attended to more than 700 APO members and families, most of whom are covid-19 patients. It has saved countless lives and thousands or even millions of pesos of precious savings, mine and that of my family included. Thanks to our volunteer doctors, nurses, support groups and donors. Soon we will embark on similar and equally timely and timeless projects. We are a vast human resource with an insatiable appetite to do service to fellowmen.
We shall pursue the following:
- … reinvigorating recruitment and enhancing leadership development. To this end, we will enforce fully the law on Anti Hazing;
- … eliminating outdated illegal practices & seeking formal recognition of chapters by schools;… partnership with respectable organizations for greater community acceptability;
- … establishment of a virtual blood bank responsive to our members’ needs; and,
- … Continue the APO bldg. project and prepare it for 2025.
Let us harbor no delusions that we will accomplish all in our term. While pursuing all of these with vigor, it is our responsibility to lay the groundwork for our 100 years and beyond. What we pursue is the work of generations. Our vision must outlive every individual’s mandate.
Lastly, there is much work to do and so little time. I have appointed people I have full trust and confidence in, people I know will work not those who will throw roadblocks at every turn. Do trust and respect my choices and decisions. They are done in good faith with the best interest of the organization in mind and after thorough deliberation.
APO has lived through countless storms. We will navigate this storm, the next one, and the next. We Rise Up when we stumble, and we Rise Up even higher. And in the stillness between them, we will learn from each other’s experience, hear from each other, respect each other. It is the way we stay together.
Mabuhay ang Alpha Phi Omega!
Sis. Atty. Norma Singson- De Leon
National President DY 2021-2023