Re-Imagined NYC, Re-Imagined Filipino Youth: Valedictory Message of Former NYC USec Leon Flores III


Here is the 3-Year Valedictory Message of Undersecretary Leon Flores III, Chairman and CEO, National Youth Commission, (March 16, 2011 – May 19, 201):


Let me just get one thing out of the way. And this one has quite bothered me for a long time already since the appointments came in.

Hindi po totoo ang mga balitang ako na po ang napipisil na papalit kay Dingdong Dantes bilang primetime leading man ng GMA-7. Wala pong katotohanan.  Una, palagay ko ay ako ay mabibigyan ng “Fat Memo” ng management. Pangalawa, hindi ko yata kayang tapatan ang husay at galling ng pag-arte ng ating kaibigang na isa na yata sa pinakamahusay na actor ng ating henerasyon.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it is with great humility and honor that I , on behalf of the 7th Commission, turn over the mantle of leadership of the National Youth Commission to the 8th Commission with Chairman Ramon Gregorio Tingson at its helm.

It has been three years since we all gathered here, brimming with both hope and anxiety, to welcome the 7th Commission.  We then stood on the shoulders of giants. Former officials who did their fair share, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

I knew then that we would come across a strong NYC team, bound by years of kinship, fortified by years of experience.  We knew then what we set out to do. Laid down the thrusts needed to get things done for a sector whose degree of energy, enthusiasm and idealism would be difficult to match.

The National Youth Commission envisions itself to be the authority on youth participation policy and the prime mover on youth development. We retained this vision and doggedly pursued it , but this time with fresh thrusts and reimagined direction.

As a policy authority, it was important for us to set the baseline.  In the words of Peter Drucker, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Thus, we formulated the Philippine Youth Development Index which provides objective measurement, a composite index of youth development at the national and subnational levels, in the areas of education, health, employment and participation. Our PYDI is at 0.56 and we should collectively work to improve the score.

The Philippine Youth Development Plan 2012-2016 was approved by the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster. While no Executive Order has yet been released, the NYC has started working on the interventions and commitments arrived at in the PYDP.  We also played a role in mainstreaming the results of the 2010 National Youth Assessment Study to arm our policymakers and youth leaders with meaningful youth statistics – a thrust we pursued wholeheartedly, no small thanks to an active policy team, the PRMED.

We hope to make government relevant to young people.  We led in the re-branding of  the NYC as the “Voice and Advocate of the Youth” with increased communications, streamlined website, and new institutional logo made by the creatives of  Team Manila.

You know when we first started out three years back, when we sent out a press release, even media would mistake us for a non-government organization. The headline reads: Youth group asks for student discount. With improved media engagement, we are proud to say that we have made great strides to be in the radar of both media and potential partners.

Kahit kakarampot ang badyet, nangahas tayong mas maramdaman tayo ng kabataan. Sinabi natin na tatapatan  ng lawak ng ating imahinasyon at lalim ng ating pagkamalikhain ang kababawan ng  ating bulsa.  We maximized partnerships and funding sources. Meaningful partnerships with the MDG Fund to pursue Youth Employment and Migration programs.  UNFPA and UNICEF were also strategic partners on various fronts.  And now, before the 7th Commission ends, meron kaming pabaon. Hindi corrupt na pabaon. I am happy to announce that we were able to secure $ 230,000 funding for a 3-year workplan that seeks to mainstream youth and children into the DRR framework. I am excited to see the work that the 8th Commission will do to bring the workplan to fruition.

Comm. Steve Arquiza three years back worked on and laid down the grounds for DRR before he left the Commission. Countless of calamities have struck the country then. And once again, the youth have proven itself to be a reliable partner, coming in droves and donating their time, talent and treasures to respond to the challenges and calamities brought about by human and climate change.

We strengthened our International Programs and balanced quality with equity. We ensured maximum geographic sub-sectoral representation, doing away with palakasan and ensuring a selection process that is merits and competency-based, thereby benefiting roughly 1,500 young people from various backgrounds, passions and persuasions.

The lovely Comm. Georg Nava deftly ensured this as Committee on International Affairs head, with outstanding inputs from our SMD.  We are fortunate to have hosted the country program for the legendary 40th SSEAYP. NYC’s years of experience in handling country program for SSEAYP has truly buoyed by the direction given by NOC Chair Comm. Erwin, has allowed us to achieve unprecedented satisfaction ratings from the SSEAYP youth ambassadors for each country program.  It was most fitting that we peaked in terms of client satisfaction (evaluation from the participating youth all over ASEAN and Japan) for the 40th SSEAYP last year with a satisfaction score of 3.85 coming from 2.9 in 2009 and 3.13 in 2011. We have set the bar high and I am confident the team can sustain this.

We committed to fight off any plan to abolish the SK.  In partnership with the NYC, the DILG undertook massive consultations in all 17 regions to ensure that the voice of young people are heard. We were successful in postponing the SK elections, but the fight goes on. And this will be the biggest battle the 8th Commission will wage in. As the recently concluded NYP propounds, there is a need to work for the LYDEA, whose groundwork was laid down by yours truly and Comm. Erwin. WE need to have the voices of young people heard on the issue of SK.

Another thrust is to respond to gut issues of the youth.
–    Teen pregnancy is shaping up to be the defining issue of this generation. Through the leadership of our youth health expert, Comm. Perci, we transformed the issue of young unplanned pregnancy into a national conversation through the holding of two National Summits on teen pregnancy. As we speak, the participants are now initiating and sustaining programs to address this issue.
–    We were also at the forefront in the issue of pushing for a national policy on reproductive health, believing that young people deserves reproductive health services and information; and comprehensive sexuality education. We never thought we’d see it in our lifetime, but we witnessed it during the 7th Commission.
–    With the leadership of DepEd and co-chairing them in the national consortium, we embarked on the biggest strategy and framework to provide opportunities for Out-of-School Youths – Abot Alam. Three weeks back, we went to Nagcarlan Laguna to document successes – it was most pleasant to see OSYs already taking up Alternative Learning system, TESDA scholarships and given a chance to work for an electronics company.  Through a strong private partner, we will launch the music video for Abot Alam. Just last night, I am most elated to inform you that there are already 100, 000 OSYs registered OSYs both in the system and on submitted excel sheets. The challenge of encoding them into the online platform provided by NYC and more importantly,  providing services and program to them is in order. The target of DepEd is 1M and they need all the help they can get.
–    We saw strenghtened partnership with the AFP and the youth of Mindanao to craft the Mindanao 2020 youth agenda.  Comm Earl not only worked on this, his stewardship also saw the expansion of the Government Internship Program. We are thankful to various NGAs and LGUs, especially DSWD. From roughly almost a thousand GIPs, it ballooned to almost 25,000 interns in 2012 alone!
–    We personally were in the thick of the fight for restorative justice and the amendment to the Juvenile Justice and Welfare law. The network of children and youth advocates, along with the whole JJWCouncil under the leadership of USec. Taraji was successful in ensuring that the MACR be retained at 15 and more support and improvement to the JJ framework is secured. The IRR will be signed on June 4.

Another thrust is to encourage authentic youth participation and involvement .
–    Kabayani – a program for volunteers – was also piloted.  Volunteers were mobilized for EDSA  commemoration, the Habitat for Humanity Youth Build and the countless relief operations including for typhoon Yolanda victims.
–    We also made young people a part of the crafting of the budget of NYC though BUB, bottom up, hindi po bottoms-up (laughter) or Grassroots participatory budgeting  process initiated by Comm. Gio and started last year. Nagkaroon ang boses ang kabataan upang malaman saan napupunta ang budget ng NYC. This year, we partnered with ADB to ensure maximum participation.
–    To make sure strong ang local engagement, we were able to gather all the Regional Youth Advisory Councils for the first time, we gathered them for a national convention, not once but twice. So masaya tayo na nag-uusap usap sila, share best practices, engage with one another.
–    Frontline services such as the STRAW Desk helmed by Comm. Gio and now Comm Kit and the SK Empowerment Desk which both serves concerns on STRAW and SK queries.
–    We streamlined the YORP or the Youth Organizations Registration Program, removing unnecessary requirements and making the process youth-friendly. Thus, together with intense promotions, we were able to quadruple the number of YORP registrants from almost two hundred now to a thousand.
–    With increased allocation for Technical Assistance, more than 15,000 individuals and organizations were jointly mobilized and assisted in 3 years.
–    Through the leadership of RYDD, we also provided a training module on life-skills-based and gender-responsive youth policy formulation, Revitalized ISKOLAR-BOS and a toolkit for the PYDP.

Lastly, we continued to pursue the holistic development and empowerment of the NYC family.
–    Performance management system/ feedback mechanism and quarterly coaching system was set in place. A conversation has to take place between supervisor and subordinate to talk about performance and I hope you can continue this.
–    I personally pushed for a mandatory Annual Physcial Exam. Admin and Finance Division and the NYCEA acted swiftly on this.  And sadly, parang may contest ata dito sa NYC. Pataasan ng uric acid and SPGT?  I guess a healthier lifestyle is now in order. Chairman Gio and Comm. Dingdong at least would have the moral ascendancy to lead it, unlike yours truly. (laughter)
–    Fiscal discipline, compliance to agreed-upon procedures, early alert system for deadline lapse on liquidations, enhanced controls spearheaded by AFD allowed NYC, for the first time in its young history , to earn an UNQUALIFIED COA Report for 2012. 2013 is looking to be UNQUALIFIED as well, and I say that with fingers crossed.  We have proven that it can be done. That by being transparent and accountable, coupled with an average budget utilization of 97% for the past three years, NYC has proven to be a responsible steward of people’s  money.  Amidst all these allegations of corruption with pork barrel and Napo-list, NYC has to lead by example in pursuing the tenets of transparency and accountability, freedom of information included.
–    Because it is now fashionable to work for government and because of the work that we do in the Commission, we are now able to attract talent. Honor students, and active youth leaders are now a huge contributor and part of the NYC family, kahit maliit ang suweldo, nakikipagsapalaran para sa kabataan. There is even one anecdote in one UP Ikot jeepney ride where one of our employees heard two fresh graduates debating over which is a better career option – working for the call center or working for government, particularly NYC!

We also worked on the software, not only on our hardware. The 7th Commission held the Idol Ko si Rizal YouTube video contest, the Bonifacio Astig Rap contest and the MMFF Youth Choice Award, among so many others. .
All of these is an accomplishment of the team. Accomplishment nating lahat. Lahat ng empleyado, lahat ng kabataan. While we encountered obstacles and challenges, we were able to accomplish so many more. Thanks to a committed NYC team!  This would not have been made possible without the overtime put in, the ideas acted, Noli and Ali who delivered well, our drivers including Ding who safely brought us to our destination, ensuring our attendance, the GIPs and OJTs and volunteers who contributed too. And to all the employees. Hindi ko na maimention ng paisa-isa pero lahat ay may naiambag upang iangat ang kalagayan ng kabataan.

To the NYC family, I will terribly miss you. I would like to thank ED Pol Maleniza for  contributing his years of experience and a healthy dose of humor with the 7th Commission.  And of course, to our current ED Shierwin Taay, an established youth leader in Aurora and a long time friend of the NYC. Thank you for uprooting yourself from the comforts of Aurora and taking on this colossal task of being ED for the NYC.

To all the Division Chiefs, our fantastic four (Doc Robin, Ate Lutchie, Sir Mel, Sir Art) and your super deputies (Jeng, Ding, Bing, Beth)!  Your leadership and loyalty to young people has helped the 7th Commission achieve our targets.

And again, to all staff and employees of NYC, you all deserve a huge round of applause. You did this.  You’ve re-imagined the National Youth Commission, you’ve reimagined the Filipino youth! And I am confident that you will do so again and again, and even more under the 8th Commission!

To my staff, former and current,  Mike, Rosh, Rhondon, Julius, Patrick, Christa, Karl, Abot Alam staffs, Lady and Tambel, and now Valerie and Ian, thank you so much. Siguro mas sobrang taba ko na dahil sa stress kung wala kayo. Pasensya na rin sa stress na naidulot ko sa inyo.

To all our GIPs, past and current, too many to mention, they’ve contributed so much this past three years., so thank you too. I personally wouldn’t have survived last week without my two able GiPs – Cedrick and Fatima.

I thank all of our partners in both government and private sectors. All NGAs, NGOs, Congress, corporate partners, funding partners, RYACs, LGUs, may you all continue to be youth champions and help NYC provide a voice to 30 million Filipino youth.  Kudos also to our international friends and youth ministers from all over the world including the ASEAN.

I personally would like to thank President Pnoy for the trust and confidence and for giving me a chance to work with a sector I love so much.  I’d like to thank Secretary Dinky Soliman and Bro. Armin Luistro also for providing guidance to the NYC, along with all the other supportive Cabinet secretaries. Sec Dinky is so diligent in giving guidance to us and Bro. Armin really finds time to preside over the National Advisory Council.  I also learned a lot from my ates and kuyas in government – Usec. Paris who is here with us, USec. Alice Bala, Usec. Albert Muyot, Usec. Mario Deriquito, Usec. Austere Panadero, and USec. Lagunzad, along with so many others.

To my family and friends who have been and still are a beacon of strength, I love you all.

Let me quote Reinhold Niebuhr:  “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing worth can be done in a lifetime, that’s why we pass it on to the next generation. We started out knowing that we will not be able to complete everything in three years.

Let me quote: JRR. Tolkien in  the Lord of the Rings:
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know so that those who live after may have clean earth to till .What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

To the 8th Commission, I hope we have left you with with a bit cleaner earth to till, spread the seeds and harvest well. I am excited and overflowing with hope to see the wonderful work that you will accomplish.

I am happy that the two new Commssioners JP Penol and  Dingdong Dantes are not only two good friends of mine but they have been in the thick of youth development work – true-blooded youth champions with unbridled commitment. JP is a promising young public servant who believes in the electoral process. I met him first in the 2011 International Youth Day event in Iloilo and was amazed by his enthusiasm and energy.

Dingdong Dantes, like me, is more than just a pretty face (laughter). He has demonstrated loyalty to the Filipino youth, championing causes for the youth and NYC and being there with us and not charging a single centavo.  It is worth reminding people that during the 2010 elections, Dingdong turned down an offer to endorse another presidential candidate despite being offered a hefty amount of “professional endorsement fee” but instead supported a candidate he believed in. In his own words, “ang prinsipyo, walang presyo!”

And of course, one of my prayers is that if someone will be appointed to replace me, I prayed that it be an insider, someone already familiar with NYC and youth development work, given that there is no luxury of time.  And Chairman Gio fits the bill just right. I am confident that under his leadership, the 8th Commission and the NYC family will bring the Filipino youth to unprecendented heights.

This past three years have been a truly exhilarating personal experience for me and I would not replace it for the world. It seemed like the universe conspired to allow the 7th Commission to leave on a high note. We were influential in the crafting and negotiations for the Colombo Declaration on Youth. You can’t go any higher than that in terms of influencing youth policy. We really hope the Philippine government will take the lead in its adoption at the U.N. General Assembly. If so, that will be a colossal victory for all young people all over the world.

Just this week, it was most pleasant to witness the NYC family bloom in to action, taking on three huge, colossal, gigantic events last week – the 10th National Youth Parliament, the International HIV/AIDS Candlelight Memorial and an international event, the Asian Youth Council meeting with the One Asia Youth Forum. Whew! Let us give a round of applause to all the organizers. Comm Kit helmed probably the first NYP with laser-like focus on the resolutions,  so many innovations and with so very little controversy. Every NYP has its share of controversy.

Chairman Gio along with our International Affairs Unit who co-secured the funding also expertly navigated through the challenge of organizing the Asian Youth Council meeting despite the short notice. Comm Perci, was in his element as he spearheaded the HIV/AIDS event and yes, ALL the programs for all three events.  The three of them would not be able to accomplish all that without the able employees and volunteers/GIPs of NYC.  What you all accomplished last week up until this weekend, is the stuff that legends are made of.  You are LEGENDARY!

And lastly, tribute goes out to the Filipino youth and the youth of this world. Amidst so much persecution, lack of opportunities and a deteriorating planet, the youth still prods on! They never cease to inspire and surprise me and the NYC! I have met so many amazing, wonderful and selfless youth leaders, and young people doing their fair share in nation-building, making a difference wherever they are and doing their best to leave behind a better world and better communities.  The Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations awardees and the countless more who do not seek awards reminds us of this. These selfless young people keep me up at night, they drive me to work, at times almost 24/7, they fill me with working weekends this past three years. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Let me end with my favorite movie quote and Ive shared this many times already. This one is taken from a 90s movie called The Beach and narrated by Leonardo di Caprio in his character as Richard – a carefree youth who took on an adventure of a lifetime in a beach in Thailand.

“And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…”

The last three years made me a huge part of a sector that I dearly love and made me work for a very dynamic family  within the bureaucracy. Thank you for helping me find that moment, that little piece of paradise on earth. It will last with me forever.  Daghang salamat!

Mabuhay ang National Youth Commission! Mabuhay ang kabataang Filipino! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

(Speech was delivered in the Turn-over Ceremonies at the NYC Conference Hall, Quezon City, 20 May 2014; text downloaded from the Website of National Youth Commission <;)


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