I remember watching Marlon Brando in the classic movie “Julius Caesar,” and I realize that tomorrow is the “Ides of March.” Does that phrase sound familiar? Maybe you heard it back in grade school or high school. That was the day, on March 15 in the year 44 B.C., when Julius Caesar was assassinated by the very people he thought he could trust. In fact, the man who delivered the final blow was his best friend, Brutus. History records Julius Caesar’s last words as “Et tu Brute?” which is Latin for “You, too, Brutus?” In addition to the physical pain, imagine the mental anguish Caesar must have felt when he discovered who had betrayed him.
But do you know what happened after that? The last will and testament of Julius Caesar was opened and publicly read. They discovered that Caesar had donated his wealth to the people of Rome, and he also allowed his private gardens to be opened to the public. Julius Caesar was a hero of the people, and the people were angry at the ones who assassinated him; they were eventually rounded up and executed.
The Lopez family knows what betrayal feels like. When Meralco was taken during Martial Law, and my brother Geny was thrown into prison, people whom we thought were our closest friends suddenly turned their backs on us. Everything that my father Eugenio Lopez, Sr. had built was suddenly taken away. In the end, it was the Filipino people who suffered.
The opposite of betrayal and treachery is trust and integrity. Integrity is a Lopez value my family never abandoned even in the darkest days. We never gave up and we always followed the moral path; we honor our debts, our words, and our deeds.
Centuries after Julius Caesar, another great statesman was assassinated by the very people who were assigned to protect him. His name is Benigno Aquino, Jr. His death sparked a revolution that gave Filipinos their freedom.
When my family finally returned to manage the companies that had been nearly been left in ruins by the Marcos cronies, we continued to be guided by our strong sense of integrity and social justice. We committed to pay back the debts that had been accumulated during the Martial Law years, but more importantly, we knew that we had a duty to continue to serve the Filipino people.
We established charities and foundations to help the poor; we mobilized our resources during major calamities like the 1990 earthquake and the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. More recently, in the wake of Typhoon Ondoy, the Lopez group of companies led a massive private sector relief effort Sagip Kapamilya which raised P220 million in cash and P183 million in-kind as well as mobilized thousands of volunteers to deliver timely relief to the calamity’s victims.
Integrity and social justice are values that we will live with until our last breath … in the meantime, may we all live for many, many years so we may all share these values with Generation X, Y, and Z.