The truth about Rudy Fariñas

You can't help but think that there's a small measure of truth when certain people brand Ilocos Norte Congressman Rodolfo C. Fariñas as a siga (thug), especially when you meet the man face to face.

Up front, there is an undisguised machismo that surrounds the gentleman from Ilocos. His answers are delivered with a directness that could easily be mistaken for cockiness, and he is cavalier when it comes to talking about his past as a political maverick who was constantly hounded by stories of guns, girls, and goons. The same goes when the topic moves to his late wife, former actress and beauty queen Ma. Theresa Carlson.

It even bleeds onto his work in the legislature, as evidenced by his especially memorable "Palusot" speech delivered as part of the prosecution's summation for the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Flanked by the rhetorics and legalese of Congressman Neil Tupas and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Fariñas was a standout, talking clearly and straight from the shoulder as if he were explaining the prosecution's case to the man on the street. Even Senator Lito Lapid, before giving his verdict, admitted that he fully understood the facts only after Fariñas presented it on the floor, as clearly as the light of day.

But underneath Fariñas' rough and tumble exterior is a man changed by circumstance, a father utterly devoted to his eight children - Rey Carlos, Rica Camille, Ria Christina, Joseph Ryan Christopher, Rudys Caesar, Rudys Caesar II, Rodolfo, and Rodolfo Christian. Ever since he lost almost everything a decade ago - his father, his brother, his wife, and his congressional seat - the Ilocos Norte representative has been slowly but surely turning his life around.

"When I lost my wife, day of reckoning na rin siguro. Walo 'yung mga anak ko. Who would take care of them? Sino mag-aalaga?" he says. "Mahirap. Nanay at tatay ako because my children lost their mother nung bata pa 'yung mga 'yan. They were ages four, five, eight, nine, 13, 14, 17, 18 when my wife died. Pinalaki ko 'yang mga 'yan at ang hirap!"

Indeed, fatherhood has exposed Fariñas' soft core. The congressman freely admits to still sleeping in the same bed with his two teenage sons, as well as suffering from a little bit of empty nest syndrome as his now adult children start to leave his home and have families of their own.

"Very, very close kami. Maski pag pupunta kaming abroad, kasama ko palagi 'yang mga 'yan. Kapag naghihiwalay na kami, I didn't know who was having a hard time, sila o ako. Ako yata eh!" he says with a laugh.

Even at present, with his positive political standing, his name on everyone's lips, and a possible Senate run in the cards, Fariñas is still a father first and foremost and a politician second. No political engagement is too important as to take precedence over his kids.

"Nung simula nung pasukan, I brought my son to school on his first day in college. Lahat ng mga anak ko ganoon ang ginagawa ko," he shares.

In this riotous 60 Minutes interview, the once troubled lawmaker reveals the ups and downs of his life, straight from his own mouth. From being branded as a wifebeater to becoming a doting father, from suffering electoral defeat to enjoying legislative triumph, from being an infamous playboy to a now celibate Catholic, the truth about Rudy Fariñas is that he has probably gone through it all - and he isn't shy about telling you the real score. (Ronald S. Lim)

STUDENTS AND CAMPUSES BULLETIN (SCB): Post-impeachment, one of the most talked about topics was the "Palusot" speech that you extemporaneously delivered. How did you arrive at that speech?

RODOLFO C. FARIÑAS: Actually, I would have presented a Powerpoint presentation as to what impeachment is all about by using a house as an analogy. But I didn't have the time. When the Chief Justice appeared on that Tuesday, I was seated nearest to him. While he was making his explanation, he would stare at us. Natatawa ako, gusto kong silipin 'yung binabasa niya, baka nasa cue card niya "look at the prosecution, stare at them for two seconds" (laughs). Tinitignan ko rin naman siyang magpaliwanag.

Unang-una sasabihin niya, there's so much hatred, vengeance. Palusot na 'yun para sa akin dahil alam naman natin since the start that the President was questioning his midnight appointment. 'Yun mismo is palusot. 'Yung pera niya co-mingled, 'yung pera niya dollars, hindi niya dineclare kasi may secrecy of bank deposits.

Sabi ko nagpapalusot ito. It's an alibi, the weakest defense in Evidence. Kapag sinabi mong alibi, excuse, palusot talaga. So sabi ko, 'pag nag sum up ako dito, I would destroy everything he said and ang pinaka period nung sentence ko is - palusot.

SCB: How long did you prepare for that speech?

RCF: I didn't actually write it. I don't write my speeches. May mga bullet points lang ako. Kapag sinabi ko 'yung topic, alam ko na. Ang tagal ko na nagii-speech even when I started in 1980 as a mayor. Depende kasi tinitignan ko 'yung nakikinig, interested pa ba sila? Kasi kung hindi na, move on to another topic.

Even in Congress, kapag nag privilege speech ako diyan, everybody listens. Even in the 11th Congress, kasabay ko sina Presidente noon, they would approach me and tell me, kapag ikaw ang nagpapaliwanag, naiintindihan namin, ang dami naming natututunan, they want to listen, they get the concept. Parang si Senator Lito Lapid, sinabi niya nung sinabi niya ang desisyon niya.

SCB: You said you personally know the ex-Chief Justice?

RCF: First name basis pa because he was one year ahead of me in Ateneo, at the College of Arts and Sciences, also at the College of Law. When he came back that Friday, sabi ko, "Rene I wish you well." Siyempre dahil na-ospital na. Sabi niya, "Rudy salamat, wala tayong personal dito." Wala naman. Ako, hindi ako complainant, na-elect ako.

SCB: Why were you not a complainant in the first place?

RCF: I can tell it now kasi noon hindi ko masabi. Pinapaalis ko all the things that they were complaining against because those words or phrases have no place in pleadings. Nung tinitingnan ko 'yung complaint, marami akong pinapaalis. Eh wala, nandoon pa rin, alangan namang pumirma ako. But like I said early on, I was there from start to finish. If my signature was needed to breach the one-third, I would have signed maski hindi ko type masyado 'yung pagkagawa. I really wanted accountability. Even before all of this happened, I was talking about impeaching itong ibang miyembro ng Supreme Court. Noon ko pa sinasabi 'yan para matauhan sila.

May point nga doon na gusto kong mag walk out kasi gusto kong magsalita, ayaw nila. Hindi ako ganon eh, when I see the issue, I want to join and debate. Kung hindi rin naman pala ako magsasalita, eh di 'wag na. Pero they prevailed upon me. Nakita niyo naman until the end, pati 'yung summation, everybody wanted to do a summation kasi limelight 'yan. Ang sabi ko, bahala kayo, hindi naman ako complainant, I defer to them. But in all modesty, alam nila na nakaka-explain ako. It was important, I told them, and they also realized that whatever verdict the Senate would give, that verdict should be understood by the people dahil kung hindi, baka magka-problema tayo. The way I presented it, naintindihan yata ng tao, so mission accomplished talaga. Accepted talaga nila.


SCB: Is there something in the whole impeachment process that you will miss, after going through it for five months?

RCF: The variety of people you meet. That's very interesting, especially us in the Lower House when we meet with our brethren in the Senate, it was not a simple bicam but two Houses of Congress sitting together. Sinabi ko nga that it is a two-step process, dapat magkasama tayo because even if you want to remove someone, if you don't file the case, there would be no case. Even if we filed the case, if the Senate does not also decide, wala rin. Parang fiscal and judge, kami 'yung fiscal, ang mga senador ang judge.

SCB: Do you feel relieved that it's over?

RCF: I feel relieved dahil for the past five months ito ang concentration namin. When I was elected as one of the prosecutors on December 12, umpisa na ng mga meetings everyday. Sabi ko I cannot kasi naka-schedule na kaming magbakasyon ng mga anak ko. I had a sad experience kasi in the previous impeachment case against Merceditas Gutierrez when I wasn't able to enjoy the summer with my children because we were preparing. Sabi ni Merceditas Gutierrez, she was prepared to slug it out in the senate, but she resigned a week before the opening of the session. So wasted the entire summer.

SCB: What have been the lessons you learned from all these?

RCF: That sovereignty resides in the people, no matter how mighty you are. Noon pa lang umpisa kasi, nakikita naman na kami napapa-publish, nasa top 10 richest. Although hindi pinapakita 'yung breakdown, rightfully so also, and I wish this would be explained kung may forum in the future, dahil ang hirap naman nun na sasabihin mo pa kung magkano 'yung deposito ko sa bangko. Uy Rudy Fariñas, you have millions and millions, bawal 'yang ostentatious display of wealth. But at least alam kung magkano ang net worth namin and it gets published. Pero hindi ang sa mga taga Supreme Court kasi they are the ones who interpret the law. The lesson learned - you cannot be mighty.

If we made a mistake in the impeachment, or nagkamali ang Senate sa pag-convict, the people can get back at us in May. Sa susunod na election, huwag mo nang iboto 'yang mga 'yan. The people can correct. But the Supreme Court? Wala eh. Kahit na anong gawin nila, maski baligtarin ang batas, wala. Kaya nga 'yung impeachment lang ang kambyo nun. The lesson learned - accountability is getting stronger.

SCB: From the beginning, did you believe that the impeachment process would finish up to the verdict?

RCF: I thought he would resign.

SCB: With this recent victory, do you feel you are more suited now for the legislative branch of the government or do you prefer still being in the executive since you were a mayor and governor in the past?

RCF: At my age now, mas gusto ko legislative, policy-making, law-making, mas laid-back na than being a local chief executive where you have to be in the frontline.

SCB: Your name is being mentioned now as a senatoriable in 2013. Will you make a go for it?

RCF: Are you aware na tumakbo na akong senador noong 1987? At that time, I was the last mayor to have been replaced by the Cory Aquino government. I yielded my post in June 1986. I ran as national president of Jaycees in October, 1986, then as senator in May, 1987. I was 35 years old then. I placed 32nd in a winning field of 24. Na-massacre kami lahat, ang nanalo puro "dilaw", ang nakalusot lang si JPE (Juan Ponce Enrile) at saka si Erap.

So will I run? All in God's time. Ako naman, I'm not looking for it. But if the survey comes out na ok ako, why not. But if I will strive for it, hindi na.



SCB: How is it to be a single father?

RCF: Mahirap. Nanay at tatay ako because my children lost their mother nung bata pa 'yung mga 'yan. Pinalaki ko 'yang mga 'yan, kasama ko ang mga 'yan, ang hirap! Dalawa lang silang babae, anim na lalaki.

Nung pasukan, I went with my son who was entering his first day in college. He's 16 years old. When he lost his mom, he was only five years old. I do that for all my kids when they entered school, elementary, sinasamahan ko 'yang mga 'yan. Sunod-sunod, walo 'yun. Recess, I go. Who would take care of them? Kaya 'yung mga misis doon enjoy na enjoy silang kasama ako sa kubo doon (laughs)!

SCB: Do you think your kids appreciate that?

RCF: Ask them. Of course, kaya nga very, very close kami. We sleep together. Maski punta kaming abroad, kasama ko palagi 'yang mga 'yan. Nung naghihiwalay na kami, I didn't know who was having a hard time, sila o ako. Ako yata eh (laughs)! Minsan I go over and beyond.

SCB: What is the most difficult thing about being a single father with eight children?

RCF: Ang pinakamahirap sa akin is 'yung kapag nagalit ako sa kanila. Kapag nandiyan ang misis mo, may mag-aareglo sa iyo. And then your wife can tell them na malamig na ulo ng daddy ninyo, karinyohin niyo na. Eto hindi, kapag nagalit ako, they don't know when to approach me, so ako pa rin ang umaareglo (laughs). Magagalit ka, wala, stalemate. Ako rin magsasabing malamig na ulo ko, parang gago (laughs).

SCB: Are you a spoiler?

RCF: Hindi. Strict ako, pero I give them everything na puwede. Kapag me motorcycle ako, lahat sila meron din.

SCB: Do you have grandchildren already?

RCF: I have four. 'Yung eldest, si Camille has three kids. She is married to Macky Mathay, the son of Chuck Mathay. Kapatid niya si Ara Mina. Muntik ko na ngang ligawan si Ara eh (laughs). You know why? Para 'yung apo ko eh maging pamangkin ko na lang (laughs). Para hindi na ako maging lolo (laughs), at si Macky, imbes na manugang ko siya, bayaw ko na lang siya (laughs)!

'Yung eldest son ko, may asawa na rin, 'yung anak ng mayor ng Vigan, granddaughter ni Titong Singson, 'yung namatay na elder brother ni Chavit. 'Yung anak kong 21-years-old, biglang nag-uwi din ng bata (laughs).

SCB: Was there separation anxiety when your daughter got married?

RCF: Oo. Meron pa nga akong CD with the song "Take Good Care of my Baby"!

SCB: What values do you always inculcate in your kids?

RCF: To be honest. Ayaw na ayaw ko 'yung dishonest eh. Ayoko 'yung palusot talaga! (laughs) Aminin mo na para tapos na agad ang kuwento, kesa 'yung ang dami-dami pang rason. Ganon 'yung mind ko. Ipapakita ko na mali talaga siya. It's not bad to be mistaken, it's not bad to be wrong. Sa bahay, kapag me nawalang tsokolate o mangga, sinong kumain nito? Walang magsasabi (laughs)! Imbestigasyong katakot-takot 'yan! Kung sabihin niyo eh di tapos na!

I also always inculcate in them that what they reap they shall sow. Kung ano 'yung itinanim mo, 'yun ang aanihin mo.

SCB: Are they demonstrative with their affections?

RCF: Oo. Parang barkada lang kami.

SCB: Are you the type of father who guides or who directs?

RCF: I guide. I tell them to look at my life and prepare. I tell them that if they are educated, everything will follow naturally. Tinuturuan ko sila how to become better people.

No one has taken up Law among them. Magaling akong abogado, pero ayaw nila. 'Yung isa pupunta ng New York para mag-aral ng Culinary Arts. 'Yun ang gusto nila, I cannot force them. But I tell them, when my father said that he wanted to have a lawyer, ginawa ko 'yun para sa kaniya. Sa kanila rin sana. The irony is that my father was only a high school graduate, but he wanted a lawyer, he wanted a doctor, may doctor din siya. Ako, na CPA, honor student, I wanted a lawyer, sa walong anak, wala (laughs). May challenge sana sa kanila.

SCB: What do you love best about fatherhood?

RCF: Having kids become like you and seeing that they're doing well. Having your children with you. But I've had my dose. Kaya 'yung anak ko, kapag dinala 'yung mga apo ko, hindi na ako excited. Nakuha ko na ang dose ko. Nung nagka-apo ako, the first one in 2005, bata pa 'yung youngest ko. Graduate na ako diyan. 'Yung mga anak ko, dyi-jingle, dudumi, maski ako congressman eh ako ang naglilinis (laughs).


SCB: How did you deal with your wife's death?

RCF: Prayers. I pray four sets of the rosary everyday. I go to Mass everyday. Kunwari pupunta ako ng Xiamen. Mahirap maghanap ng simbahan doon, babayaran ko pa 'yun. Let's say weekend ako doon, four days. Two days before I go, two masses ako per day.

SCB: Was the death of your wife a turning point to turn to a life of prayer?

RCF: You know what happened to me, I lost my wife, I lost my father, I lost my position. At 28 years old ako, feeling ko Superman ako, takbo akong senador. I wanted to be President, I wanted to be governor, congressman.

The cycle of my life started to peak - I topped the Bar in '78, I was a mayor in '80, I ran for senator in '87, I was governor from '88 to '98. I was a congressman in 2001. Pero 2001, it all started to go down - namatay ang father ko, ang brother ko. Natalo akong congressman, bumaba. Namatay 'yung misis ko. In 2010, tumakbo 'yung anak ko na SK, nanalo. Aba, sabi ko, cycle siguro ito, aakyat ito. Nagpakabait naman ako eh.

SCB: Has it crossed your mind to remarry?

RCF: Panay ang ilag ko kasi lapitin ako sa chicks talaga (laughs). Kaya I never walk alone, I always have my children kasi sila ang antidote ko kasi kapag nag-iisa ako, kapag nakakakita ako ng maganda, liligawan ko kaagad.

SCB: Is it okay for your children for you to remarry?

RCF: Sineset-up pa nga ako ng mga 'yan eh (laughs)!

SCB: Is true that you are now celibate?

RCF: I can control celibacy, I can control not being with other women. Malakas ang willpower ko. Kasi nga complicated. I've had everything naman. Ang dami ko nang naging girlfriend, ngayon, payback time na sa akin. When I lost my wife, day of reckoning na rin siguro. Walo 'yung anak ko, ages four, five, eight, nine, 13, 14, 17, 18. Kung kukuha pa ako ng girlfriend, batang-bata pa naman ako nung na-biyudo ako at 49. Ang daming lumalapit pero ayoko na!

SCB: Do you still miss her?

RCF: Oo naman. Nagpatayo nga ako ng simbahan para sa kaniya sa Ilocos. It will be opened on October 15 on her 50th birthday. Maria Teresa de Avila ang feast day niya.

SCB: What do you miss most about her?

RCF: Her partnership, and her being a mother to my children. But God works in mysterious ways.

SCB: Is there something that you would tell her?

RCF: She knows already. Mahal ko siya kaya 'yung mga anak ko, they've grown up well.


SCB: Are you grooming your kids for politics?

RCF: I allowed them because when they ran in 2008 for SK, I was not in office. Nung nasa opisina ako, ayoko dahil parang unfair, governor ako. I tell them na sakripisyo 'yan. Kailangan me integrity and honesty ka. Kung hindi, mag-negosyo na lang kayo, kasi if you live a public life, you are subject to public scrutiny.

SCB: Now that your kids are young adults, do you have things in your youth that you regret having done and you don't want them to go through the same mistake?

RCF: Wala naman, except 'yung chicks nang chicks. Naging complicated 'yung buhay ko. But those are our mistakes, we have to live by it. Whatever setback you have, whatever mistake you have, you can turn it around for you to become a better person. Like ako, namatay ang misis ko, natalo ako. Wake up call 'yun. Instrument siguro 'yun dahil nag full circle ako. Ngayon, very peaceful ako. Wala akong problema.

SCB: Your remarkable "photographic memory" kept on popping out in our research about you. Is that a myth or a fact?

RCF: (Laughs) Mga tsismis lang 'yun. Pero mabilis lang ako mag-grasp. Kapag pinag-aralan ko, nakukuha ko 'yung concept. Kaya nga nung nag-aaral ako, hindi ako pumapasok kasi 'yung sinasabi nila, parang alam ko na kung babasahin ko. Pardon me but there were times that I thought I could explain the concept better than the professor could. Siyempre 'pag nag-test, nae-explain ko. 'Yun yata ang gift ko. Kapag nakita ko, madali kong naipapaliwanag.

SCB: What's the biggest misconception about you?

RCF: A lot of people have already corrected that notion, mabait naman pala raw ako. Wife beater daw. But they didn't know my wife. She considered herself an outcast, but how could she think of that when I was an eligible bachelor, a mayor, a Bar topnotcher at pinakasalan siya. I wish I would have gone out of public service earlier so I could have fixed our relationship.

I got married to my wife in 1987 after I lost the senatorial elections. I married her in Las Vegas pero I had two conditions, the first was that I would do the proper way of asking my parents muna, para naman hindi sila nabastos at uulitin namin ang kasal sa Ilocos. And second, ang kasal sa akin ay 'til death do us part. Kapag kinasal tayo, wala nang hiwalayan 'yan.

SCB: Dati kasi kapag sinabi ang pangalang Rudy Fariñas, nakakatakot ang impression ng mga tao.

RCF: Nakakatakot talaga ako! (laughs). Matapang ako, I don't take things sitting down. Hindi naman ako mamamatay-tao pero nanggugulpi ako, nambabatok ng mga mayayabang. 'Yan ang mga regrets ko siguro. I lost my temper and I wish na hindi.

SCB: At this point, are you a sinner or a saint?

RCF: Malinis ako mabuhay ngayon. Mahirap naman 'yung saint, pero I live according to our doctrines. Wala akong kasalanan, hindi ako nananakit. I love my children and my fellow men. Happy na ako (laughs).