GK Honcho Sets Values And Qualities Of Next PH President

by Joseph G. Lariosa
Tony Meloto (Contributed Photo)

CHICAGO (JGL) – The candidate who will emerge the winner in the 2016 presidential elections in the Philippines will be Godsend, according to Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga (GK) Community Development Foundation, Inc.

The ideal candidate maybe hard to find, he said, but “whoever God will send, I think will be it. President (Noynoy) Aquino has set a very high standard. We need a leader who has a character, a character about integrity.

“When he (Aquino) started to gain his confidence as president, he has competence because we have high growth rate in that team. Integrity is the most important criteria.”

When asked if he can name a presidential candidate who can fit his bill, Meloto demurred, saying, “I can only talk about values, qualities. I don’t think it is proper for me to name personalities; anybody can aspire.

“Their character should be compassionate for the poor. (What the Philippines needs) are people, who can really work with the poor on the ground as well as with the rich.  And the role of the president is about leadership. Politics is not (just) about winning. It is leadership by example — a visionary leadership, moral leadership.”

When asked by this reporter of his comment during the interview if somebody nominates him for president, Meloto said, “Thank you. I am not called for that role.  There are a lot of politicians (who can play the role). I am called to be a Filipino to work with politicians; to work with business, who can work with Filipinos; be a bridge (between) leadership and opposing forces.”


He said he has been “offered a cabinet position twice, I declined. I value the freedom to serve the country not to rule it.”

When asked what is his advice to Filipino voters, Mr. Meloto said, “Put your faith in God. Look for leaders, who are responsible. Don’t go for lesser evil. Go for the best leader.”

He added, “If we want good leaders, we should also be good citizens. If we want honest leaders, let’s be honest (ourselves) and look for leaders who don’t cheat their wives. If they (leaders) cheat their wives, they will cheat on their taxes and public service. We never expected Pnoy (Pres. Aquino) to come (up). If we want great leaders, we must also be great citizens ourselves.”

Meloto was interviewed by the Journal GlobaLinks (JGL) in Chicago’s suburb of Schaumburg, Illinois when he spoke before volunteers at the 12th anniversary of GK, A Night of  “Thanksgiving & Looking Forward Dinner”, on Nov. 16 at Chandler’s Banquets and Grill. Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge of the Philippine Midwest also spoke at the event.

In his message to 250 volunteers and guests, Meloto thanked “the outpouring of generosity from the U.S. to our typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) survivors and to the counterpart of sacrifice and heroism from our countless volunteers in the calamity areas, who built homes and boats, repaired schools, planted trees, conducted medical missions and healing sessions to those who were traumatized by the strongest typhoon in the world in recent history.

“This tragedy, despite the loss of lives and property, became a blessing in disguise to many survivors because we were able to build stronger homes and safer communities from our old shanties and squalid slums where many of them lived.

“It also became an opportunity for the world to witness the resilience and bayanihan spirit of Filipinos in times of great suffering and extreme difficulty.”

Meloto also thanked American students from Chicago area’s Benedictine University, who went to the Philippines as part of the “diversity of people looking for meaning and purpose for a vision of kinder and a happier world. Tonight, I see from my generation; my generation of doctors from UST (University of St. Tomas) like (Dr.) Zita Yorro, who is listening and relaxed.”


He also paid tribute to the “generosity of doctors” from Chicago, who kicked off the Gawad Kalinga ten years ago inspired by Londoner, computer games company owner Dylan Wilk, who came to Chicago to attend the National Association of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA) conference and pledged $100,000 to help alleviate the poverty in the Philippines after selling his expensive car.

Meloto said ten years later Wilk, now his son-in-law, fulfilled his pledge by building 700 homes for the poor people in the Philippines. If a home construction costs $3,800 each to build, Wilk’s exceeded his $100,000 pledge 26 times over at $2.7 million in today’s rate.

He said it is about time overseas Filipino professionals and their children return to the Philippines to help rebuild their motherland.

“It is important for the U.S. to invest in the Philippines. When I was invited to lunch in Malacanang with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I was amazed (to know) now Filipinos are the No. 1 immigrants in Canada. They (Canada government officials) have to compete with Australia and New Zealand (to hire) Filipino engineers, who are the best engineers.”

He said in Canada, “60 percent of workers at Starbucks are Filipinos because they could smile at the coldest of winter. We really enriched the world with 12 million workers. We are assets wherever you are. When Dylan told me I will marry your daughter, I told him I will allow you to marry my daughter so we can improve your race; so your grandchildren are better looking that their British mother; our moment has come, we are now fastest rising economy in South Asia.”

Urging reverse migration, Mr. Meloto said, foreigners are really “baliw na baliw sa mga Filipinas (crazy over Filipino women), our most beautiful export. What happened was they were able to discover beauty of Filipino soul; bayanihan (helping one another), from charity to land of opportunity.”

A Bacolod City native from a lower-middle-class family,  Meloto spent his senior year in a California high school as an American Field Service scholar and received a full academic scholarship at Ateneo de Manila University, graduating with a degree in economics. After working at Proctor and Gamble, he became an entrepreneur and felt the need to serve the poor, initially through a youth development program in Caloocan City, which later evolved into Gawad Kalinga (sharing and caring).

Among his many awards include 2012 Social Entrepreneur of the World, Japan’s 2-11 Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth and Reader’s Digest Top 4 Most Trusted Filipino in 2010.


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