From a pensive pose he breaks into that easy smile. In the room where he met journalists for an informal chat, former PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" de la Rosa is as engaging as he is frank and at times funny.
Beneath his Visayan-accented voice would emerge the homey wisdom gained from his 36 years in government as an officer of the police service, and a background having grown up in a family of 9 siblings in Bato, Sta Cruz, Davao del Sur, with a father who drove tricycles for a living and a mother who was never tired of sharing religious lessons with them .
"She would hold up the Bible to us and ask us to read importat passages. What i never forgot was that in case i did soneting wrong, i needed to replace that with a good deed., " he explains.
After finishing High School in his hometown, he thought of ways to earn money while going to school , as he knew that the modest means of their family will not permit college tuition and expenses.
This prompted him to enrol at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City hoping to earn a degree in electrical engineering.
"At MSU we were on scholarship and had an allowance," he explains.
"But i had difficulty in Math and after a year i shifted to public administration to keep my scholarship," he says.
He took the next two years and eventually took and passed the qualifying exams forcthe Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City. He then was connissioned into the Philippine Constabulary.
Unbeknownst to many, this homegrown perspective ans years as a cop is bolstered by a PHD in Development and Masters Degree in Public Administration he earned, which add vital texture to this experience, forming the core of his proposed focus if elected to the Senate.
If he wins a seat in the upper chamber, he eyes crafting legislation that will help the President fulfill the electorates expectations.
Chief among them, he says, is pushing law and order by measures such as reinstating the death penalty, lowering the age of criminal liability andnreforms to professionalize the Philippine police force.
On the death penalty, he says that after interviewing hundreds of drug lords incarcerated in our prisons as Bureau of Corrections Chief after he retired as chief of police, he asked them why they persisted in the nefarious trade.
Their answer, he says, startled him: "its because your country does not have a death penalty. in our country, we would have been killed"
On the age of criminal liability, he believes that lowering it will allow law enforcement to better address criminal activity that uses children.
For reforms in the Philippine National Police, he wants legislation that will prevent local chief executives from choosing their chiefs of police, since he believes that the PNP Chief should be the one assiging these.
Apart from Law and Order
But other issues remain close to his heart, such as improving the plight of small farmers and fisherfolk.
Having grown up in a fishing community, he knows that small fisherfolk need to be able to engage their livelihoods away from the traders that control pricing of the commodity.
" I dont know if loans will be enough, " he says, but we will look for ways for them to own their boats so that they will not be dependent on traders alone," he says.
Common people at the core
Truly, this former PNP chief who rose from the ranks has much to say, yet the gist of our conversation spoke not of the hyfalutin and philosphical, but that of the common folk he grew up with and served.
" That is why i chose the police service after graduating from the PMA. Unlike the other service branches where you are confined to the camp, as a police officer you deal with people`s problems daily and try to help them find solutions," he says.
As the conversation wound up, we all left with a deeper insight and understanding of what made the mind of Bato.