Joecon, an inspiring icon for agriculture

Joecon, an inspiring icon for agriculture

Jose Concepcion Jr. (Joecon), a true icon, should continue to inspire us to action.

At his funeral mass last March 11, the presiding priest said Joecon could be described as a national hero, and even a saint. What is clear is that Joecon definitely embodies what an icon is: “A person widely admired, especially for having great influence or significance in a particular sphere.”

Joecon operated in many spheres. In the book “Joecon’s Journey” by Joey Concepcion, Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Sr. said: “How much can one give to the cause of country, to lasting peace, and good governance? I believe in terms of Joe’s life, the answers to these questions come in very few words: infinitely and without reservation.”


Agriculture connection

Joecon loved agriculture. He took it as a course at the Araneta Institute of Agriculture and then went on into food processing, leading RFM Corporation to become one of the most successful food companies in the Philippines.


READ: A legacy of industry and vigilance: Jose Concepcion Jr., 92

Having served as Joecon’s undersecretary at the Department of Trade and Industry (before moving on to other positions at the Department of Agriculture and the Office of the President, I immediately helped organize the Alyansa Agrikultura (AA). This was to get different agriculture sector organizations to work together and have a common voice.

When Joecon learned of this, his was only one of two corporations that helped sponsor AA’s first initiative.

Here are four of Joecon’s views, which should inspire us in agriculture:

1. “Light a candle,” Joecon often said. “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

He organized National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), a group that went beyond complaining and worked for a truly honest and clean elections. Despite all odds and during the most difficult of times, it succeeded.


In agriculture, we complain about smuggling and corruption. In two years, smuggling more than doubled from P500 million to P1.2 trillion.

Corruption was evident when the Commission on Audit reported that for three successive years, from 2020 to 2022, the Department of Agriculture (DA) had one-third of the budget wasted to unliquidated and unexplained expenses. Fortunately, farmers and fisherfolk have found a new candle lit by the current leadership. Together with the DA, we must now take action in fighting this twin scourge.

2. “The Filipino can.” Joecon was a nationalist, who believed our people can perform at global levels. He showed that the Filipino is the best there is by taking a pivotal role in mobilizing our people to peacefully restore democracy.

This inspired similar peaceful movements in Taiwan, South Korea, East Germany and many Soviet bloc countries.

The Filipino farmer can, in fact, regain its former prominent role in the region. It should follow Joecon’s advocacy of pushing for government intervention. He specifically identified credit and financing, where less than 15 percent of our loanable funds go to agriculture. The Filipino farmer can, but he must get the necessary government support to succeed.

3. “Expect-inspect.” This is the management mantra Joecon emphasized. If we “expect” but do not “inspect” what actually happens, we often fail. This is the “kulit” (persistent follow-up) management style that was largely responsible for the impressive increase in investment commitments from P3 billion to more than P400 billion in three years under Joecon’s watch.

In agriculture, we should likewise be incessant and inspect government commitments. We must demand transparency and accountability.

4. “God-centered.” Joecon always had God at the center of his life. When confronted with disappointment and failure, Joecon would ask us to pray and not give up. He emulated Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa, who said: “God did not ask us to be successful. He asked us to be faithful.”Like Joecon, we must be God-centered and stay faithful to our agriculture mission, no matter the failures we encounter.Last March 11, his son Joey wrote: “My dad lit the candle. I try and honor him by making sure the candle never goes out.” We, especially in agriculture, must now do the same. INQ

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The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

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