Ex-DTI chief Jose 'Joecon' Concepcion passes away at 92

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – Jose ‘Joecon’ Concepcion Jr., founder of election watchdog National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and former Secretary of Trade and Industry, passed away on Wednesday.

Concepcion, a former Chairman of the Board of RFM Corporation, was the epitome of the patriot-industrialist. He believed in the Philippines’s ability to achieve economic development that was inclusive and pro-Filipino.

Under his guidance, RFM embarked on a path of diversification, venturing into animal feed milling, poultry, and livestock, and obtaining the license from American company Swift to produce processed meats in the Philippines.

These propelled RFM to establish itself as one of the leading food and beverage conglomerates in the Philippines. Staying true to its vision of putting food on every Filipino table, RFM offered products that were mass-based, high-quality and low cost.

As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1971, Concepcion championed constitutional principles that would democratize the nation’s capital base to allow Filipino manufacturers to thrive.

Joecon was a master at inspiring ordinary citizens to action, appropriating aphorisms and leading by example. During the 1986 snap presidential elections, he moved thousands of ordinary Filipinos to join NAMFREL, invoking that, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

As Secretary of Trade and Industry, he rallied Filipinos to support local industries by saying, “Yes, the Filipino can.”

As a detainee during Martial Law, he organized his fellow detainees to take turns with chores and keep order inside their cell block.

Even in retirement, he worked as the Barangay Captain of Forbes Park, famously alighting from his vehicle one night to direct traffic himself and unravel a gridlock.

As a civic leader, among his early crusades was to help reform Pasay City through the formation of the Pasay Citizens League for Good Government.

He was one of the founders of Capitol Jaycees, the Bishop-Businessmen Conference for Human Development, and the ASEAN Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Joecon was a scholarly enthusiast. In addition to his Associate’s Degree in Commercial Science from De La Salle University, he also obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from Araneta University, majoring in soils and agricultural sciences.

He was the first to use radio-isotopes in the Philippines, applying it as a mechanism to find out how much phosphorus was needed in fertilizers to encourage growth. He later published a paper on “Radio-isotope Phosphorus in Plants”.

Joecon lived his life in adherence to his principles: that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Joecon is survived by his wife, Maria Victoria Araneta, his eight children and his 31 grandchildren, and his twin brother, Raul.

Public viewing will be from March 7 (Thursday) to March 10 (Friday), from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City.

A Requiem Mass will be offered on March 11 (Monday) at 1:15 p.m. at the Santuario de San Antonio Parish Church, Forbes Park, Makati City. 

Flags at half-mast

The DTI said its flags will be lowered at half-mast to honor its late former secretary.

DTI Secretary Alfredo Pascual said in a Viber message that the agency mourns the loss of Joecon, who he referred to as “a stalwart of entrepreneurship and business advocacy.”

“His visionary leadership and dedication have left an indelible mark on the Philippine economic landscape,” Pascual said. “His legacy will forever inspire future generations toward fostering a thriving and pro-Filipino nation”.

Former DTI chief Ramon Lopez, who worked with Joecon at RFM also extended his condolences to the family of the ex-DTI secretary.

“JCJ was a big inspiration to many of us in the fight for freedom. (The) ‘Yes, the Filipino Can’, ‘isip-agila’, always seeing the glass half full, ‘better to light a candle than curse the darkness’—the positive mindset we adopted in Go Negosyo; the ‘Tulong sa Tao’ Program and a ‘Caring and Sharing Community’, the original Mr. ASEAN, and many more,” Lopez said.

The Philippine Franchising Association (PFA) also remembered Joecon as an industrialist, a public servant, and a statesman.

“When he was DTI Secretary he initiated the ‘Yes, The Filipino Can’ movement which was one of the inspirations of many Philippine franchises to expand beyond our borders,” PFA added.

Joecon also founded election watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL).

The Makati Business Club also issued a statement to honor Joecon.

“As a leader of NAMFREL he helped establish transparency in the historic 1986 elections. He was an MBC (Makati Business Club) trustee at the same time (1984-1986). He then helped re-establish democracy and free enterprise as Trade & Industry secretary from 1986-1991.”

The country’s largest business organization, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said Joecon’s passing is an “incalculable loss” for the business community.

“It is hard to find suitable words to pay tribute to this truly remarkable man—a visionary known for his fiery brand of leadership and passion, and a giant among his fellows who demonstrated the rule of inspiring others,” PCCI said.

“The PCCI is fortunate to have had him as an officer and will continue to honor his legacy of leadership,” the business group added. (with reports from Kris Crismundo/PNA)