Robredo calls for unity, fight for independence
Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday urged Filipinos to unite and fight for the preservation of the country’s independence.
“In these times, it seems our independence is being confronted by different faces of danger: from the spread of poverty along with inflation to injustice; from neglect of human rights to territorial grab by foreign forces,” Robredo said in a speech during the celebration of the 120th anniversary of Philippine independence at Rizal Park in Manila.
“In the face of all these, the Filipino I know will not concede defeat. Instead, the Filipino I know will stand up with all the courage to fight for our freedom,” she said.
It was a dig at President Rodrigo Duterte, who had come under criticism for refusing to protest China’s deployment of weapons on Philippine territory in the South China Sea, claiming that insisting on Philippine sovereignty could only lead to a war with China that he could not win.
The President was not at Rizal Park for the Independence Day ceremonies. He led the rites at Kawit, Cavite province, with China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, among his guests.
Speaking a day earlier at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Robredo said it was the government’s duty to stand up for its citizens, referring to reports that Chinese coast guards were confiscating the catch of Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales province.
‘What is ours is ours’
“To put it simply: what is ours is ours. It is the duty of the state to protect our territory, as well as the welfare of the people,” she said.
Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday warned that China was threatening Philippine territory, resources and the rights of Filipinos.
“Why are our leaders kowtowing to a neighbor at the expense of our own people, our own waters, our own self-respect?” asked Sen. Francis Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the President’s foreign policy on China and the South China Sea was a threat to Philippine independence and sovereignty.
Sen. Bam Aquino said this year’s Independence Day celebrations were taking place as Filipino fishermen were being bullied out of their traditional fishing ground.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima said the country was not independent if the government was quick to attack its critics but afraid to confront a foreign power encroaching on Philippine territory. —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Melvin Gascon
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