Aquino fears return of another dictatorship
President Benigno Aquino III has warned that the Philippines is on the brink of another dictatorship, in a thinly veiled reference to controversial Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the front-runner in next month’s presidential election.
In speeches at two events on Thursday, Mr. Aquino lamented the prospect of Duterte replacing him in Malacañang on June 30.
“What pains me,” Mr. Aquino said in a stump speech in Muntinlupa City, “is that 30 years ago we regained our freedom, and now there is someone who acts like he would be another dictator.”
The trash-talking Duterte has emerged as the clear favorite in the latest polls for the presidential race, with voters apparently embracing his vows to kill tens of thousands of criminals outside the judicial system.
“This is the tragedy poised to befall our nation: that we were oppressed before and yet will allow ourselves to be oppressed again and suffer the same problems that we endured under the dictatorship,” Mr. Aquino said.
Mr. Aquino, whose parents led the opposition to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was toppled from power in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, appealed to the voters not to allow another dictatorship.
“We will not allow it to happen again, right?” the President said.
Mr. Aquino said the Philippines faced an economic and military giant in the South China Sea, and the solution was not to pick a fight with the country’s allies.
Duterte earlier dared the United States and Australia to sever ties with the Philippines after their ambassadors criticized him over his rally joke that he had wanted to be the first to rape an Australian missionary who was gang-raped and murdered in a prison riot in Davao City in 1989.
“Will cussing create jobs? Has picking up a fight educated people?” Mr. Aquino asked.
“Children will assimilate what they see. They will imitate the bad manners they see. I don’t think that’s what we want them to learn,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Freedom Memorial Museum at Ninoy Aquino Park and Wildlife Center in Quezon City, Mr. Aquino tried to dissuade the voters from choosing Duterte for President.
“Our successes could vanish, especially if my successor would stray from our straight and narrow path. The question is, will you allow these bullies who make enemies each time they open their mouth to become President?” he said.
The President did not mention Duterte by name, but it was a thinly veiled reference to him, as the Davao mayor is often called a bully and foul-mouthed by his opponents.
Dedicated to the fight against martial law, the Freedom Memorial Museum is modeled after others that similarly honor the memories of victims of strongman rule, such as the Holocaust Museum and the Human Rights Memorial of Chile.
No perfect human being
A statement from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) says the museum “aims to engrave in the minds of all Filipinos, especially the present and future generations, and the global community, the cause and effect of the Marcos dictatorship and the brutality of the martial law regime.”
Mr. Aquino said there were people who believed that what the country needs is a “sane and perfect dictator to lead and fix society.”
He emphasized that there is no perfect human being who can make perfect decisions.
“If we choose a leader who thinks he is always right and should always be followed, where will his leadership bring us? It is going to be the opposite of the straight path, where we believe in the significance of each individual and giving opportunities to our people,” he said.
The President reminded Filipinos that those who want a return of dictatorship will succeed if those who oppose them will remain divided and silent.
“With People Power, we have shown that no leader can ever abuse or oppress the Filipino,” Mr. Aquino said. With a report from AFP