Aquino: Let’s guard our democracy
PRESIDENT Aquino on Sunday appealed to Filipinos to defend their freedom and democracy and remain vigilant, warning that the horrors of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos could happen again.
In his last Independence Day speech before stepping down from office, Mr. Aquino hailed the transformation of the Philippines during his term from being the “sick man of Asia” to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
He said such progress came without disregard for the rule of law, due process and human rights.
As the country prepares for a change in leadership, some people fear that Mr. Aquino’s successor, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, could take a more authoritarian path.
Duterte, a thuggish, trash-talking former prosecutor, promised during the campaign to impose a curfew on the nation, kill tens of thousands of suspected criminals outside the justice system, and restore the death penalty.
Campaigning for his administration’s candidates, Mr. Aquino warned Filipinos about a looming threat to democracy as Duterte powered to the top of the polls.
The President never directly referred to Duterte on the campaign trail, but his message was clear and the identity of the source of the threat to democracy was unmistakable.
But Duterte went on to win the May 9 presidential election by a landslide, and now the Philippines, just 30 years after the fall of Marcos, again faces the prospect of authoritarian rule.
In his speech titled “Never Forget/Never Again,” Mr. Aquino urged Filipinos to be vigilant and to fight for their freedom lest it be curtailed anew.
“May we never lose our patience with the ways of democracy, and may we never take it for granted or be passive in its defense,” the President said in an address to the nation during a reception for diplomats in Malacañang.
“To our hard-won Filipino freedom, earned by the blood and sacrifice of martyrs, nurtured by the vigilance of an empowered people, may it never again be challenged, diminished or negated,” Mr. Aquino said.
“We have shown that we can fight for democracy. We have shown that we can restore the democracy that was taken away from us. Today, we are able to prove that we can make democracy work for the good of our countrymen,” he said.
Part of the President’s speech was a video presentation about how his father and namesake and the entire family suffered during the martial law years.
His father, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated at the then Manila International Airport, three years before the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos from power.
“A fellow Filipino had once stolen our freedom. This means that if we are not going to be vigilant, it could happen again,” Mr. Aquino said after the video presentation at the event that was also attended by top government officials and business executives.
“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” Mr. Aquino said, quoting British-Irish statesman, philosopher and author Edmund Burke.
Mr. Aquino’s presentation was a break from tradition. Instead of addressing the diplomats, for whom the event is held twice a year, the President chose to address the nation with a speech that was pregnant with meaning.
Mr. Aquino maintained his silence on the election of Duterte, leaving the actions and pronouncements of the irascible mayor of Davao describe the threat to the Filipinos’ freedom.
Friend of Marcoses
Duterte, 71, is a friend of the Marcoses and he just may be their stepping stone to an ultimate return to power.
He had promised the Marcos family that he would allow the burial of the dictator at Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The body of the dictator, who died in Hawaii in 1989, is preserved in a glass coffin in a mausoleum in his hometown, Batac, Ilocos Norte province.
Duterte and the son of the dictator, outgoing Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., had a meeting in Davao City last week and discussed the burial of the strongman at Libingan ng mga Bayani in September.
Senator Marcos told reporters after the meeting that he and Duterte also discussed the possibility of a Cabinet position for him after the yearlong ban on the appointment to government posts of politicians who had lost elections.
Marcos narrowly lost the May 9 vice presidential race to Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo. But a Cabinet post would be an ideal launching pad for a run for Malacañang in 2022 for Marcos, whose strong showing at the polls, fueled by the millennial vote, indicated a weakness in education that could be exploited for his presidential ambition.
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