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Opposition solons attend democracy summit on Independence Day

/ 05:13 PM June 12, 2017

Vice President Leni Robredo with Senator Francis Pangilinan and ex-CHR head Etta Rosales at the “Defend Democracy Summit” held at the University of the Philippines, School of Economics. VINCE NONATO

Opposition lawmakers who are vocal critics of the administration attended a defend democracy summit held at the University of the Philippines Diliman School of Economics on Monday, the country’s 119th Independence Day.

In an interview with reporters, Liberal Party (LP) President Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the attendance of the opposition in the “Defend Democracy Summit” – ironically acronymed DDS – was intended as a show of force at the time the country continues to face the problems of poverty, corruption and injustice.

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Other members of the LP who attended the summit are Vice President Leni Robredo, Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte, Senator Bam Aquino and other vocal critics like Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Senator Risa Hontiveros and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano.

Robredo in her key message called on the public to be united as the country sees its democratic institutions eroding.

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READ: Robredo: Democratic institutions eroding

Other key personalities who attended the summit are singer Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement, actress Agot Isidro, actor Bart Guingona, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, among others.

“Sabi nga nila, may demokrasya, pero nandyan pa rin kahirapan, kawalan ng trabaho, korapsyon. So kailangan natin ang demokrasya para maresolba itong mga problemang patuloy nating hinaharap bilang bansa,” Pangilinan said.

(Like they said, there is democracy, but poverty, lack of jobs, and corruption persist. So we need our democracy to resolve whatever problems we continue to face in the country.)

Pangilinan said the summit was held on Independence Day precisely to show that the country does not yet enjoy its freedom from poverty, injustice and corruption, and to prove that democracy remains the rightful path toward resolving the country’s problems.

“Tinaon natin sa ating Independence Day dahil ano’ng saysay ng kalayaan kung hindi pa tayo malaya sa kahirapan, hindi pa tayo malaya ang ating safety. Kawalan ng trabaho. So we’re here precisely because we believe democracy is still the correct path,” Pangilinan said.

(We held  it during Independence Day because what is the point of our freedom if we still are not free from poverty, from perils to our safety, from the lack of jobs. So we’re here precisely because we believe democracy is still the correct path.)

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Pangilinan cited the need to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions, especially at a time it is placed under authoritarian rule.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier declared martial law in Mindanao following the attack of the terror group Maute in Marawi City. He has denied imposing it to perpetuate himself to power.

“Kinakailangan lang natin palakasin at palawigin at kung mayroong banta laban dito tulad ng martial law at authoritarian rule, ay dapat maging mapagbantay ang ating mga mamamayan,” Pangilinan said.

(We only need to strengthen and extend our democracy, especially in the face of threats like martial law and authoritarian rule, which we as citizens need to guard against.)

Pangilinan bristled at criticisms the opposition led by LP is behind destabilization attempts against the government.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said he would push for an investigation of LP and the opposition’s role in the Marawi City conflict, even as the official fell victim to fake news when he alleged that the opposition met in Marawi City weeks before the Maute group’s attack.

READ: Did Justice Secretary Aguirre fall for fake news?

“Tayo ay nasa demokrasya. Hindi ibig sabihin pag tayo ay mayroong puna o hindi tayo sumasang-ayon sa ilang mga patakaran, ay ibig sabihin ay mayroong destabilization,” Pangilinan said, calling the supposed destabilization plot of the LP “tunog plaka” (like a broken record).

(We are in a democracy. It does not mean that whenever we have criticisms, or we don’t agree with some of the administration’s policies, there is already destabilization.)

For his part, the event convenor actor Bart Guingona denied the summit was part of any destabilization plot against the government, adding that the event only intended to change the conversation centered on the drug menace to other societal problems like unemployment and poverty.

“Palitan na natin yung conversation. I-reframe na natin. Ayaw naman natin i-destabilize yung government. That’s bad for all of us. What we’re saying is it’s time for you to start dealing with other problems,” Guingona said.

(Let us change the conversation already. Let us reframe it. We don’t want to destabilize the government. That’s bad for all of us. What we’re saying is it’s time for you to start dealing with other problems.)

Guingona said the country would drown in the face of the other more complex problems beside the drug menace and criminality, “and that’s even, in the long run, more destabilizing.”

During the summit, participants joined in the plenary discussions about national sovereignty, human rights and social justice, democratic institutions, and truth.

The participants also engaged in breakout workshops and discussions about the issues, before reporting to the plenary of their focused group discussions./ac

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TAGS: Francis Pangilinan, Leni Robredo, Liberal Party, Philippine Independence Day, Philippine news updates
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