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27 Feb, 2012

Philippines Marks 26th Anniversary of Protests that Ousted A Dictatorship


Speech of Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, during the flag-raising ceremonies held at the People Power Monument in celebration of the 26th anniversary of the EDSA Revolution

It was the 25th of February back in 1986 when millions of Filipinos gathered here in EDSA for a shared purpose: to end a dictatorship, to end corruption, and to end the abuses of those in power.

This avenue stood witness to what Filipinos are capable of doing for democracy and freedom. Nuns who faced tanks head-on, armed only with flowers and rosaries. Students, workers, and families, arms locked together, throwing caution to the wind in their stand for freedom. Soldiers who had the strength of will to go against Mr. Marcos, and who realized that, after years of hardship and unbridled corruption, the strongman was not the true Commander-in-Chief of this country; it was the Filipino people. Juan de la Cruz won democracy through a peaceful revolution, and, to this day, the whole world remembers the miracle of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

More than two and a half decades later, we ask: in what state is our democracy? True: no one is constraining radio and television anymore; no one controls what can be read in our newspapers and periodicals. But are we free from hunger? Are we free from poverty? Are we free from corrupt officials who toy around with and manipulate our justice system?

The EDSA Revolution was our point of departure towards where we want to go as one nation. And to this day, the revolution continues: To attain freedom from hunger. Freedom from poverty. Freedom from lack of opportunities to succeed. Freedom from injustice. These are what we are fighting for now. Clearly, the miracle of EDSA would be for naught if we do not build on it—if we do not take care of it. If the majority of Filipinos do not feel any change, what good is democracy?

This is why your government is dismantling the barricades of poverty with our Conditional Cash Transfer program. Last year, we intended to help 2.3 million families through this program. We have exceeded that target by more than 45,000 families by the end of 2011. The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program benefits Filipinos from 78 cities, 968 municipalities from 80 provinces from across the country. And this program will continue to expand as long as we have countrymen who are hungry and impoverished. Our vision is that, before the end of 2012, we will have given lifelines to three million families, so that they too can live better, more dignified lives. We are investing in our people because each Filipino that is unshackled from poverty is a Filipino that can contribute to our country’s progress.

Through the reforms we have made in the commerce and trade sector, we have enjoyed a refreshing new confidence from the global community. I do not usually engage in self-praise, but when we have registered all-time highs in our stock index sixteen times, and when agencies like Moody’s Standard and Poors, Fitch, and Japan Credit Ratings Agencies have all raised our credit ratings, I think it is fair to say that we are doing quite well. This is what we call reform. This is what we call results. Reforms that come about from our collective desire to alleviate poverty, and to bring about change. Results that stem from the efficient use of funds; results that the Filipino people truly feel and benefit from.

We also see this confidence in the record-breaking amount of investors in the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. Look at it this way: the amount of money that went into PEZA from 1995 to February of 2012 totals 2.003 trillion pesos. Last year, investments in PEZA reached a total of 288.3 billion pesos, the highest in history. Apart from that, from the beginning of our administration, investments in PEZA have reached 439 billion pesos, as of the most recent data gathered last week. So in the past 16 years, our administration has accounted for twenty two percent of investments in PEZA.

Let’s add the recent study conducted by the Japan External Trade Organization to our list of good news. They say that because of the high quality of work, the skilled and talented workforce, and the low cost of doing business in our country, the Philippines is the number one ideal destination of businessmen in Asia, whether in the manufacturing or in the service sectors. Let me make it clear: it was not one of our agencies who conducted this study, but an organization from Japan. This kind of success cannot be achieved through mere luck.

After more than a year and a half of treading the straight and righteous path, let us ask ourselves: is there a difference between our system today, and the system we experienced in the past, where for almost a decade the Filipino people were betrayed by corruption and impunity? The simple, spot-on answer: there is a huge difference. We call this dedication. We call this compassion. We call this the straight and righteous path. And even before we were voted into office, the destination this path would bring us to was already very clear to us: to a country where there is no corruption. To a country where no one dwells in poverty.

Today, our country faces a crossroads: in one direction, a grimy path, where those with influence control the scales of justice, and those who manipulate our laws profit. On the other side, the straight and righteous path where the laws are clear and well-defined, where justice is blind, and where the guilty are held accountable. Let us remember: martial law happened because Filipinos kept their silence for so long, and because they fought back only when they saw the extent of the suffering it has brought to our country.

We used to say: if you do not act, then who will? If not today, then when? We must act today, before it’s too late. We must act today, so that we can more quickly leave behind the darkness of the past. We must act today, so that, in the soonest possible time, the light of a brighter future can dawn on our people.

It may be that our system isn’t perfect. Yes, there are some cracks in our democracy. But today, we have the chance to right the wrongs of the past, and to fill whatever shortcomings are present in our history. If you want the old system to prevail, then by all means, play deaf. Act blind. Don’t speak. Don’t participate. But if you agree that there are wrongs in the old system, and that these must be righted: come, let’s fight back. Let’s participate. Let’s make things right.

We have an obligation to nurture the golden seeds of democracy that the millions of Filipinos who marched along EDSA planted. They will not flourish if we are indifferent to them. They will not grow if we do not take care of them. Sacrifice, integrity, and dedication: these are what we must invest for the legacy of EDSA to bear fruit. Let’s not waste this opportunity. Our future is at stake. This is our time. This is our EDSA. Let us move.

Aquino’s Call: Help Me Get Rid Of ‘Two-faced Judiciary’

By JC BELLO RUIZ and MADEL SABATER Manila Bulletin, February 25, 2012,

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno S. Aquino III Saturday rallied the people to his crusade to free the country from the bondage of what he described as a “two-faced judiciary.”

“As we tread the right path together, I am confident we can achieve a free society that is rid of a two-faced judiciary that espouses justice that is partial,” the President said after offering wreaths at the monuments to his late parents, Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon C. Aquino, in Rizal Park in Manila to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

“We all had chances to correct our mistakes in the past and fill the gap of those mistakes in history. If you want to stay in the old system, go ahead and play deaf, blind, and mute and do not participate,” he said, speaking in Filipino. “But if you agree that there is something wrong in our past system that needs to be reformed, let us join hands and do things right.”

The President also revealed the two good news that he alluded to earlier in the week.

The first is that the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has gained a total investment of P2.003 trillion from 1995 to February, 2012. He said that 22 percent of the total investment poured in at PEZA is under the current administration at P439 billion. Aquino also said that last year, PEZA enjoyed a P288.3 billion surge in investment, a proof of investor confidence in the country.

The other news is the survey by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) that points to the Philippines as the No.1 ideal destination of businessmen in Asia. He attributed the choice to the quality of jobs, efficiency of Filipino workers, and improved business climate in the country.

Later in the day Aquino signed a pledge on the Commitment Wall at the People Power Monument, White Plains,Epifanio de los Santos Ave, (EDSA). His pledge: To do things right every day “as we remember the freedom fought by Filipinos during the 1986 People Power Revolution on EDSA.”

Aside from the President, governors belonging to the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) led by ULAP National President Alfonso Umali Jr., members of religious organizations, and ordinary Filipinos wrote their pledge on the Commitment Wall.

Camarines Sur Gov. El Rey Villafuerte pledged unity in the government, progress, and prosperity for the country, while Albay Gov. Joey Salceda hopes for more tourists in the country; Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu and Agusan del Sur Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza pledged a peaceful and progressive Philippines; Palawan Gov. Abraham Kahlil Mitra committed environmental protection, good governance, and transparency, while Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman said it is the first time in two decades that ARMM has joined the celebration of the EDSA People Power Revolution.

Also signing were People Power Commissioner Jose Pardo, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president and chairman Miguel Varela; Francis Chua, president, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Philippine China Business Council; Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) president Edgardo Lacson, Federation of Filipino – Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) president Tan Ching; and President of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT) Sergio Ortiz – Luis, Jr. All of them pledged to help the country in accelerating economic growth, providing more jobs, enhancing target for export, promoting Filipino products, and boosting corporate social responsibility programs.

Aquino also witnessed the presentation of a plaque of recognition to this year’s Spirit of EDSA Foundation awardees. The trophies were presented by Edsa Foundation founding chairman Chris Carrion to this year’s awardees – Mark Benjamin Lozano and Catherine Felicia Marie Peralta.

He likewise witnessed the “Salubungan” rites of the military, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious groups, business, youth, and government sectors. A helicopter dropping yellow confetti completed the “Salubungan,” while the crowd sang “Handog ng Pilipino” and “Bayan Ko.”

Among those who attended the 26th anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution were Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada, Senate President and former Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Gringo Honasan, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Cabinet members, and local government officials. The event was also attended by former Senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino III, chairman emeritus of the August Twenty-One Movement (ATOM).

In his homily during the anniversary mass at the EDSA Shrine, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said EDSA is not about leaving it to elected political leaders to re-create a new, peaceful community. Rather, it should follow the Lord’s way – look for co-workers to create a peaceful environment. (Additional reporting from Carlo Suerte Felipe)