President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Sunday reminded Filipinos to be vigilant in order to ensure that their hard-won freedom will not be snatched from them.
Aquino said this during his toast at the vin d’honneur in celebration of the country’s 118th Independence Day—his last commemoration of such as President before he steps down from office on June 30.
“Every year, we gather to commemorate our independence. This year, however, we made the decision to slightly change how we observe this occasion, by recalling how difficult it was to obtain the freedom we now enjoy,” he noted.
“Let us remember: It has only been a little over a generation since a government led by a Filipino curtailed the freedom of their fellow Filipinos,” the President said.
A video script was played narrating, through the eyes of a young Aquino, the detention of his father the late former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. during martial law up to the latter’s assassination and the “people power” uprising of 1986 when then-President Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.
“I emphasize that this has happened. Once, a fellow Filipino stole our freedom. This means that if we are not vigilant, it could happen again,” Aquino said in his speech.
“As we enter a new chapter in our history, let us never forget: Freedom must be defended and protected. Everything that is of value must be worked for and fought for. As the writer Edmund Burke said: All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” he added.
Aquino said he has fulfilled his promise that by the time he steps down, he will leave behind a better Philippines.
“All those who are enjoying new opportunities due to the growth of our economy, and who have seen our transformation from the Sick Man of Asia to the Darling of Asia, know this. The entire world, which has grown to admire the resolve, the integrity and the fortitude of the Filipino, knows this,” he added.
The President said, “We have achieved everything we are enjoying today while respecting the process, the law, as well as the rights of each person. We did this without silencing anyone, and while valuing the freedom that those before us fought for. We firmly believe in this principle: That there can be no true progress if we surrender our dignity and our rights.”
Proposing his toast, he then added, “To the Filipino people: 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.”
“To the friends of the Philippines: As we collectively face the challenges of an ever-shrinking world, may our solidarity continue to bear fruit in the cooperation that improves the lives of our respective peoples,” Aquino said.
“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,” he added.