“A Bold Experiment”
Message to the Interim Batasang Pambansa
Of His Excellency Ferdinand E. Marcos
President of the Philippines
[Delivered at the Batasang Pambansa, Quezon City, on June 12, 1978]
Sa bisa ng aking sinumpaang katungkulan bilang Punong Ministro at gayon din sa panunumpa sa katungkulan ng ating Gabinete, pasisimulan natin ngayon ang pamunuan, paglilingkod at pagtatatag ng isang bagong pamahalaan sa Republika ng Pilipinas.
Makahulugan na isinasagawa natin ang lahat ng mga ito sa dakilang araw ng pagdiriwang natin ng ika-80 kaarawan ng ating kasarinlan.
Batid ng lahat ng ating mga mamamayan kung gaano kahalaga ang araw na ito sa ating pagkalahi at pagkabansa.
With the oath I have just taken as Prime Minister, and the oath taken by the members of the Cabinet, a new government enters into the service of our Republic.
It adds to the awesome charge of this assembly that it should open its first session on this 80th year of our independence.
None of us can fail to appreciate the real significance of this moment.
None cannot but glory at the significance, political and otherwise, of the events not only today but in the last five-and-a-half years. For the first time the Filipino people are truly sovereign over their land. After almost 500 years, for the first time in our history, no foreign colonizer holds any right of sovereignty over any part of our territory.
Barely a month ago, the American government formally recognized the supremacy of our sovereignty over the military bases.
We celebrate, therefore, our day of independence with an act of freedom. We have organized the government in accordance with the Constitution, which was formulated and ratified at the instance and with the mandate of our people without the intervention of a foreign power. We adopt a form of government completely derived from all the others that we have known, a mixture of the presidential and parliamentary forms of government.
Today we manifest in formal form our shift from the authoritarian form to liberalism, against the trend of history which claims the irreversibility of the drift towards authoritarianism and centralism.
We have just overcome, if at a price, foreign-backed secessionist movement that sought to dismember the territory of the Republic. The problem remains, but the loss of our territory has been denied by our people.
We have overwhelmed the leftist-rightist rebellion that sought to win political power by force. In the process we have converted the former reactionary and status quo mechanism of martial law into a liberal instrument of reform and laid the foundation for the restructuring of our entire society.
We have revived our ancient ideals and institutions not merely as inspirational reminders of a noble past but as a workable pattern of government and of daily life.
We have returned pride to the Filipino. We have converted economic and even security crises, chaos, and fratricidal bloodletting into motivating forces for national unity and cohesive community action.
Proud of his past, aware of his heritage, the Filipino has turned crisis into opportunity and has willingly rectified past errors to retrieve a lost society from disintegration.
Nationalism and self-reliance are once again proudly proclaimed as articles of our faith.
We have rediscovered and practiced the ancient virtues. As it were, we placated the once angry gods of our fathers without offerings of self-denial.
In January 1973, a few months after the proclamation of martial law, when our people ratified the new Constitution, the interim National Assembly should have replaced the Congress, which the new Constitution had abolished. But in ratifying the new charter, our people expressly rejected the interim National Assembly, convinced perhaps that it carried the seeds of the old vices.
For as long as crisis government combined the powers of the executive and the legislature in the Presidency, there were those who felt no pressing need to set up a transitional lawmaking body.
But it was never the intent of our people, nor my wish, that the consolidation of legislative and executive powers in the Presidency should continue indefinitely or result in the disappearance altogether of a legislative assembly. Rather, it was our common faith that as the emergency eased, as the situation of the country stabilized, and as reforms took root in national life, we would set in motion the processes for the orderly transition from presidential law making to legislation by a lawmaking body.
It was for this reason that in the referendum-plebiscite of October 1976, our people ratified the amendments to the Constitution, establishing the interim Batasang Pambansa in which we now have the honor to participate.
With that amendment, coupled with the propitious developments that marked the later years of crisis government, we were able in April this year to hold elections for the interim Batasang Pambansa. Thus, you and I are here today.
When we reflect upon the difficulties we have had to hurdle to convene this body, we cannot fail to note how grave is our responsibility and how anxious are our people about this transitional parliament.
Not without anxiety did our people choose to have a new legislature in place of the old, whose passing they were not inclined to mourn; and not without anxiety do they now view the work of this assembly as it commences its historic work.
We have been summoned to great tasks, for which we must now give the very best of ourselves.
The Constitution (Article XVII, Section 5) directs us “to give priority to measures for the orderly transition from the presidential to the parliamentary system, the reorganization of the government, the eradication of graft and corruption, the effective maintenance of peace and order, the implementation of declared agrarian reforms, the standardization of compensation of government employees, and such other measures as shall bridge the gap between the rich and poor.”
While the provision especially conceives of the interim Batasang Pambansa as a bridge from the presidential to the parliamentary system, behind it is the implied meaning that it must also serve as an organ for the institutionalization of reforms, especially agrarian reform, as a vehicle for social, economic, and political change.
For there can be no separation of the objective to achieve an effective parliamentary order from that of attaining a truly progressive, dynamic democratic society.
Thus, if in the past we have had legislatures that tended to conserve rather than reform, legislatures that preached caution in response to crisis and urgency as well as challenge, legislatures that nursed dependence on others rather than encouraged national self-reliance, and legislatures that competed with the executive branch instead of working as its unfailing partner and ally—and this to the prejudice of the national welfare—this assembly must see itself as a reformist committed to change and the transformation of our society.
This is an assembly that must embody for us the unity of purpose and effort which enabled us to surmount chaos and crisis in our national life and to mobilize the national will for transformation and development.
And this is an assembly, I dare say, which must reflect the nation we are today and light up our path towards the future.
For this body is itself a child of our New Society, born in the womb of crisis, challenge, and reform which have marked our national life during the last five-and-a-half years.
And what we have learned, what we have sown and reaped during this critical and crucial period of ferment constitutes the starting point of the work of this assembly. Indeed, it forms the foundation of this body, without which our lofty goals would be hollow and frail and our efforts mired in the paralysis and chaos that proved the downfall of the old society.
The crises we have overcome and the struggle we have had to wage are too recent to be forgotten. We cannot and should not forget the dangers that faced the Republic, nor the price we had to pay for our survival and our march to progress. For we were a nation under siege.
It was under those circumstances that we declared martial law on September 21, 1972, giving rise to what we have since called the crisis government.
Up to now, it is sometimes wondered why our response to crisis had not been limited to a simple struggle against the enemies of the state. The answer is obvious. We knew the crisis to be rooted in social inequities, in conditions of oppression and want, which our democratic processes could only palliate. Behind the arms borne against the state were grievances so deep and glaring that many found common cause with the insurgents and the rebels without understanding why. Behind the sudden coalition of antigovernment forces was the loss of will and paralysis on the part of government and government officers, which served to encourage the ambitions of many who coveted power no matter by what means. And beyond the barricades, an entire society asked for not just surcease to the chaos on our streets but earnest effort to rally its flagging energies to the tasks of national transformation and change.
The cause of national survival itself demanded sweeping social change and reform. And we saw that any measure to quell the insurgency and rebellion would only be a half-measure, a victory half-won, if it did not attack the cause of rebellion itself.
Before the combined challenge of leftists, rightists, and secessionists, we summoned the full might of the state in a determined effort to stem the tide of national collapse and to stop the wave of violence and terrorism sweeping the countryside. It was certainly one of the happier aspects of that unsettled period in our history that when government manifested its resolve to survive, our people stood firmly by its side. And we witnessed none of the distress and chaos which so often marked the proclamation of emergency in other countries.
And to the call for change we summoned all that was within the power of the crisis government to muster. In the first month alone of our crisis government, we incorporated into the law of the land vital and radical measures, which since 1946 had wallowed in the agenda of the old Congress.
We declared the entire country a land reform area and decreed the emancipation of the tenant from his bondage to the soil.
Sixty-six percent of eligible tenant-farmers have been covered by certificates of land transfer, while land consolidation, compact fanning, cooperative development, and resettlement occupy the first category of priority projects of the government. The program which makes the tenant-farmer not only a free man but a leading participant in the national effort to make the country fully self-reliant remains the cornerstone of the reforms of the New Society and will continue to mobilize the best efforts and substantial resources of the government.
We decreed the massive reorganization of our government, so sweeping in scope that in barely a month’s time thousands were removed from office and an almost new governmental structure took over the reins of the bureaucracy.
We formulated a new national development plan and in the process created the National Economic and Development Authority which unified the apparatus of economic planning under one roof and set the stage for the mobilization of national energies for the tasks of economic development.
In support of the new plan, we launched a comprehensive food production program and new industrial priorities beamed towards export expansion and regional dispersal of industry. The food production program has since been lauded by other countries.
We initiated programs for the redistribution and democratization of wealth, beginning with policies designed to extend a new deal to labor and the peasantry and culminating in the passing of a new Labor Code and the implementation of a massive rural development program.
In the belief that social development and individual welfare cannot be postponed until the time when full economic modernization is attained, we sought the expansion of job opportunities, social amenities, and social services, particularly those covering the basic necessities of food and health.
To consolidate the gains in peace and order, we effected the full reorganization of all police agencies under the Integrated National Police.
And this was matched by measures to strengthen the administration of justice, including among others the revitalization of the civilian courts. Complementing this was a new era of placing such courts directly under the Supreme Court of the Philippines, free finally from politics.
Complementing this was the commencement of a national program for self-reliance in national defense, an objective made imperative by developments in Asia and encouraged by the exemplary performance of our Armed Forces, without which the efforts during the period of emergency might have failed.
In the field of our relations with other countries, we effected a fundamental recasting of our foreign policy, established relations with all countries regardless of social system, and for the first time enlisted diplomacy in the service of our development goals.
And perhaps most noteworthy of all, we committed ourselves to the tasks of returning power to our people, of rebuilding our political life at the grassroots level through the creation of the barangays and the citizen, assemblies or the sanggunian.
In all of these areas, our actions went beyond the writing of policies to the implementation of programs and the achievement of goals. And the vision of our New Society did not fail to touch the smallest sector of the nation.
Taken together, all these spell a building of national capabilities, a consolidation of the national will for our development effort, which in the event injected new dynamism and purpose into our national life.
There are indelible accomplishments to be seen in the record—the surge of the national economy, the rise in incomes, the perceptible improvement of individual welfare, the new civility in our social life, and the respect we have gained in the family of nations; and over and above all, the feeling of confidence and pride that you now see and feel demonstrated and manifested throughout the land by our people. But what is most compelling about these achievements is the fact that they are gains that have not ceased ad do not cease to grow. They point us irreversibly forward, towards larger goals.
These gains may be reduced to the following principles:
First: The survival of the public order and of the individual rights it secures rests on the ability of the government to maintain its independence from those who would seek to manipulate it, fragment it, or subvert it. Our recent experience has taught us that only when the government was able to liberate itself from the entrenched influence of the oligarchy, the political warlords, and the criminal syndicates could it cope effectively with the open challenge of rebellion and anarchy. A weak government is a menace to public order, to national security and to individual rights.
Second: Representative government is representative only when the many and the poor are organized to articulate their interests and to participate in government. It has been our experience that political power resides as it did in the political broker of old and not in the people when the farmer is not organized, or the worker is not organized or the barangay is not organized, or major sectors of our society to organize the masses in their communities and in their sectors, we cannot achieve complete participatory democracy.
Third: The struggle for national development, for true and complete freedom and human rights, must be waged and won in the rural areas more than anywhere else. It is in the rural areas where the great majority of our people live and where poverty and under development are most deeply rooted. It is the geography of our central concern and the great redirection of public resources from the urban to the rural area initiated by the crisis government which must be maintained. Unless we do so, the entire nation, including its urban areas, will ultimately be overwhelmed by deprivation.
Fourth: The twin problems of poverty and inequality which have long plagued our society have led us finally to concentrate on the basic needs of the poor and on the basic requirements for the expansion of their economic opportunities. From all the years of perilous self-government that we as a nation have experienced, from all the false starts and wrong turns and the distorted decisions and all the misdirected efforts and misspent resources of the past, we have learned painfully and at great cost but we have learned finally and well. I hope to return to the basic tenets and needs and basic concerns of the poor and the underprivileged. And these are the things needed for the body—food, land, job, housing, schools, roads, medical care, electricity, water, and the protection of the law, but over and above all, justice, as well as a belief in one’s history and tradition, the arts, and the protection of our environment and ecology. These are the proud achievements of the crisis government, and I have no doubt these will be the continuing achievements of this assembly, that on every item of this list a major breakthrough has been made and will continue to be made. And it is the great responsibility of this assembly to see to it that these breakthroughs are secured and made the avenues for continued advance.
Fifth: The sure sign of our maturity as a nation lies incurability to align the structure of our foreign relations in consonance with our domestic goals and needs. In the readjustment, diversification, and expansion of our foreign relation, in the search for new friends on the basis of new relations, and the establishment of new relations with old friends, we shall find a new source of national security and an added resource for national development.
Finally, as important as the form of government is the degree of government which can effectively be exercised in aid of national development and in aid of the individual Filipino. The planning and management of national development became an effective function and was institutionalized, as I said, upon the establishment of the National Economic and Development Authority, but more than this, brought down to the ordinary man through the local governments and the local regional and local planning agencies and their councils. Its effective operation was promoted by a comprehensive reform and reorganization of government and administration, including the reform of budget management, of taxation, and of financial institutions. The increase in the revenues of government from less than P5 million to almost P30 million over a period of five years is itself final, conclusive proof of the effectivity of such reform. And its successful implementation was assured by the moratorium on the policies of old, which enabled the government to be free enough, united enough, strong enough, and resourceful enough to carry out the program as planned to its envisioned results. The secret for this was the injection of rationality into the planning system.
These principles of government that I have referred to are not unrelated measures designed to merely conciliate specific grievances in our national life or to serve narrow interests of specific sectors. They form one united whole, a seamless whole, and their application which has permeated the whole of our country and touched every sector of society shall be the role of this assembly—to see to it that all these reforms shall touch the life of every Filipino in our country,
So it is this coherent, rational program of government that offers the basis for continuity in the process of reform and development during this period of transition towards a mixed presidential-parliamentary form of government.
We have often wondered how we moved from crisis and adversity to stability and dynamism over the short period of five-and-a-half years, how we met targets well beyond anything we had known in the past. So much so that in the year 1974, at the height of the economic crisis, the rate of growth of our economy reached the unprecedented level of almost 10%. Progress was won through the effective exercise of emergency powers. Yet, from the very beginning, such exercise was conceived to be merely temporary in nature and bounded by periodic consultations with our people.
The momentum of national recovery and transformation now requires the growing permanency of democratic processes—processes that should fully institutionalize reforms and install them as the governing vision of our society.
Conceivably, we can continue on the road of reform and national transformation, trusting solely in the efficacy of crisis leadership, more specifically the leadership of the President, and even perhaps achieve our goals with greater efficiency and speed.
But let me be the first to remind this assembly and our people that this is a course which, while admitting of less perils, exposes us to the risk of prolonged acculturation and attachment to constitutional authoritarianism.
And we must affirm, especially now as we commence the work of this assembly, that here in our country, we are prepared to meet the challenge of making democracy real and that we can demonstrate in practice that representative government can serve as an effective means for making reform and development as effective, as dynamic, as strong as our crisis government and better in the long term because it enshrines what is most fundamental to a free society; the consent and participation of the governed. This, then, is the burden of the Batasang Pambansa: to show to the world that it is as effective if not better than the crisis government.
How to give permanence and continuity to the reforms initiated and instituted by crisis government is then the task that should occupy our precious talents and energies. For it goes beyond mere polemics and profoundly touches the substance of challenges, problems, cares, and hopes which mark our national life today.
It now remains for us to fashion policies and programs capable of translating ideas into action, hopes into national realities, and constituting a comprehensive program of government, perhaps faster than even the crisis government.
And therefore, these are marked out in a five-year development program, as well as in the 10-year development program, and the program prepared up to the year 2000.
The basic rationale behind the simultaneous preparation of these development plans is that we need a broad perspective of the desired path of growth for the national economy over the long run. Within the longer context, development planners have a basis for estimating the amount of time required to attain the planned objectives and for formulating and instituting the appropriate strategies to support the program of government,
In the implementation of this program of national development, it shall be necessary to seek the participation of the whole government machinery at all levels—national, regional, and local—especially during the stage of preparation.
What we have achieved during the previous plan period, although substantial and impressive, I must repeat, is comparatively limited compared to what we in the assembly still must achieve. The development strategy having been proved to be sound and effective, the assembly can now follow along the lines already initiated.
In our two major strategies for development, for instance, the stress is on balanced agro-industrial growth on the one hand and on the other, the development of our human resources. In these two major strategies of the crisis government, we see the levers which we can confidently work toward the development not only of a small part of our country but of the whole country, all sectors and all regions.
When we speak of human resources, we do so with the expansion of social services and opportunities as our major tools for change.
Progressively, as greater productivity and economic efficiency will allow, we should direct more and more of our resources to this essential aspect of national development—our human resources.
These activities in the economic sphere are all reducible to specific target for achievement during the next five years.
Allow me to point out, in terms of the real gross national product, that the economy is envisioned to grow at an average annual GNP growth rate of 7.7% during the next five years; that is, from P83.250 million in 1978 to P112.214 million by 1982.
Real per capita income is envisioned to grow by 4.7% from a level of P1.796 to P2.157 in 1982.
Conversely, the growth of population is projected to significantly decline from the present 2.0% growth rate to 2.3% by 1982.
We fully envision that within the next two years, we shall reach the turning point in the national economy, and this the assembly must watch as a critical point. This point will be wherein the agriculture and industry sectors will exhibit almost equal shares of output to total net domestic product.
This view of the development challenge underlines in each and every case our basic economy policies, particularly those governing the role of private enterprise in the economy. There have been questions raised as to the role of private enterprise. Let me restate it again: It remains our fundamental policy that private enterprise must serve as our primary agent in the realization of economic achievement, and government must enter only those areas of economic endeavor in which private enterprise is not prepared or able to service needs and meet desired targets.
But let me remind everyone that while we encourage private enterprise and initiative and recognize it and oppose the abolition of private property, the Constitution requires that the government regulate wealth in the interest of the general welfare. And it must ever be our concern to temper the operations of private enterprise with the claims of social justice.
Second, we must now devote greater emphasis and resources to the satisfaction of social needs and the promotion of individual welfare. With the new stability and growth of our economy, we can now extend the horizons of our concerns from the provision of the basic necessities of life toward the broadening of social opportunities for every man, woman, and child in this country.
Under our Five-Year Development Plan, programs for social services such as health, nutrition, and welfare will be expanded on a nationwide scale, with special stress on the provision of relief and assistance to the very poor among our people.
The expansion of social opportunities in the form of employment and education, already a major focus of effort during the last five years, will be the principal vehicle for the promotion of social welfare. And when we speak of social welfare, we speak not only of a few areas in the country but of the entire country. This is one of the basic reasons for the organization of the Department of Human Settlements and Environmental Management.
Despite the yearly growth of our labor force, we shall keep the unemployment rate at a low level of 4% annually. The expected sectoral shifts in production and other economic activities are envisioned to affect the sectoral composition of employment. The greater part of the new entrants to the labor force will gradually move away from agriculture into the industry and services sector. Incentives to more employment and labor-incentive activities will be based on a sound and favorable policy on wages and incomes.
Equally vital to a sound employment situation is the development of our human resources through education and manpower training. This social program represents today one of the heaviest commitments of government, and it will continue to be a high priority in the new Five-Year Plan. I commend this priority program to this assembly.
We reject the claim that education is not getting its proper share of the national budget. Indeed, allocations to education have increased considerably during the last five years, compared to previous years. And we have instituted programs that go well beyond classroom training to provide skills training to out-of-school youth and to adults. Investments in education are after all the real fuel for the engine of development.
As an added new concern in the social sector, which again comes directly under the Department of Human Settlements, we should now attend to the housing needs of the population, to urban reforms, and to the quality of our human settlements in general. Our new housing program will involve not only the provision of shelter but also the improvement of the entire environment especially in marginal areas. Over the five-year period, we envision the provision of direct housing and the upgrading of sites and services to benefit directly 547,000 households throughout the country.
And, of course, we must endeavor to secure public order and civility in our social life and maintain the greatest vigilance and care over the security of the Republic.
Despite the creditable success of our peace and order campaign and counterinsurgency efforts, threats to national stability remain.
We must not be deluded into thinking that the insurgency has been nipped merely because part of its apparatus and its leadership has been successfully dismantled. They are rebuilding as usual; the same situation is true with respect to crime.
In southwestern Mindanao and Sulu, we have had to meet the most violent opposition to authority in these past few years from a secessionist movement, which apparently is supported from the outside. Our government has committed valuable resources in order to win the peace. We have suffered from deficiency of resources, we have suffered casualties and failure in our efforts—which, however, is a transitory failure in our efforts at maintaining the peace.
But today, the gains that we have fostered encourage us to believe that the peace can be won honorably and justly to the satisfaction of all parties. Negotiations with the rebels have involved as of now not only the regular channels of the foreign office but even the personal diplomacy of the First Lady. These negotiations which we regard as conversations between our government and some Filipino nationals produced a ceasefire agreement which surely saved lives, although it has lately run into some difficulties.
These conversations we should be prepared to pursue. As a matter of fact, three of our ambassadors have been designated to meet with the leadership of the rebellion in a mutually acceptable venue. The one problem that presents itself, however, is the report confirmed by various sources that there has been a fragmentation in the leadership of the secessionist movement, making it difficult for us to ascertain which faction would be in a position to enforce any agreement that might be arrived at.
It is important, however, that the Batasan now place itself behind the socioeconomic and political reform program for the affected areas in Mindanao: Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. It would be helpful if we could now work on the formal establishment of what had been promised to be two autonomous regions within the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic, as referred to in the plebiscite of April 1977 under a new local autonomy act. I therefore commend to this assembly the drafting and passage of a local autonomy act.
As I have said, essential to this vision of domestic tranquility and development is the maintenance of a sound policy in our relations with other nations and the world.
Our foreign relations today are governed by an outlook that looks upon foreign policy as a tool for national development, that looks upon every nation as a friend and ally, and that regards our place in the family of nations as one deserving of respect.
Dominating our foreign policy agenda are our trade and security negotiations with the United States, our trade treaty negotiations with Japan, and the increasing number of decisions we are called upon every day to make with our partners in ASEAN.
With the United Stales, what is involved is the review of a historic relationship that has grown in war and in peace; and the searching question above all is how long and under what terms, shall we allow American forces to make use, if at all, of our military bases in Clark and Subic, among others. In the matter of trade, we are anxious to find out how well disposed the United States is in giving our products equitable treatment, and how willing it is to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.
With Japan, we are embarked on the renegotiation of a treaty of amity, navigation and commerce, which ought at the very least to correct the onerous provisions of the treaty which ran out in January 1977.
With ASEAN, we are concerned with making regional industrial complementation and detailed cooperation work, so that within the region we can begin to develop our own technologies and be in a better position to meet our own needs, and not always be disadvantaged in dealing with the big trading blocs and the industrial economies.
With the rest of the world, we have varying degrees of exposure—some sustained initiatives in the European Economic Community, developing contacts with members of Comecon, the Middle East, and the entire membership of the Third World.
As always, development diplomacy shall continue to serve particularly our actions in the negotiation of treaties and agreements with other nations. It shall guide us in resolving those irritants that remain of a passing era that made us the charge of another country. It shall define our place among the nations of the Third World. It shall enable us to maintain fruitful relations with the Communist countries. It shall strengthen our actions and commitments to the building of the ASEAN community.
Finally, and perhaps most important because this assembly is itself a manifestation of it, we must attend to the continuing normalization of our political life and the methodical construction of a truly democratic political order.
This is a road which we must travel with patience and determination, free of the blinders that had once hampered the fruitful workings of democratic processes in our country, and free of these constraints that tend to divide rather than unite us in our political life.
We need above all to be clearheaded about the kind of political change we want and the kind of system we must erect.
All too often, some of us mistake political normalization for the mere relaxation of those controls exercised by our crisis government. All too often, some of us imagine that a simple return to the freewheeling tendencies of our past political order will suffice to install political change.
I reject this notion of political change as feeble, sterile, and illusory. For we did not struggle this long, nor did we achieve our gains at such great cost, only to revert to a political order empty of vision and vitality.
No. Political change should in fact strengthen and enhance the quality of government in our country. Political change should be a means for the greater participation of our people in government, and not merely the servant of the ambitions and hopes of a few.
In this spirit, therefore, must we construe the mandate of our people that this assembly serve as a signal bridge in the evolution of our political life.
Now, included in the authority and mandate of this assembly is the authority to convert itself into a constituent body for the purpose of amending the Constitution. Some have suggested that the Constitution be amended immediately to return our transitional government to any other kind of government. My prompt reply to this is that we owe it to ourselves and our people to treat the Constitution with more respect and reverence. It is neither a transitory nor a permanent solution to our problems, but we should proceed with our political experiment with parliamentarianism or the mixed presidential-parliamentary system and give it a few years before we begin to talk, if at all, of going back to a system we had chosen to abandon. It is my considered view that our own experience as an independent and sovereign nation should ultimately give us the form of government we desire and need.
As of now our gradual passage into parliamentary government has given us a mixture of the presidential and parliamentary systems, which, however temporary, lends us some powerful insights of the needs of modern-day governmental. We have much to discover and learn where we are and our position should allow us to grow in our concept and practice of government without the limitations of previous experience. We ought to be bold in our imagination, and in the process of experimentation we should not fear to innovate, nor fear to discover a system uniquely our own.
I therefore commend this assembly to its work.
The Constitution grants to the President and Prime Minister the continuing power to legislate.
I wish to announce now and make clear that I have no wish to deprive the interim Batasang Pambansa the opportunity to discharge its legislative authority on any issue, especially those of great import and urgency to the nation. My greatest accomplishment as a leader will lie not in having been able to save the nation from the incapacity of an inept legislature, but in being able to say at the end of the day that because of an alert and competent legislature I did not have to use any of my standby powers to effect necessary and urgent legislation.
This message is clear: Political will is as necessary today as it was during the last five years to mobilize the energies of our people for development and change.
The establishment of the interim Batasang Pambansa extends public authority from the solitary seat of the Presidency to a broader spectrum of the national leadership; but it is hardly the intent of our people that the sharing of power should diffuse the national political will to develop and modernize. Neither is it our desire that the political order toward which we are moving should produce a bifurcated vision of the national future.
The converse is true: We have great faith that a broad representation of the national leadership will result in the convergence of interests and energies so strong and resolute in the pursuit of national ideals that it will in fact be wiser and more effective than even the crisis leadership.
It is in this light that we must respond to those questions concerning the continuation of martial law, the duration of this assembly’s work, the holding of local elections, and such other political questions as have arisen with the convening of this assembly.
The questions are not to be answered separately from how this transitory body discharges its mission. They cannot be resolved except in direct and earnest examination of our evolving political life, of how democratic processes actually operate.
It will be unrealistic to assume that the task of this assembly can be completed in one or two years.
It would be presumptuous for anyone now to tell any member of this assembly to finish the work mandated by the Constitution within a certain period of time. This is a discretion and wisdom that has been allocated lo the members of this assembly, and no one should deprive the members of such an allocated power.
Equally, we can only make an educated guess as to when it would be possible, and propitious, or wise, for us to lift martial law, especially since the discretion of imposing and lifting martial law is in the hands of the President. The fact that the Batasan exists assures us that the proper time, we would lift martial law without being sucked into a legislative vacuum, which would otherwise surely happen if the Batasan did not exist to take over the lawmaking function of the crisis presidency. But the fact that the Batasan is here, ready to discharge its responsibility, unfortunately does not make for an automatic lifting of martial law.
Therefore, neither am I prepared to speculate on the holding of local elections at this time. But I would like to announce now that I have no intention of immediately calling local elections. We have not recovered from the divisiveness brought about by the last one. To speak of local elections now is to invite disaster, for that would guarantee the rechanneling of the energies of the IBP members and of the citizenry towards factionalism and petty party or group conflicts.
I have already received reports to the effect that even without any call to local elections, warring factions are now forming and girding for political combat to the detriment of public welfare. For certainly, the members of the Batasan, being political leaders, would be interested more in working for the victory of their local political organizations than in the task of legislation if local elections were to be called now.
It is imperative that prior to the calling of local elections, we first take steps to strengthen leadership in our local governments. The elections last April were revealing of the inefficiency of many in our local governments, and of the loss of trust in many of them by their constituencies. The incumbency of incompetents in local governments, in the event of an election prematurely called, locates them in an unwarranted position of advantage that could result in the distortion of the process of strengthening the political leadership.
It is meet therefore that the President be allowed the time to take the necessary step of removing those who are no longer effective in office, and of ensuring the flow of our programs from national to local level, before the nation holds local elections.
What this assembly should now devote itself to is the strengthening of the structure and administration of local governments. For it is when powers and responsibilities are effectively administered by the local governments that a real sharing of the apparatus of government power is effective.
Local autonomy should rank high in our agenda in this assembly, and if we consider what we have achieved since 1972 in this respect, political change will be considerable.
We should endeavor to channel more opportunities to local governments for their participation in the implementation of development programs. And beyond enhancing their role, we must take care to look and examine deeply how in fact individual local governments are faring in the total development effort. For it is a fact that the record varies considerably from region to region, province to province, largely because of local leadership differences.
This is the reason why the Department of Local Governments and Community Development must now work it out with the new Department of Human Settlements and Environmental Management in their respective jurisdictions and functions.
For this reason, our people will expect this assembly to devote some of its energies to deliberate well on the proposed Local Government Code, which the Cabinet will submit to this assembly soon. This assembly will be called upon to make an assessment of how the regions as administrative units in our national administration have either succeeded or failed, whether they have contributed to the social and political integration of the nation, or whether they have spawned new seeds of divisiveness.
What is true concerning the strengthening of local governments must be time of the strengthening of the government bureaucracy.
The weaknesses of our government bureaucracy were born of a corrupt political system. The enervation of the political system was due to a bureaucracy that could not effectively discharge the tasks of government.
The principle implied by this sad experience is a very simple but often neglected one; it is a fact that effective government is the single, most important input into the kind of political change and development we covet. Government performance needs what is encouraging and promising in our political life. On the other hand, no amount of elections can install a strong political order where the task of government is poorly administered.
Thus, the professionalization of the civil service should rank high in our priorities.
I am happy to announce that I have just signed a new administrative code which embodies all the laws governing the reorganization of the bureaucracy, the conduct of government, and the deportment of those in the government service, which shall henceforth be our principal guide in the continued reform, professionalization, and revitalization of the machinery of government.
But the morality and competence we aspire to see in the members of the service must also be matched by those of us who hold elective office. And it should not be the least of our concerns here that this assembly does not go the way of its predecessor.
In this cluster of concerns, there are enormous challenges and problems to engage and test the mettle of this body. There is enough work to do for each and all of us, without our having to be detained by the petty rivalries of politicians, without our having to search for imaginary monsters to destroy and false causes to try our energies.
The challenge is before us, and the initiative is for us to seize, to ensure that this assembly will fulfill its historic mission.
As we proceed to integrate the executive and legislative branches of government, we shall then nurture the seeds of renewal in our national life and find a secure and permanent home for our vision of the future.
And let it never be forgotten that this is a burden and a challenge that are ours alone to bear. The time when we could look to others for the fulfillment of hopes and aspirations is long past. Only in self-reliance, in the confidence that we are equal to our tasks, shall we reap.
For this challenge of national self-strengthening, we shall have great need of unity of purpose and effort within this government and this assembly. We shall have great need of unswerving faith in the new institution we are summoned to erect.
And we must draw sustenance from the larger sense of community and union among our people.
It shall be the policy of the government to mold a truly national consensus behind all that we undertake in the name of the people and the country, confident that our course will lead us irretrievably to our destiny.
Towards this end, our government will not take the following initiatives.
You perhaps have noted that with respect to the opposition, we have taken the initiative to remove the irritants that have strained their participation in our political life. We are prepared to listen to their counsel.
It shall remain the paramount concern of our government to unite our country behind the cause of justice and dignity, to lift those who live in conditions of poverty, ignorance and lack of opportunity, so that together they may form one united political community. And regardless of differences in our views, we shall strive to be one nation, in which one will be free to disagree with another without undermining national unity. We shall be a nation with one purpose, no matter how differently individuals express themselves.
“Isang bansa, isang diwa” shall henceforth be our national motto and by virtue of a decree I have signed, it will now be incorporated in the great seal of the Republic, and be made known to every Filipino as the slogan of every individual as it is of the nation.
This is not to say that our nationhood shall live merely in slogans.
We shall now seek to enlarge the democratic dialogue among all sectors of society and shall exert all efforts to ensure that violence does not subvert or replace the free exchange of opinions and ideas, that dialogue should begin in this seat of representative government and must extend to every forum in our country.
For this, the rule of law must stand supreme in our society, and we must look to the strength and independence of our judiciary to keep the channels of justice inviolate and secure. Much has been achieved in revitalizing the civilian courts, and certainly under the administration of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. We shall continue with measures to strengthen them. To this end, while the Presidency has the power to replace judges by accepting resignations, I now announce that I have no intention of utilizing this power.
Napakalaking karangalan para sa inyong lingkod na mamuno sa makasaysayang yugtong ito ng ating kasaysayan, lalung-lalo na sa walang katulad na panahon ng pagbahago ng mga balakid at hamon. Karaniwang ang isang Punong Ministro ay halal lamang sa isang nakararaming lapian sa isang parliamento o batasan, ngunit naiiba at namumukod sa lahat ang inyong abang lingkod na inihalal ng ating bayan sa pamamagitan ng ating Saligang Batas. Labis akong nagpapasalamat sa bagay na ito at nakatitiyak ang lahat na tutumbasan ko ito ng ubos kaya at walang pasubaling paglilingkod.
Ibang-iba ang pangyayari at kalagayan sa panahong ito, subali’t waring inuulit natin sa araw na ito ang ilang mahahalagang yugto sa kasaysayan ng ating Republika. Binubuksan natin ang kapulungang ito na taglay sa diwa ang kahulugan ng Kongreso sa Malolos ng 1978. Wala na ang agam-agam at pangamba ng kabiguang nakalambong noon sa ating unang Republika. Binubuksan natin ang kapulungang ito na angkin ang tiwala ng Unang Asemblea ng Pilipinas noong 1907. Nasa atin ang kakayahang magsarili at magpalakad sa ating sariling pamahalaan ng taglay ang talinong bunga ng karanasang natipon sa nakalipas na mga taon. Wala na ang agam-agam na kailangan pa nating sundin ang kagustuhan ng alinmang panginoong banyaga. Binubuksan natin ang kupulungang ito na taglay ang pananabik ng Kongreso ng Commonwealth noong 1935. At ang nasa isip ay ang katotohanang tayo lamang ang maaaring humawak ng kapalaran ng ating lahi. Binubuksan natin ang kapuluang ito na taglay ang matayog na pangarap ng unang Kongreso ng Republika ng Pilipinas noong 1946 pagkatapos ng digmaan. Wala nga lamang ang guho at pinsala ng digmaan na naging dahilan ng sapin-saping suliraning pangkabuhayan.
Ang kasaysayan ng ating lahi ay isang walang katapusang pagharap sa mga suliranin upang matamo ang katatagan at makatugon sa hamon na lumikha ng isang mabisa at angkop na tagapagbatas. Tuwing tayo ay makakadarama ng ginhawa ng pagkakaisa, katapatan, at katatagan, lagi tayong nahaharap sa pagsubok na makapagtayo ng batasang tunay na makatutugon sa mga hamon ng krisis ng pagsubok na muli nating haharapin ngayon.
Nasa harap ng kapulungang ito ngayon ang katipunan ng mga hamon at pagsubok sa nakalipas na mga Kongreso, at ito na sana ang pangwakas na pagsubok kung makakaya natin gamitin ang demokrasya bilang mabisang sangkap ng katatagan at kaunlarang pambansa. Bagaman at kailangan pa ring magpatuloy ang pansamantalang pamahalaan, taglay ng kapulungang ito ang binhi ng matatag at masiglang lehislaturang tutugon sa ating pangangailangan kung ihahandog natin dito ang lahat ng ating talino at kakayahan.
Tayo ngayon ay isang bansang pinalakas ng mga pagsubok na ating pinagdaanan, higit na nagkakaisa pagkaraan ng mga sigalutang dinanas, at higit na handa sa anumang uri ng pagsubok at suliranin. Natapos nating lampasan ang mahihigpit na balakid sa nakaraang lima-at-kalahating taon. Sa liwanag ng makabuluhang yugtong ito ng ating buhay bilang bansa at lahi, magagawa natin ang ating tungkuling pagtahak sa landas ng katuparan ng ating matayog na pangarap na pag-unlad, pagkakapantay-pantay, at ng tunay na demokrasya.
Sagutin at tungkulin ng kapulungang ito na simulan ang pagtahak sa naiguhit na landas.
These measures should provide a fertile ground for the orderly and effective operations of this assembly, and I should hope that this body will in time embody and reflect for our nation the efficacy of democratic discussion and deliberation as a means for the achievement of national purposes and aspirations.
We, in this assembly, are the final repository of this trust, which if we discharge with care and dedication, will give permanent meaning to the struggles that we have waged all these many years, and will strengthen our people’s faith in the future of this nation.
None of us can fail to be exalted by the trust that brought us to this interim Batasang Pambansa—the first legislative body to convene since our proclamation of crisis government in 1972.
And for me, no honor can be greater than to preside over this historic mission of the government at a time of great opportunity and challenge.
A prime minister usually owes his position to his party; but by their generosity, our people have given me a direct constitutional mandate. For this, I am truly grateful, and I shall try to deserve this mandate by serving the nation to the best of my energies and my gifts.
Our conditions and circumstances today are vastly different, but there is a sense in which this occasion recaptures certain moments in the history of our Republic.
We open this assembly with the same sense of new beginning as the Malolos Congress of 1898, but without the sense of doom that hovered over its deliberations and shadowed the frail existence of the first Republic.
We open this assembly, confident like the first Philippine Assembly of 1907 of our capacity for self-government, but a little wiser from the experience gained over the years and without the anxiety or the need to conform to the wishes of a colonial master.
We open this assembly with the same sense of anticipation as the Commonwealth Congress of 1935, with the added awareness that we and we alone are charting our sovereign passage into parliamentary democracy.
And we open this assembly with the same high hopes as the first Congress of the Philippine Republic of 1946, without the destruction and ruins of war that made for untold economic difficulties that often dictated compromise.
The history of our nation indelibly etches for us the crucial tie between the struggle for national survival and stability and the challenge to create an effective and representative lawmaking body.
At crucial points in our history, when we had achieved at long last a strong sense of national cohesion and vitality, we have had to face the test of erecting a legislature that would serve the test of crisis and adversity.
Time and time again we faced this test. Today, we face it again. It may be that we face in this assembly the culmination of all the challenges and the frustrations of the past, the trials that had engaged our historic congresses, the fateful test of our national capacity for making constitutional democracy our unfailing instrument of national vitality and purpose. For the circumstances surrounding this historic assembly, while yet admitting the need for the continued enforcement of emergency government, bear the seeds of a strong and dynamic legislature that will surely germinate if we give it the full commitment of our talents and energies.
We are today a nation made stronger by the trials that we have weathered, more cohesive for the waves of conflict which we have experienced, and better prepared for challenges by the many crises which we surmounted during the last five-and-a-half years.
In the wake of this eventful period in our national life, we can and we must chart the course that will fully attain for us our greatest hopes for freedom, for progress, for equality, and for true democracy.
It is the unique and historic charge of this assembly to set that course. It is, I hope, the charge which we as a country will meet confidently. I have no doubt that the members of this assembly will discharge this mission with dedication, with patriotism, and with success.