His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the 2013 Philippine Independence Day celebration
[This is a translation of the speech delivered at the Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila, on June 12, 2013]
This morning, here in Bonifacio Plaza, we witnessed the raising of the flag in front of the monument of the Katipunan’s Supremo to celebrate the 115th anniversary of our proclamation of independence. It is clear what his statue represents: that it is an honor to risk one’s life for one’s country; that those who have contributed to our freedom can hold their heads high. At the same time, Bonifacio’s stern gaze seems to pose a challenge to all of us: Filipino, what have you done for your flag and for your fellow men?
The time of revolt against the oppression of colonizers has come and gone: Rizal and Bonifacio, the Katipuneros, and other Filipino heroes have already done their part. They did this firm in the knowledge that no one else was going to fight for our rights; no one else was going to work for the future of our country; no one else would push for our freedom—no one but we Filipinos. No one else. Thanks to them, we have been declaring our freedom to the world for one hundred and fifteen years.
As we reflect today on the value of our independence, your government remains aware of its responsibility to protect this independence. This is why we have always stood up for our rights as a country with its own sovereignty, as a nation that spilled its blood in the name of freedom, as a Philippines with its own flag, equal to all others. It is clear: While the government is responsible for the security of our country, it is also our duty to focus on the primary needs of the people.
What we need is thorough planning, not impulsive decision-making. Only this will result in meaningful solutions to our most significant problems. This is how we have been able to put up 21,800 houses for Phase 1 of our housing program for our soldiers and policemen. We have also finished almost 14,000 houses for Phase 2, a number that will rise to 31,200 come July. In the next five years, we will also be able to spend 75 billion pesos on National Defense due to the New AFP Modernization Act being passed into law. In truth, even before this Act was passed, in the space of one year and seven months, the 28 billion pesos in funds that we allotted to the AFP Modernization program came close to equaling the 33 billion pesos allotted to the same program by the past three administrations. This signifies our drive, not only to modernize our armed forces, but also to raise the dignity and morale of our soldiers.
We need to weigh our decisions carefully when it comes to these matters. As we stand for our rights, we must continue exhibiting the values Filipinos are known for: Aggression does not run in our veins, but neither will we back down from any challenge. And while we will protect our rights and continue to build consensus with all parties to promote calm and understanding, we must also increase the capabilities of our Armed Forces. Together with all these, we must also think of the lives of the millions of Filipinos that may be affected by the decisions we make as leaders.
We have no other desire than to take care of what is rightfully ours. We have never trampled upon the rights of others. We have not claimed or demanded territory that clearly belongs to another. We have neither condescended upon nor oppressed others. Harming others or sowing discord with other countries is not in our history. Similarly, it has never been the policy of the Philippines to take advantage of other countries. If there has been disagreement, the whole world has witnessed our willingness to sit down and conduct dialogues in a peaceful manner. The only thing we have asked is that our territory, rights, and dignity be respected, in the same way that we have respected the territory, rights, and dignity of other peoples. We are doing this precisely because we know that this is the key to maintaining stability, and by doing so, to continue the journey towards widespread and lasting progress, not only in our country, but also in our region and in the whole world.
It was Andres Bonifacio himself who said: “Reason teaches us that we must be of one will and one mind to gain the strength we need to search out the evil that reigns in our Nation. This is the time for the light of truth to dawn; this is the time for us to show that we have our own sentiments, our own honor, our own shame and solidarity.”
What Andres Bonifacio wanted to say is clear. According to him, it took three hundred years before Filipinos resolved to come together and triumph in their revolt against the Spaniards. Let us not wait three hundred years, or three decades, or even three years, before we resolve to come together and gain freedom from hunger, poverty, or whatever threatens our sovereignty and security. It is not right for Filipinos to have to stand suffering for even one minute longer. If it had only been possible, these problems should have been solved yesterday. But since this is impossible, let’s do it today. This is the time for our spirits, minds, and voices to become one. This is the time for us to offer our time and our strength. This is the time for us to act as one nation, so that we can realize our collective aspirations for the Motherland. I know that we can do this because we have the blood of heroes, and if Rizal, or Bonifacio, or even Ninoy or Cory asks, “Filipino, what have you done for your flag and your countrymen?” we will meet their gaze, unafraid, and say, “This is what I have done for my country; I have given my heart and soul to uplift my nation.”
Thank you. May we all have a meaningful Independence Day.