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Aquino gives final plea vs dictatorship

Never grow weary of protecting and defending the country’s hard-won democracy or else risk losing it again, President Aquino urged the nation during the celebration of the 118th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence yesterday.

In his final Independence Day address before bowing out from office, the President said Filipinos must thwart any attempt to take away their freedoms and prevent a repeat of the Marcos dictatorship in the country.

“Once, a fellow Filipino stole our freedom. This means that if we are not vigilant, it could happen again,” Aquino said in Filipino during the Vin d’ Honneur reception in Malacañang, recalling the dark years of the martial rule in the country.

“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,” Aquino added.

Aquino said the Filipino nation has proven its capacity to fight for democracy and win it back when it was stolen from them. “Now, let us prove that we can continue making democracy work for the benefit of our people,” he said.

Aquino is scheduled to step down from office at noon of June 30 after implementing reforms and overseeing the country’s resurgence in the past six years.

Aquino will be replaced by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, a tough-talking mayor of Davao City who has promised to wage a war against criminality and corruption. Aquino previously campaigned against Duterte due to his alleged dictatorial tendency and unclear platform of government.

The President opted to slightly change this year’s Independence Day celebration by reminding the public how difficult it was to obtain the freedom the nation enjoys.

Aquino’s speech included a video presentation of his experience as a 13-year-old during the dictatorship of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. The video clip featured a reenactment of the arrest and detention of his father the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., his consequent assassination, and the bloodless People Power Revolution that ousted the authoritarian Marcos rule.

“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,” Aquino said in his toast during the Palace reception attended by diplomats, top government officials, businessmen, and other guests.

“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.

In the same speech, the President said he was proud to leave behind a country that is better than he found it.

“Under our governance, the Philippines will be an honorable and respectable member of the global community,” Aquino said. “On my last meeting with you – both my Bosses and those in the diplomatic corps – as President, I can proudly say that I fulfilled all my promises,” he said.

The President said the country’s achievements, from economic growth to improved social services and infrastructure development, were made possible without violating the country’s laws or curtailing the rights of Filipinos.

“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,” Aquino said.

“We firmly believe in this principle: That there can be no true progress if we surrender our dignity and our rights,” he added.

Among the accomplishments mentioned by Aquino were the increase in number of beneficiaries of PhilHealth, scholarships from Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and construction of thousands of classrooms.

He said graduates could now choose from a selection of jobs, as opposed to having to go through so much hardship looking for one. The people in the provinces, Aquino added, are benefiting from the roads, bridges, ports, airports, and other infrastructure projects his government has built. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)