MANILA — At the beginning of his speech and at various points throughout, President Rodrigo R. Duterte was briefly interrupted by protesters on Independence Day (June 12) but the Chief Executive went on telling them that despite their differences, they had at least one common denominator.
“We may not understand each other but at least there is a common denominator and that is love of country,” Duterte said in his speech at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite where he led the flag-raising ceremony amid the pouring rains.
“Why do you think? Ambition? It’s love of country and the love of the Caviteño kaya nandito ako. Mahal ko kayong lahat. Pati na ‘yung mga nag-protesta, mahal ko rin sila. Kung ayaw ninyong maniwala, basta ‘yon ang totoo (that’s why I’m here. I love all of you. Even the protesters, I love them too. If you don’t believe it, it’s up to you but that’s the truth),” he added.
The protesters are members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog (Bayan-ST) who staged their protest in front of the media during the event.
Duterte said that he understood the reason why protesters staged their outcry, saying the 1987 Constitution itself guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and free expression.
“It’s freedom of speech. You can have it. Okay lang. I will understand,” Duterte said.
“Our Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and free expression. So I would just advise the law enforcement to just deal with them peacefully and the maximum tolerance,” he added.
The President, however, reminded protesters that they also had the right to exercise their right to suffrage “once every six years.”
“We cannot agree at all times for all seasons. But at least we have this exercise once every six years I suppose under this new Constitution and you can elect the leaders that you want to run the country,” Duterte said.
He also apologized to the rest of the crowd for being late at the start of the event at 8 a.m., pointing out that it was a great honor to be able to attend the commemoration rites.
Last year, Duterte skipped the Independence Day celebration since he was not feeling well.
Duterte described the event as a day to remember a “past filled with optimism for a future” for the next generations of Filipinos.
However, more than a century since Filipino heroes liberated the country from foreign subjugation Duterte said that the Philippines still has to face “enemies that attack from within.”
“This, time, we face the modern challenges of poverty, corruption, environmental degradation, terrorism, criminality and illegal drugs,” Duterte said.
Duterte stressed that it was his “personal mission” to rid the nation of these ills, particularly illegal drugs, but noted that he could not do it alone.
“At this crucial juncture in our history, we need to draw strength from the lessons of our past to ensure that these ills do not cause any more damage to our future,” Duterte said.
Slightly deviating from his speech, Duterte spoke about the progress achieved in his hometown, Davao City, which he said was a place where “everything is really done according to the book.”
“Environmentally we’re quite more or less — we can pass the satisfactory level. In terms of law and order, eh you can walk about anytime of the day or night,” Duterte said.
Duterte invited the public, including the protesters, to visit Davao City and see it for themselves.
He acknowledged that his term as President as well as all elected officials will not last, but noted that unless discipline is instilled among Filipinos, it would be difficult for the country to achieve progress.
“I will be gone like the dust in the wind. Passing lang po ako. Kaming lahat na elected officials (I come in passing. All of us elected officials). We are just a small fleck of the history of this nation,” Duterte said.
“There has to be a change somewhere. I don’t know kung kailan ‘yan (I don’t know when that will be),” he added.
Duterte was mayor of Davao City for over 20 years before being elected as President. PNA-northboundasia.com