FULL TEXT: President Aquino’s speech on 117th Philippine Independence Day celebration

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Image from; Official Gazette

“Isandaan at labimpitong taon na ang nakalipas mula nang ideklara ang kalayaan; kalag na po tayo ngayon sa tanikala ng mga dayuhang mananakop. Sa kabila nito, nariyan naman ang panibagong hamon na labanan ang katiwalian at kahirapan sa bansa. Malinaw po: Sa pagbibigkis nananaig ang ating mga bayani sa pagkamit ng kalayaan, kaya’t sa pagbibigkis din malalampasan ang suliraning ating hinaharap sa kasalukuyan.”

Talumpati ng Kagalang-galang Benigno S. Aquino III Pangulo ng Pilipinas sa pagdiriwang ng Araw ng Kalayaan

[Inihayag a Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, noong ika-12 ng Hunyo 2015]

Sa atin pong kasaysayan, madalas na ipinagdiriwang ang Araw ng Kalayaan sa Maynila. Marami po kasing mga pangyayari na may kaugnayan sa pagkakamit natin ng kalayaan nana naganap sa Maynila at sa mga karatig nitong lugar. Bilang Pangulo, tayo naman po ay umiikot sa bansa, dahil alam nating ang kalayaang tinatamasa natin ngayon ay bunga ng pagkilos at paglaban ng napakaraming Pilipino, nasaan man silang bahagi ng Pilipinas. Noon nga pong 2011, nagpunta tayo sa Kawit, Cavite; sa 2012, sa Simbahan ng Barasoain sa Malolos, Bulacan; noong 2013, sa Liwasang Bonifacio sa Maynila, at nitong nakaraang taon, nagtungo tayo sa Naga, Camarines Sur. Ngayon po, nagtitipon tayo dito sa Sta. Barbara, Iloilo bilang pagkilala sa ambag ng Kabisayaan sa pakikipaglaban para sa kalayaan. Sa susunod pong taon, balak naman nating tumungo sa isang lalawigan sa Mindanao, upang doon tumingala sa watawat at magbalik-tanaw sa kabayanihan ng atin pong mga ninuno.

Tandaan natin: Bilang arkipelago, hiwa-hiwalay ang isla ng Pilipinas. Noon nga po, limitado ang transportasyon kaya’t pahirapan ang pagbiyahe kahit sa mga karatig-bayan; wala ring teknolohiyang nagpapabilis ng komunikasyon. Isa po ito sa sinasabing dahilan kung bakit hindi nagsabay-sabay ang maraming pag-aaklas sa unang yugto ng ating rebolusyon. Gayumpaman, noong 1898, sa kabila ng mga limitasyong ito, nagkaisa ang mga Pilipino at sabay-sabay ang naging pag-aklas sa Pilipinas. Patunay po ito: Noon pa man, klaro na sa mga Pilipinong kilalanin kung ano ang tama at mali; at ang tugon nila dito ay ang manindigan sa panig ng katwiran.

Sa loob nga po ng mahigit 300 taong pananakop ng mga Kastila, umiral ang sistemang nagdulot ng matinding pagdurusa sa ating mga kababayan. Nariyan, halimbawa, ang sapilitang paggawa o polo y servicio; ang pagbabawal sa mga paring Pilipino na mamuno ng sariling parokya; ang pagmamalupit ng mga guwardiya sibil, ang walang pakundangang pag-aresto; at pagpapahirap sa mga bilanggo, gayundin ang laganap na diskriminasyon laban sa mga Pilipino.

Ang mga usapin pong tulad nito ang ipinaglabang repormahin ng mga propagandistang tulad nina Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, at ng kapwa ninyo Ilonggo na si Graciano Lopez Jaena. Ngunit hindi pa rin sila pinakinggan ng pamahalaan. Ang naging tanong po marahil ng ating mga ninuno: Kalabisan bang mangarap at humiling ng katarungan at buhay na may dignidad? Kung hindi sila lalaban, ilang henerasyon pang magpapatuloy ang pagdurusa? Sino pa nga ba ang maaaring asahan ng Pilipino, kundi kapwa niya Pilipino?

Bunsod nito, sumiklab ang huling yugto ng ating rebolusyon. Noong 1896, nanguna si Andres Bonifacio sa Maynila, at Emilio Aguinaldo sa Cavite. Sa Kabisayaan naman, sina Heneral Francisco del Castillo ng Aklan, Esteban Contreras ng Capiz, Leon Kilat ng Cebu, at Martin Delgado at Teresa Magbanua ng Iloilo ang namuno sa laban noong 1897 at 1898. Ang totoo nga po, dito mismo sa Santa Barbara unang itinaas ang bandila ng Pilipinas sa labas ng Luzon noong ika-17 ng Nobyembre 1898. Nakaburda sa bandilang iyon ang tatlong bituin: sagisag ng Luzon, Mindanao, at ang inyong isla ng Panay bilang kinatawan ng buong Kabisayaan.

Nang itatag naman ang Unang Republika, kusang nakiisa ang mga kinatawan ng Bisaya dito. Marahil, ito na po ang kanilang pagkilala sa prinsipyong inilatag ni Apolinario Mabini sa pagtataguyod ng ating republika, at atin pong inaalala, sabi po niya, “Kailangan nating humarap sa mga dayuhan bilang isang nagkakaisang bansa, dahil ito ang pinakamatibay na kalasag laban sa pang-aabuso ng makapangyarihan.”

Isandaan at labimpitong taon na ang nakalipas mula nang ideklara ang kalayaan; kalag na po tayo ngayon sa tanikala ng mga dayuhang mananakop. Sa kabila nito, nariyan naman ang panibagong hamon na labanan ang katiwalian at kahirapan sa bansa. Malinaw po: Sa pagbibigkis nananaig ang ating mga bayani sa pagkamit ng kalayaan, kaya’t sa pagbibigkis din malalampasan ang suliraning ating hinaharap sa kasalukuyan.

Sinimulan nating bagtasin ang Daang Matuwid upang maibalik ang pamahalaang tunay na nagsisilbi at kumakatawan sa adhikain ng sambayanan. Ang panata natin: Walang maiiwan sa kaunlaran, nasa Luzon man, Visayas o Mindanao; bawat Pilipino, makikinabang sa tinatamasa nating pag-unlad. Hindi puwedeng aangat lang ang nasa itaas, habang ang ibaba, napag-iiwanan.

Paano po natin tinutupad ito? Simple lang po: Pinapalawak natin ang oportunidad, at binibigyang-lakas ang nakakarami nating kababayan upang sagarin ang pakinabang na dulot nito. Halimbawa po ang Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. May cash grant na ipinagkakaloob sa ating kababayan, kapalit ng mga kondisyong sisiguro na ang kanilang paghihirap ay hindi na mamanahin ng susunod na henerasyon. Kabilang sa mga kondisyong ito ang pagsigurong pumapasok sa eskuwela ang kanilang mga anak. Sa buong bansa, mayroon nang mahigit 4.4 milyong kabahayan ang benepisyaryo ng Pantawid Pamilya; 904,725 niyan ang nasa Visayas, at 94,190 naman ang nandito sa Iloilo.

Isa pa pong halimbawa: Alam naman nating napakalaking tulong sa mga magsasaka ang maayos na sistema ng irigasyon. Dito po sa inyo, ginagawa na ang Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project. Malaking proyekto ito na unang naisip noong taon na ako po’y ipinanganak. Napakatagal po nitong napako sa pangako, pero tayo na rin po sa Daang Matuwid ang nagpapatupad. Tuloy, di natin maiwasang isipin: Kung dati, inasikaso na ito, ilang libo na kayang magsasaka ang dapat sana’y umasenso na?

Nabalitaan na rin siguro ninyo ang inisyatibang isinulong natin sa mga karatig-bayan ninyong Negros Oriental at Negros Occidental: Kamakailan lang, pinirmahan natin ang Executive Order na lumikha ng Negros Island Region, kung saan pinag-isa na ang mga nabanggit na probinsiya. Isipin po ninyo: ‘yun pong dalawang probinsyang nasa isang isla, nasa magkabilang rehiyon. Kumbaga, iisang isla, iisa ang mga problema, iisa ang lumalapag na oportunidad, hahatiin pa? Sa pagkakaroon ng Negros Island Region, mas magiging tutok na ang gobyerno sa alokasyon ng pondo sa isang rehiyon. Mas direkta at mas mabilis na rin silang makikinabang sa mga proyektong ito: Hindi na kailangang tumawid ng dagat ng mga taga-Negros para makamtan ang mga serbisyong inilalaan para sa kanila. Ang maganda pa rito, pati ang mga katabing rehiyon nito na matagal nang kahati ng mga probinsiyang malayo-layo sa kanila, bibilis na rin ang benepisyong makukuha galing sa gobyerno, dahil mas magiging tutok na sa mga mamamayan nila ang mga serbisyo.

Nagkasundo nga po ang lahat ng stakeholders na makabubuti ang inisyatibang ito sa mas nakakarami. Dininig natin ang boses ng ating mga Boss, mga kababayan sa nasabing mga probinsiya—na inihayag ng kanilang mga pinuno mula sa hepe ng mga barangay pataas sa kanilang mga gobernador, mga kinatawan—at ng mga kapulungang pangkomersiyo. Kaya nang inilapit sa akin ni Secretary Mar Roxas ang mungkahi niyang ito, at naisagawa ang mga nararapat na konsultasyon, agad na natin itong pinirmahan. Alam naman po ninyo, itong tunay na anak ng Panay island na si Secretary Mar ang nanguna sa pagsusulong nito. Gaya po ng nabanggit ko na, alam nating kapag inatas nating pamunuan ng isang Mar Roxas ang isang proyekto o programa, asahan mong magtatagumpay po ito. [Palakpakan]

Tiwala po ako: Basta’t nananatili tayong tumatahak sa Daang Matuwid, maipagpapatuloy natin ang pagbabagong ating tinatamasa sa kasalukuyan. Sa pag-usbong ng makabagong teknolohiya at sa panahon ng social media, may higit na tayong kakayahan, at mas malalim na responsibilidad na makiisa sa paghahanap ng solusyon sa ating mga problema. Sa halip na maging pabigat sa ating kapwa, nawa’y gawin natin ang lahat, iambag natin ang ating maiaambag sa abot ng ating makakaya, upang sama-sama nating maiangat ang atin pong minamahal na bansa.

Nang bumisita po tayo sa bansang Hapon nitong Hunyo, marami ang nagpahayag ng kanilang paghanga sa mga repormang naisakatuparan natin sa nakalipas na limang taon. Ngunit paulit-ulit po ang tanong po nila. Ang ang tanong po’y, “Paano naman kami makakasiguro na magpapatuloy ito?” Ang tugon ko: Taumbayan ang bahala; taumbayan ang magpapatuloy ng pagbabagong sila mismo ang gumawa. Alam nila kung ano ang tama, at kung ano ang mali. Tiwala akong pipiliin nilang muli ang nararapat na pinuno, lalo pa’t nakikita nila ang resulta ng ating mabuting pamamahala.

Pinatunayan na po natin ito noong EDSA 1986, at muli nating naisakatuparan noong 2010 kung kailan nagkaisa ang taumbayang wakasan ang baluktot na kalakaran. Ngayong patapos na ang ating termino, naaalala ko po ang tanong ng marami noong Martial Law sa mga nangangambang labanan ang diktadurya: “Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa? Kung hindi ikaw, sino pa?”

Buong-buo ang kompiyansa ko: Maipagpapatuloy ng ating mga Boss ang maganda nating nasimulan. Alam nating bigyan mo lang ng tamang pagkakataon ang Pilipino, ipapakita niya ang kagalingan sa lahat ng larangan. Ang panawagan na lang sa atin ngayon: Manatiling nagbibigkis para itaguyod ang kapakanan ng kapwa, lalo na ng mas nangangailangan. Nawa’y gawin nating gabay ang nakaraan, isabuhay ang mga aral na ating natutuhan sa kasalukuyan, upang marating natin ang inaasam nating patutunguhan.

Magandang araw po. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.


[This is the English translation of the speech delivered in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, on June 12, 2015]

In our history, Independence Day has often been celebrated in Manila. This is because many of the events that led to our attainment of freedom happened in Manila and in places within its proximity. As President, I have chosen to go around the country because I am fully aware that the freedom we now enjoy was won by the actions of our countrymen from all over the Philippines. In 2011, I went to Kawit, Cavite; in 2012, I was in the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan; in 2013, we celebrated it in Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila; and last year, we went to Naga, Camarines Sur. Today, we are gathered here in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, to recognize the contributions of our countrymen in the Visayas to the fight for our freedom. Next year, we plan on heading to a province in Mindanao to gaze upon our flag there and remember the heroism of our ancestors.

Let us remember: We are an archipelago, and our many islands are divided. In fact, in the past, transportation here was limited, which meant that it was difficult to visit even neighboring towns; there was likewise no technology to accelerate communication. This is one of the reasons cited by some as to why our movements were not synchronized during the first stage of our revolution. Nevertheless, in 1898, despite these limitations, the Filipino people stood in solidarity and, together, declared independence as one Philippine nation. This serves as proof that, even back then, Filipinos could clearly tell right from wrong, and that their response to such a situation is to choose the side of right.

During the more than 300 years we were under Spanish rule, there arose a system that caused great suffering among our countrymen. For instance, there was forced labor, or what they called polo y servicio; there was the prohibition of Philippine priests to head their own parishes; there were the abuses of the Spanish civil guards, and the blatant arrests they made; there was mistreatment of prisoners, as well as widespread discrimination against Filipinos.

Our heroes in the Propaganda movement, namely Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, and your fellow Ilonggo Graciano Lopez Jaena sought to resolve this issue through reform. However, the government chose not to listen to them. Perhaps the question that our ancestors wished to ask was this: Is it too much to hope and ask for justice and a dignified life? If they had not fought, then how many generations would have been marked by suffering? Who else can the Filipino rely on but his fellow Filipino?

Their actions became a launching point for the last stage of our revolution. In 1896, Andres Bonifacio was the leader in Manila, and Emilio Aguinaldo was the leader in Cavite. In the Visayas, it was Generals Francisco del Castillo of Aklan, Esteban Contreras of Capiz, Leon Kilat of Cebu, and Martin Delgado and Teresa Magbanua of Iloilo, who led the fighting back in 1897 and 1898. It was here in Sta. Barbara where the Philippine flag was first raised outside of Luzon, back in November 17, 1898. Stitched in that flag were three stars: symbols of Luzon, Mindanao, and your island of Panay as representative of the entire Visayas region.

When the First Republic was established, the representatives from Visayas expressed their solidarity. Perhaps this was done in recognition of Apolinario Mabini’s principles, which would guide him towards supporting the establishment of our republic: “We must deal with foreigners as one unified nation, because this is the greatest shield against the abuse of power.”

One hundred and seventeen years have passed since we declared independence. We have truly freed ourselves from the bonds of colonizers. On the other hand, we now face a new challenge: combating corruption and poverty in our country. It is clear: it is through unity that our heroes won our freedom, and it is also through unity that we will likewise overcome the challenges of today.

We began to tread the straight and righteous path to reestablish a government that truly works for its people, and that truly represents their concerns. Our promise: Our growth will leave no one behind, whether in Luzon, Visayas, or in Mindanao. Each Filipino will benefit from our development. We cannot have a situation where only those at the top can improve their lots in life, while other are left to fend for themselves.

How are we accomplishing this meaningful objective? In a very simple, clear way: We have expanded the horizon of opportunities for our countrymen, while enabling more and more of them to have the wherewithal to maximize the benefits of good governance. An example of this is what we are doing through the Conditional Cash Transfer Program. Cash grants are provided to our countrymen from the margins of society, based on conditions that will ensure hardships will not be passed on to the next generation. Part of such conditions is making sure children go to school. Throughout the country, over 4.4 million households benefit from this program—904,725 of which are in Visayas, and 94,190 of which are here in Iloilo.

Another example: We all know the benefit of a working irrigation system for our farmers. Here in Iloilo, we are constructing the Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project. This is a major undertaking, and it was conceptualized in the year that I was born. For the longest time, this beneficial project was nothing but an unfulfilled promise; under our administration, we have worked to make this project a reality. For this reason, we could not help but think: If this project was completed long before we came into office, how many thousands of farmers could have benefitted and could have had better lives because of working irrigation?

You have most likely heard of the initiative we advanced for our countrymen in the nearby provinces of Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental: Recently, I signed an Executive Order creating the Negros Island Region, which brings the two provinces under one regional grouping. Consider this: those two provinces, which belong to the same island, were in the past part of two different regions. This meant that while they were in one island, and shared the same set of concerns, they had to share resources with provinces from other regions to address those problems. With the One Island Region, the allocation of funds by government for this single region becomes more focused. Thus, our countrymen there benefit faster and more directly from the projects implemented within the region: Those from Negros need not cross the sea to receive services meant for them. Another good thing about this is that the regions that used to share resources with the Negros provinces will be able to maximize the benefits of government in a faster manner, precisely because the services are more focused towards their constituencies.

All the stakeholders have agreed that this initiative will redound to the benefit of the majority. We listened to the voices of our countrymen in these provinces; theirs was a position expressed by their leaders—from the captains of local communities, to their governors and representatives—and even by local chambers of commerce. This is why, when Secretary Mar Roxas put forward this suggestion, and after all the necessary consultations were undertaken, we took action by signing the Executive Order. You know, Mar Roxas, a true son of Panay, advanced this initiative. Like in the past, we know that whenever we task Mar Roxas to lead a project or program, you can expect that initiative will succeed.

Indeed, I am confident that so long as we continue to tread the straight and righteous path, we will be able to continue the positive changes we experience at present. In this period of evolving technology and social media, we have the greater wherewithal, and the deeper responsibility to contribute in finding solutions to our shared problems. It is my hope that, instead of being a burden to our fellowman, we would do our utmost, contribute what we could to the best of our abilities, so that we may collectively uplift our whole nation.

On my recent visit to Japan this June, many expressed praise for the reforms implemented under our watch, all within five years. However, theirs was a recurring question: How will we ensure that the reforms we set in place will be continued? My response to them: It is up to the Filipino people; they will continue the change, which they themselves started. They know what is right, from what is wrong. I am optimistic that they will choose the right leader, especially because they have seen what our agenda of good governance brings.

Our nation has demonstrated this truth in EDSA in 1986, and we demonstrated this once more in 2010 when the Filipino people came together to put an end to the crooked ways of the past. Now that we are nearing the end of our term, I remember what those who stood up against Martial Law would ask to those who hesitated to stand up against the dictatorship: “If not now, when? If not you, who?”

I am certain: Our Bosses will continue what we started. We know full well that, if you give them the right opportunities, the Filipino people will demonstrate excellence in every endeavor. The call to us today: Let us remain steadfast and unified in advancing the welfare of our fellowmen, especially those most in need. May we be guided by the past, and may we live out the lessons we have learned today, so that we may reach the destination that we have long desired as one people.

Thank you, and good day.

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