Aquino to Chilean president: I found a 'kindred spirit' in you
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III warmly welcomed Chilean President Michelle Bachelet for her first-ever state visit to the Philippines on Monday, November 16, in Malacañang Palace.
Aquino said the two countries share “unique experiences.” Both were colonized by Spanish rulers, have an influential Catholic Church, and are frequented by natural disasters.
Aquino admitted he found a special connection with Bachelet, citing their similar experiences under military rule.
“In you, Madam President, I can say, I find a kindred spirit. You yourself experienced what it was like to stand up to a dictatorship, and thus demonstrated the solidarity and sacrifice required to build a vibrant democracy, together with your people,” Aquino told Bachelet during his speech at the state luncheon.
Bachelet, a doctor by profession, fought the military regime in Chile in the 1970s. Similar to Aquino’s experience, her father was arrested by a dictator. Bachelet herself was tortured but released into exile in 1975, before returning to her country.
Aquino, for his part, is the son of former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr, the political nemesis of former president Ferdinand Marcos.
“As individuals who had to endure hardship and exile under our countries’ dictatorial regimes, you and I know full well the terror that tyranny brings. And by regaining our liberties, our function has been to make democracy inclusive for everyone,” Aquino said.
He then added: “It is my belief that, if we fail to do so, there might be that temptation for some quarters to return to some form of authoritarianism.”
The Latin American president had nothing but agreeable words for Aquino.
“As you said so correctly, Mr. President, Chile and the Philippines, the Philippines and Chile share common values and principles. We believe in democracy and human rights, and shared prosperity,” she said.
The diplomatic ties between the two nations go a long way back, as Bachelet said the Philippines is the first Southeast Asian nation to have ties with Chile in 1946.
"This visit is of great importance for both our countries since, next year, we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Chile and the Philippines," Bachelet said.
While the two nations and its leaders have undeniable similarities, they have stark differences as well.
Aquino and his family are Catholics while Bachelet is a self-professed agnostic or one who believes it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God.
Bachelet, a single mother, has long been divorced from her previous marriage – something that seems impossible in a devoutly Catholic nation such as the Philippines.
The Philippines is the only country in the world, outside the Vatican, which still prohibits divorce. – Rappler.com