MANILA, Philippines – On Independence Day, President Rodrigo Duterte called on Filipinos to “cherish” the Philippines’ sovereignty and democracy.
“By cherishing the sovereignty that is borne out of the sweat and blood of our heroes, we stand firm and unwavering in our conviction to create a brighter and better future for all Filipinos – regardless of their status in life,” said Duterte in his 2018 Independence Day message.
The Philippine President also called on Filipinos to protect the “democratic ideals” Filipino patriots have fought for.
“May we also find the courage to defend our cherished democratic ideals now and in the years to come,” said Duterte. (READ: Duterte: Running a democratic country not an easy task)
He described the historic occasion marked every June 12 as the “foundation of the liberties we enjoy today.”
“Through the patriotic fervor shown by our forefathers, we have freed ourselves from colonial subjugation and proved to the world that we stand united as the pioneer of republican democracy in Asia,” said Duterte.
His message comes amid worries over China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea which critics say directly threaten Philippine sovereignty or sovereign rights.
China Coast Guard personnel have been caught on camera taking catch from Filipino fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
China has also landed bombers in the Paracel Islands, a location that puts Manila and key military bases within their combat range. Last month, a China chopper also harassed a Philippine Navy boat on a resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.
After a Chinese government plane landed in Davao City supposedly in order to “refuel,” Senator Panfilo Lacson quipped that Filipinos might one day wake up to a Philippines colonized by China. He had pointed out that there are specific conditions for allowing a foreign state aircraft to use Philippine airspace.
“What if a hundred Chinese military aircraft suddenly request to refuel simultaneously?…. We might all wake up a colony again, this time by China,” said the lawmaker.
Duterte’s call for the protection of democratic tenets also comes amid criticism that the President has weakened the country’s democratic institutions and that he is stifling dissent. (READ: New charter should ban Duterte reelection ‘to protect democracy’)
The Philippine leader has made vicious verbal attacks against former Supreme Court chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, opposition senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV, and critical media outlets.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Diego García-Sayán has said that the ouster of Sereno, preceded by Duterte’s threats against her, proves “the independence of justice in the Philippines is under attack.”
Duterte’s accusations against De Lima, one of his fiercest critics in Congress, were also followed by a government investigation and her arrest.
Below is Duterte’s 2018 Independence Day message in full:
I join the Filipino people in celebrating the 120th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence.
This historic day forms the foundation of the liberties we enjoy today. Through the patriotic fervor shown by our forefathers, we have freed ourselves from colonial subjugation and proved to the world that we stand united as the pioneer of republican democracy in Asia.
May the solidarity and heroism exhibited by our ancestors fuel our desire to spur meaningful and lasting change in our communities as we collectively battle the social ills of corruption, illegal drugs and criminality that impede our progress as a nation. By cherishing the sovereignty that is borne out of the sweat and blood of our heroes, we stand firm and unwavering in our conviction to create a brighter and better future for all Filipinos – regardless of their status in life.
Inspired by the sacrifices of those who have bravely stood before us, may we also find the courage to defend our cherished democratic ideals now and in the years to come.
May we all have a meaningful observance of Independence Day.
Rodrigo Roa Duterte
President of the Philippines