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MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Several lawmakers issued their statements as the Philippines commemorated Araw ng Kalayaan or Independence Day on Tuesday, June 12.
Opposition legislators believe the country is facing modern-day threats to freedom 120 years since the declaration of the Philippine Independence from Spain. (READ: Robredo urges Filipinos to fight modern-day threats to freedom)
Most glaring was the opposition lawmakers’ condemnation of the government’s inaction over China’s militarization of the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Duterte on Independence Day: Protect democracy, cherish PH sovereignty)
Other legislators also said human rights violations, poverty, and bad working conditions are among the issues hounding Filipinos’ freedom today.
Still, several senators gave a more generic message on Independence Day, urging the youth to emulate the examples set forth by Filipino heroes.
Here are excerpts from the lawmakers’ Independence Day messages:
On opposing Chinese militarization of the West Philippine Sea
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano
“Today, China, an emerging world superpower, has been trampling on our sovereignty with their incursions in our territory in the West Philippine Sea. And the Duterte administration’s response has been wanting, resorting to secret diplomacy which is characterized as inaction and silence to China’s transgressions. Instead, the Duterte administration continues to tout China as our savior, a friend and neighbor willing to lend us money that in reality may later enslave this nation.
“This could very well make Independence Day celebration of the Philippines as a sovereign state merely a ceremony devoid of spirit given the rapid fashion of Chinese encroachment into our territory and our economy; the continuous bullying and harassment done to our fishermen and troops; and the blatant selling out of the Duterte administration to its Chinese masters.
Senator Francis Pangilinan
“Ngayong Araw ng Kalayaan, naghahanap ng kasagutan ang mga tanong na ito: Duyan tayo ng magiting, sumpa natin ay hindi tayo pasisiil pero bakit tila alipin umasta sa harap ng China ang mga namumuno? Bakit nila isinasantabi ang mga pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayang mangingisda? Nasaan ang pagtupad sa sinumpaang tungkuling pangalagaan at proteksyunan ang mga karapatan nating mamamayang pinagmumulan ng kanilang kapangyarihan?
“Why are our leaders kowtowing to a neighbor at the expense of our own people, our own waters, our own self-respect?”
Senator Leila de Lima
“Kalayaan ba na maging dayuhan sa Pilipinas ang mga Pilipinong mangingisda? Silang kapos na nga ang ikinabubuhay, ninanakaw pa ng banyaga ang pinagtrabahuan. Kalayaan ba ang pagkakaroon ng isang gobyernong duwag sa isyu ng pang-aagaw sa ating teritoryo, pero napakatapang naman sa pagbusal sa bibig ng mga kritiko at pagsupil sa malayang pamamahayag? Kalayaan ba ang pambabastos at pagyurak sa dignidad ng kababaihan, at garapalang pagbalewala sa karapatan ng mga nasa laylayan – mga maralitang pinapatay na nga sa gutom at kahirapan ay kinikitil pa ng karahasang inuudyukan mismo ng pamahalaan. Na habang nagkakandakuba ang marami sa paghahanap-buhay, sa mababang pasahod, pagtaas ng mga bilihin, sa di-matapos-tapos na “Endo” ay sila pang nasasagasaan ng “marahas” na buwis sa ilalim ng TRAIN Law. At idagdag pa sa mga pagdurusang ito, pinalulusot ng gobyerno ang mga kaalyado at kamag-anak nilang mapang-abuso at magnanakaw; habang patuloy ang pagmanipula sa sistema ng katarungan bilang pagsunod sa dikta ng nasa kapangyarihan.
“Hindi ito kalayaan. Hindi ito ang tama para sa Pilipino. Hindi ito ang nararapat para sa Pilipinas. Ang dapat nating gawin: Palakasin pa ang ating pagkakaisa at paigtingin ang ating pakikipaglaban para sa tunay na kalayaan, demokrasya at pangingibabaw ng batas. Sama-sama, ibangon natin ang Pilipinas mula sa matinding kahihiyan, kasinungalingan at kabuktutan. “
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV
“Ipinagdiriwang natin ang Araw ng Kalayaan ngunit marami sa mga kapatid nating mangingisda ay hindi malayang mangisda sa sarili nating karagatan. Ninanakawan na at inaapi ang ating mga kapatid na mangingisda ngunit tila walang ginagawa ang pamahalaan para protektahan ang kanilang kapakanan.
“We shouldn’t need China’s permission to fish in our own waters. If Malacañang will not side with the Filipino people on this issue, then the Senate can take the lead in defending our country.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros
“Palpak at isang malaking banta sa ating kasarinlan ang palasukong foreign policy ni Pangulong Duterte. Palpak itong ipagtanggol ang kaligtasan at kabuhayan ng ating mga mangingisda. Palpak itong ipaglaban ang soberenya at teritorya ng bansa.
“It is a complete foreign policy disaster. It has squandered our historic victory at the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal. It betrays our heroes’ struggle for independence against foreign colonizers. It is a policy of annexation to a foreign power.”
Gabriela Representative Emmi de Jesus
“Philippine independence has never been this cheap under President Duterte’s brazen subservience to foreign powers. Puwede palang noodles at yosi lang ang kapalit ng kalayaang ipinaglaban nina Gabriela Silang at ibang bayani.
“Hindi lang isda ang ninanakaw sa ating mga mangingisda sa tuwing may harassment at panggigipit sa kanila ng mga Tsino sa West Philippine Sea. Ninanakaw din ang ating kalayaan at ang ating dignidad bilang isang bansang tumindig at lumaban sa mga mananakop. Kaya insulto na ipagmalaki pa ng Palasyo na binigyan naman daw ng noodles at yosi ang mga mangingisdang inagawan ng huli.”
Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao
“Celebrating Independence Day is hollow and meaningless until the country is liberated from any foreign influence and intervention and our people are fully enjoying their basic socio-economic and political rights. Those are the essence of independence, not the flag raising ceremonies while the government kowtows to the interest of every foreign power that comes along.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez
“Previously America was our only friend. When Pres. Duterte came into power he became friends with everyone. He befriended China, he befriended Russia, he befriended Korea, he befriended other nations in the world.
“Our President’s only wish is for the peace and development of our country,” Alvarez said as he expressed support for the administration’s foreign policy. And we can say we are truly an independent nation because we now have the power to chart our own destiny.”
On human rights, poverty, bad working conditions
Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas
“It’s as if Malacanang is also saying that Filipinos should be contented with noodles in exchange for whatever that is robbed from them. This illustrates how our lives have also become so cheap with the unabated price hikes and stagnant wages under Duterte….
“The country is now at 120 years since the supposed independence but Filipinos continue to reel from widespread poverty, mendicant foreign policy, and brutal killings which are condoned by the state. There is no cause for celebration today except the continuing struggle of women and people for genuine independence.”
Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago
“Ngayong araw ng huwad na kalayaan, ang ating laban para sa pambansang soberanya ay laban para sa ating mga karapatan at hustisya. Ang usapin ng kalayaan ng bansa ngayon ay usapin ng kalayaan ng bayan, kalayaan ng mamamayang Pilipino. Dahil sino nga ba ang tunay na malaya kung ang nangangahas magsalita laban sa inhustisya ay binubusalan ng isang administrasyong takot na takot sa mamamayang nakikibaka?
“In a country where the response to dissent is death and persecution, where the responses to legitimate concerns are bullets, where the innocent is presumed guilty, but the guilty, rich, and powerful are allowed to run scot-free, can we even say we are truly free?”
Senator Joel Villanueva
“Sa kasalukuyan, nawa ay makamtam natin ang kalayaan mula sa kahirapan at hindi kanais-nais na kalagayan ng paggawa.
“Tayo po sa Senado ay patuloy na kumikilos upang makalaya ang ating mga manggagawa mula sa gapos ng pangaabuso sa paggawa katulad ng ‘endo’ at tanikala ng mapanganib na lugar ng paggawa.
“Sa gabay ng ating Panginoong Diyos, sama-sama po tayong maging modernong bayani – magsikap at magtulungan para sa kapakanan ng kapwa natin Pilipino at kaunlaran ng ating Inang Bayan.”
Senator Sonny Angara
“Despite the country’s positive economic growth in recent years, millions of Filipinos still live in extreme poverty. This is the kind of war that we continue to fight. It is a war that does not require the use of high caliber weapons, but a heart of compassion and caring for others.
“We should not allow the dream of most of our countrymen to get out of poverty and live a good life to remain a dream.
“If we were able unite to achieve independence from foreign invaders more than a hundred years ago, there is no reason for us not to join together again to bring each other to progress.”
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III
“We cannot falter in securing the gains we have made since our independence. Filipinos must use their political rights to empower their countrymen, especially the poor and needy.
“We have bold solutions available, such as Federalism, but it can only do so much. Ultimately, bringing our country from the Third World to the First World requires constant effort on our part to select good leaders, to always put the interests of the country first, and eternal vigilance in holding our leaders accountable for their actions.”
On illegal drugs
Senate President Vicente Sotto III
“Drug dependency is the real scourge of our country. That is what we should work for, independence from drugs! Some are worried about China, about the economy, when the real enemy is drug dependency. There is one or at least affected by one in every Filipino family.”
On preserving Filipino identity and culture
Senator Loren Legarda
“I urge Filipinos all over the globe to embrace change. It is inevitable and it is part of growth and development, both as individuals and as a country. Move forward, take in all the new things that this rapidly changing world has to offer.
“But in the midst all of these changes and developments, always make sure that you will never lose your mark and identity because it is what makes you Filipino. It is what has brought you to where you are today.
“What is also important is to make sure that changes or reforms – whether economic, political, social, environmental, among others – do not become an excuse to place other people or another sector at a disadvantage or be neglected.”
On the Filipinos today emulating the heroes from history
Senator Grace Poe
“Ngayong ika-120 taong Araw ng Kalayaan, pinararangalan natin ang magigiting na Pilipinong nag-alay ng kanilang panahon, lakas, at buhay upang mabuhay tayong malaya at mapayapa bilang isang bansa. Maging inspirasyon nawa ang kabayanihan ng mga nauna sa atin sa kasalukuyang henerasyon para magsikap tayong ipagtanggol at itaguyod ang mga kalayaan at karapatang binayaran ng ating mga ninuno sa sarili nilang pawis at dugo.”
Senator Richard Gordon
“Today we mark our Independence Day. We must give recognition and honor to our heroes who sacrificed their lives for our country to be free from the colonial invaders. But we must also take time to ask ourselves: ‘Have we continued what they have started and worked hard for the Philippines to become truly independent?'”
“We should look at our neighbors’ capability and look at our own intentions. What is our national interest? Kaya ba nating ipagtanggol ang ating bansa? The struggle for independence is a struggle for Bagumbayan – a new country. Dr. Jose Rizal did not see it but he meant for us to build it. And if it’s to be, it must be up to us.”
Senator Win Gatchalian
“One hundred twenty years after the declaration of Philippine Independence, the courageous spirit of the Revolution lives on in hearts and minds of patriotic citizens who refuse to relent in the pursuit of liberty, justice, and prosperity for all Filipinos.
“Despite all the challenges facing our great nation, we must never waver in our commitment to nation-building.
“Armed with the courageous spirit of our forefathers, there is nothing that the Filipino people cannot accomplish.” – Rappler.com