Duterte pays tribute to patriots during Independence Day rites in Lanao del Sur

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night, June 12, explained why he commemorated the country’s Independence Day in Malabang, Lanao del Sur, instead of more traditional venues such as Cavite.

Duterte said he was deeply honored to lead the celebration of the 121st Philippine Independence Day "right here at the heart of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao."

"It was here in Malabang, Lanao del Sur that then Acting President, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, was executed by the Japanese for refusing to cooperate with them during the invasion of the Philippines," Duterte said in his speech, calling Santos "a true patriot even to the last moment."

He said it was also fitting to commemorate Independence Day at the the headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Battalion, as the "Redskin Battalion" has been engaged in the government’s fight against the Dawiah Islamiyah, the Maute Group, "and other lawless elements that continue to threaten the region."

"On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank the brave men and women of the Redskin Battalion for your bravery, selflessness service, and unconditional love of country. Your valor has indeed earned you a place among the valiant heroes who built this nation 121 years ago," Duterte said.

He continued, "Today, let us pay tribute to our patriots – both from the past and the present – by safeguarding the democratic institutions that were built from the rubble of the wars that gave rise to our heroes."

The President said that while past heroes faced "the might of colonial powers," the country today faces "modern problems of poverty, corruption, environmental degradation, terrorism, criminality, and illegal drugs."

"These threats, just like the threats our nation faced centuries ago, have infringed on our inalienable right to live peaceful, safe, comfortable, and meaningful lives. We are at a crucial juncture in our nation’s history, and we need to learn from the lessons of our past if we are to [ensure] that these threats do not cause any more harm to the present and future generations of Filipinos," he added.

In his speech, Duterte talked about how, in history, both Moros and Christians "fought foreign domination."

He also talked about the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which was ratified in January.

"Now that you have the BOL I guarantee you, exploit your resources. Madaliin na ninyo. Ang sabi ninyong Liguasan Marsh, walang makialam niyan, inyo 'yan (no one will intervene with that, that's yours). That was my commitment to you," he said.

You don’t have the money, look for partners, exploit your territory of the riches. Para 'yan sa mga anak ninyo, hindi na 'yan para sa inyo (That is for your children and no longer for you). That was really reserved for our children. Exploit it. Exploit the natural resources and make the Moro rich," he said.

In a separate Independence Day message released earlier on Wednesday, Duterte said he hopes for true independence for the country "within our lifetimes." – Rappler.com