Philippine Independence Day

On Independence Day, senators urge Filipinos: Unite vs threats to PH sovereignty

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On Independence Day, senators urge Filipinos: Unite vs threats to PH sovereignty

File photo of Senator Risa Hontiveros

Angie de Silva/Rappler

'My kababayan, our freedom is being tested. Ngayong Araw ng Kalayaan, inuudyukan ko ang lahat na magsama-sama at matapang na tumindig para protektahan ang ating pambansang interes,' says opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – On the 126th commemoration of Philippine independence, some members of the Senate rallied Filipinos to unite against threats to the national interest, especially attempts to undermine Philippine sovereignty.

Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros urged unity among Filipinos to protect the national interest amid the continued aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea, and a wide range of threats posed by Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

“My kababayan, our freedom is being tested. Ngayong Araw ng Kalayaan, inuudyukan ko ang lahat na magsama-sama at matapang na tumindig para protektahan ang ating pambansang interes,” Hontiveros said in a statement on June 12.

(My fellowmen, our freedom is being tested. On Independence Day, I urge everyone to unite and to bravely make a stand to protect our national interest.)

“Patuloy nating ipaglaban ang ating karapatan sa ating teritoryo at labanan ang lahat ng pagtatangkang agawin ito mula sa atin at lahat ng likas yaman na nandito,” the opposition senator added.

(Let us continue to fight our our rights in our territory and to fight all attempts to steal it from us along with all the natural resources there.)

She noted the “continued encroachment of China in the West Philippine Sea” as well as the “nonstop harassment of our fishermen, Coast Guard, and Navy” in the area. Hontiveros said that these fisherfolk and uniformed personnel “risk their safety and lives every time they go out to sea, even if they should have no fear in traversing our seas.”

Over the past months, China came under criticism of the international community over its actions against Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea, especially resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

Hontiveros also reiterated her call to free the country from POGOs as the Senate continues its probe into their illegal activities. Earlier this year, senators found out that surveillance activities and even the hacking of government websites were traceable to the raided POGO firms in Bamban, Tarlac.

“Malaking banta rin sa ating pambansang seguridad ang presensya ng mga POGOs, na naging pugad pa ng pang-aabuso at krimen ng mga dayuhan. Dapat ma-ban na ang POGO sa Pilipinas,” she said.

(The presence of POGOs is also a big threat to our national security as they have become a breeding ground of abuse and crimes by foreigners. POGOs should be banned in the Philippines.)

‘True spirit of freedom’

Several other senators framed their Independence Day message in the context of China’s incursions and actions in the West Philippine Sea.

“Sa paggunita ng ika-126 na anibersaryo ng Araw ng Kalayaan, ipakita natin sa buong mundo ang ating pagkakaisa at determinasyon sa pagtatanggol ng ating karapatan, mga likas na yaman, at teritoryong ating nasasakupan,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada.

(In commemorating the 126th anniversary of Independence Day, let us show the whole world our unity and determination to safeguard our rights, our natural resources, and our territory.)

“Ang pagmamalasakit sa isa’t isa ay ang pinakamalakas nating sandata laban sa mga dayuhang pwersa na nagnanais baguhin ang ating teritoryo at pahinain ang ating soberanya. Ang tunay na diwa ng kalayaan ay ang pagiging handa na ipaglaban ito sa tuwing hinahamon tayo,” Estrada added.

(Caring for one another is our strongest weapon against foreign forces that seek to change our territory and weaken our sovereignty. The true spirit of freedom is the readiness to fight for it whenever we are challenged.)

In a Facebook post accompanied by a photo of a fisherman at sea, Senate Majority Leader Francis Tolentino said: “Mga ‘Tol, ngayong June 12 ay ang tanda ng pagsusumikap natin na ipaglaban ang ating karapatan kung ano ang para sa atin. Atin ang karapatan na maglayag sa ating teritoryo. Atin ang karapatan na maghanapbuhay para sa ating pamilya.”

(My countrymen, this June 12 is a reminder of our hard work to fight for our right to what is ours. We have the right to sail in our territory. We have the right to make a living for our families.”

In April, China Coast Guard personnel harassed Filipino fishermen who were setting up their fishing devices in the vicinity of Recto Bank.

Former Senate president Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri urged all Filipinos to “do their part” in helping ensure a “truly free Philippines – free not only from occupation but also from corruption, hunger, and poverty.”

Meanwhile, Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero called on Filipinos to emulate the courage of the country’s heroes who fought for Philippine independence.

“Ang kalayaan na ating tinatamasa ngayon ay bunga ng mga sakripisyo at katapangan ng ating mga bayani. Nawa’y magsilbi itong inspirasyon sa atin upang patuloy na magsumikap para sa isang mas magandang bukas,” he said.

(The freedom that we enjoy today is the fruit of the sacrifices and courage of our heroes. May this serve as an inspiration for us to strive for a better future.)

“Sa paggunita natin sa mahalagang araw na ito, isapuso natin ang diwa ng kalayaan, hindi lamang bilang alaala kundi bilang gabay sa pagtahak sa landas ng pag-unlad at pagbabago,” Escudero added.

(As we commemorate this important day, let’s take to heart the spirit of freedom, not just as a mere memory but as a guide in our path to progress and change.) – Bonz Magsambol/Rappler.com

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