Trust in the Filipino
Prayer Rally, Rizal Park, Manila
September 21, 1997
Twenty-five years ago, the President of the Philippines blew out the light of democracy and covered the nation in darkness. Congress was padlocked and the Supreme Court put under the gun. Journalists were picked up, newspapers were shut down. The public was blindfolded and gagged, and the country was robbed. Robbed for 14 years without let-up or hindrance, without limit or shame. Some of the best and brightest of our youth disappeared.
Why? Because the President of the Philippines then wanted to change the Constitution so he could stay in power beyond the legal term.
Fourteen years later, millions of Filipinos gathered in massive act of civil disobedience to send a single short message from this place: Tama na, sobra na…never mind the rest. One week later, His eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin called on those millions again to form a human shield around Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile, because they had joined our fight for democracy.
The flame of freedom burned again.
Today, there is a dark wind blowing across our country again…the wind of ambition, a gathering storm of tyranny. We are here to shield that flame so that the light of democracy will not go out in our country again.
Tulad po noong kapanahunan ng mungkahi tungkol sa Charter change upang magkaroon ng term extension. Sa Kongreso, sa Lower House, nakita natin kung paano minamanipula ang pag-uusap tungkol sa Charter change – pinasusulong at pinatitigil na para bang robot o puppet ang karamihan ng Congressmen.
Buo po ang aking paniniwala na kung meron nang people power noong 1972, hindi na sana nagkaroon ng martial law. Hindi na sana kailangan pang magbuwis ng libu-libong buhay, magsara ng diyaryo, radyo at TV, mandakip at magkulong ng walang warrant of arrest, manakit at magpahirap ng di-mabilang na kabataan at propesyonal, manakot ng milyun-milyong Pilipino upang manatili lamang ang isang Pangulo ng Malakanyang.
That is why we are here – to tell the people who want to stay in power, by martial law or Charter change; no way and never again. Do your worst, we will do our best to stop you. And we, the people will prevail.
Hindi po sa tumututol tayo basta sa pagpalit ng ating Saligang Batas. Kung sa kapasiyahan ng karamihan ay kailangang may sapat palitan sa ating Konstitusyon, palitan po natin ngayon.
But not now – hindi ngayon. And not to profit the people in power today. Not by fake initiatives and not by congressional resolutions favoring the last-term congressmen who made the self-serving resolutions.
Dapat siguro nating ipaalala sa ating mga Congressman at iba pang pulitiko na ang kapangyarihang hawak nila pansamantala ay dapat gamitin lamang sa kabutihan ng bayan, hindi sa pansariling kapakanan.
But we are here not only to fight Charter change for term extensions, we are here also to fight the amnesia that will let the old enemies of democracy ambush it again. This is the amnesia that Cardinal Sin, the godfather of Filipino freedom, warns us against.
Pero parang kulang naman kung puro protesta, at madilim na pag paggunita lamang ang ating gagawin dito. Noon pong nagpupulong and organizing committee tungkol sa rally nating ito, mayroon pong nagtanong: ano raw po ang nararapat na mood ng raling ito? Should the mood be sad for the day democracy died 25 years ago? Or should the mood be happy because we are free to commemorate that tragic event in freedom again?
Akin naman pong naisip: Saan ba kayo nakakita ng mga Pilipinong nagtipun-tipon – ke rebolusyon, piyesta o burol man man – na hindi tayo nagsasaya? Marapat lamang naman na tayo ay magsaya at magdiwang. Dahil meron pa tayong kalayaan, marami tayo na nagkakaisa ang diwa. At dahil sa diwa naman nating ito, wala na sigurong susubok na sirain na naman ang ating Saligang Batas para sa pansariling kabutihan ng iilang pulitiko lamang. Let us therefore celebrate the unity that makes the people power.
We are many, we are free, we are committed, and we are strong. We are people power once more. We triumphed over tyranny before; tyranny cannot triumph over us again – not while we are many, vigilant and united.
And that is how we must remain. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance because the hunger of tyranny is never satisfied. We cannot give an inch, because tyranny will take a mile. We cannot yield one right or compromise one freedom, because dictatorship, tasting one, will want it all.
Nobody likes a fight, nobody wants trouble. Filipinos are a peaceful, loving people. Tomorrow we want to return to work and make up what we lost by devaluation. But if we were not here today, we would need to be here every day thereafter because there will be no peace, no life, no work and no hope. Cardinal Sin and I, and all who are here, must hope that this rally is all it will take – to stop Charter change and let the people pick the successor of President Fidel Ramos in 1998.
But if it is not enough, we are prepared.
Hangga’t ako ay nabubuhay, lalabanan ko ang bawat makikita kong tangkang pagwasak sa ating demokrasya. Naranasan ko na ang maging biyuda dahil sa pulitika. Wala na sanang kahit na isang maybahay pa na kailangang tangisan ang pagkawala ng kanyang asawa upang maibalik lamang ang demokrasya. Bago pa humantong diyan sa ganyang pakikibaka, magsalita na tayo, magdasal na tayo, mag-ingay na tayo, magmartsa na tayo. Sabihin natin, hindi na tayo papayag na mawala pang muli ang ating kalayaan na pinagbuwisan ng maraming buhay.
The Filipino people paid for democracy with blood, sweat and tears. They will not accept the false article of self-serving popular initiatives as a real example of democracy.
We are here again as we were in EDSA in 1986. People-Prayer Power 1986 and People-Prayer Power 1997. We want to impress upon the leaders of today and tomorrow, that we will come here as often as needed to remind them that they are the servants, not the masters, of the people.
Let us take this occasion to warn the Presidentiables of the greatest danger they will face when they succeed in their quest. Power intoxicates; too much power is addictive. And there will always be power drug dealers who will feed your habit as President.
They will say you are right, when you are wrong. They will say you are successful, when you fail, and will insist you are indispensable, although you are just one of 70 million Filipinos who gave you the rare privilege to be their servant but only for your elected term. They will say that nobody can take your place, when what they mean is that they do not want to give up their places.
Let me tell you now, the presidency is so great an honor, no one deserves to have it again. It imposes a duty so important – to guide a whole country and protect a whole nation – that you must do it well. And if you did it well, you won’t deserve to do it again. Doing your job well was your duty and not a special favor to the country.
There is a secret I would like to share. The honor of the Presidency is so great, no one needs to have it more once. The honor sticks to you. A president is never forgotten, whether he is good or bad. Better to be remembered as good one.
Kung sa inyong puso ay mayroong pagnanasang tumagal pa sa kapangyarihan, magiging baluktot ang tingin ninyo sa katotohanan. Gagamitin kahit anong dahilan, gagawin kahit anong paraan, manatili lamang sa inyong puwesto. Kaya po sa pagpapasya, ang conflict of interest ay talagang dapat iwasan.
Let this be the litmus test of all who seek to be President: an oath – here and now – that nothing they do shall benefit themselves, whether running the country, upholding the laws or changing the Constitution when necessary.
We the citizens must therefore make sure that we demand these from our leaders.
Bukod pa rito mahalaga rin ang mapangalagaan natin ang proseso ng halalan. Ang dapat lamang pangambahan ay ang dayaan at dagdag-bawas. We should respect the people’s choice.
Finally, to the man I supported in 1992, my friend, our President, Fidel V. Ramos, I say:
No work is ever finished, and good work is hard to let go. But you made your name in history even before you became President, when you joined the people’s fight for democracy, and stood by me in its defense.
You will be remembered for the stability you established, for the economic progress you achieved; above all, for the confidence you restored in our country throughout the world. The downturn of the economy will pass, but the gratitude of the nation will abide for the man who raised it up and held it there.
Marami ka nang nagawa, kaibigan kong Presidente. Marami ka ng dapat ipagmalaki.
I think we both know that the real saviors of this country are the people and not any of us.
Trust the good people of our country to continue your good work. I trusted in you when my term was over. Trust in the Filipino.