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SPEECHES: POST-PRESIDENCY
 

On the 22nd Death Anniversary of Ninoy
 

Manila Memorial Park
August 21, 2005 

Good morning to you all.  Thank you for joining me and my family in recalling that day 22 years ago when my husband, Ninoy Aquino, put his life on the line for our beloved country—and how that sacrifice paved the way for the rebirth of our democracy.

Alam nyo po, tuwing ginugunita ang kamatayan ni Ninoy, naghahalo sa loob ko ang sari-saring damdamin.

Sa isang dako, siyempre, nalulungkot ako, una, dahil wala na siya sa piling naming mag-anak at, pangalawa, dahil hanggang ngayon ay di pa natin natatanggap ang ganap na katarungan hinggil sa pagpaslang kay Ninoy.

Sa kabilang dako, napapangiti ako dahil, tuwing sumasapit ang araw na ito, may pagkakataon akong bulungan muli ang aking palabirong asawa:  “Ninoy, naisahan mo talaga ako!”  Basta umakyat na lamang siya sa langit at pinaubaya niya sa akin di lamang ang pagpapalaki ng aming mga anak kundi pati na rin ang kanyang di-natapos na misyon para sa ating bayan.

Higit sa lahat, napupuno ako ng galak at inspirasyon dahil sa araw na ito noong 1983 napukaw ang damdamin ng mga Pilipino—at ito’y unti-unting umuusbong bilang People Power.

Since that time, we Filipinos have had mixed feelings about People Power.

Because of what happened in 1986 and 2001, many have developed the notion that People Power is something we summon only in times of political crisis.  But I believe there is another dimension of People Power.

This other dimension of People Power is equally important and is in fact what sustained my Presidency.  I refer to the thousands of selfless and oftentimes faceless Filipinos who have been quietly empowering their less fortunate brethren all over the country.  They embody the kind of People Power that will make our democracy endure and prosper.

That is why, two years ago during the 20th-year commemoration of Ninoy’s passing, the Aquino Foundation gave recognition to what we call “People Power People”.  We began by paying tribute to an initial set of 20 organizations, ranging from the Couples for Christ for their widespread Gawad Kalinga initiative to the Naga City government for its bold People Empowerment Program.  Last year, we focused on honoring dynamic youth groups along the same mold, as a way of symbolically passing the People Power torch to a new generation of Filipinos on Ninoy’s 21st death anniversary.

This year, we are honoring four organizations who, as you saw from the video, represent part of an industry that is uplifting the lives of over a million and a half households in some of our poorest communities.  The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD), TSPI Development Corporation, the Center for Community Transformation and ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation are all microfinance institutions—or MFIs—which do more than just provide affordable livelihood loans to the poor.  Above all, they are vehicles for restoring the dignity and self-worth of the downtrodden.  They are strengthening the fabric of our society by restoring spirituality, national pride and core family values in thousands of humble homes.  And they are boosting the economy by sowing the seeds of grassroots entrepreneurship.    

Recognizing these MFIs as People Power People comes with a note of urgency during these troubled times when our nation is beset once again by political turmoil and economic distress.  As this uncertain period drags on, we all know that the hardest hit will be our poor countrymen.  And this is where the role of MFIs becomes very critical because they have a track record of getting poor households to uplift themselves even amid conditions that, to most of us, look like breeding grounds for hopelessness and despair.

Highlighting these MFIs is also vital for another reason.  Desperate times spawn a frantic search for models of leaders and constituencies working closely together towards a better future.  A common thread that weaves the success of the MFIs is the trust that leaders and clients have developed towards each other.  At every level, the micro-finance environment is full of exemplary Filipinos who value transparency and accountability in their various transactions and dealings.  I believe that transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of building the trust that enable leaders and constituents to achieve success.

We need not look far to find the kind of Filipinos that can lay the foundation of honesty, trust, self-sacrifice and hard work that is essential for a stable and progressive society.

On one end, you have the prime movers of the MFIs.  On a personal level, leaders like Ruth Callanta of CCT, Aris Alip of CARD, Ruben de Lara of TSPI and Reno Rayel of ABS-CBN Bayan are showing us two parallel paths toward the same social objectives.

On one hand, you have Ruth and Aris—colleagues once upon a time at the Philippine Business for Social Progress—who have devoted their lives to development work.  Both of them underwent great personal sacrifice to found and sustain their respective MFIs in line with their calling to help the poorest of the poor.  Admittedly, theirs is a hard act to follow.  But imbibing just a fraction of their commitment, spirituality and boundless optimism against all odds would undoubtedly make ours a far better society.

Most of us can relate more easily to the example set by Ruben and Reno, who both came from the private sector.  Ruben could have chosen to simply enjoy the fruits of his early retirement from a multinational company, and Reno could have opted to remain in the corporate world where he can earn much more.  Instead, they chose a path that would enable them to find a more meaningful and fulfilling connection with a society that could make use of their talents for a higher good.

Kahanga-hanga po silang lahat.

Ngunit higit na kahanga-hanga po ang mga nanay at tatay na nagsisikap araw-araw na makaahon sa kahirapan sa kabila ng napakalaking mga balakid sa kanilang kapaligiran.

Sa video, nasundan po natin ang kuwento ni Yoly Matanguihan na kliyente ng CARD sa Bay, Laguna.  Noong maliliit pa yung mga anak niya, tuwang-tuwa na sila kung may softdrink sila tuwing Pasko.  Ngayon, puro tapos na ang apat niyang mga anak at sari-sari na ang mga negosyong pinagkakakitahan nilang mag-asawa.  Palakpakan po natin si Yoly, na kapiling nating ngayong umaga.

Bukod kay Yoly, mayroon pa tayong tatlong halimbawa ng mga umasensong entreprenor sa pagtitinda.  Nandiyan si Rose dela Cruz na isang retired teacher na kliyente naman ng ABS-CBN Bayan Foundation, si Nelly Guarino ng TSPI at si Daniel Bonifacio ng CCT sa Tundo.  Bukod sa nakarami na sila ng loan cycles sina Rose at Nelly ay pinupuri dahil sa kanilang pamumuno ng kani-kanilang buklod na pawing may 100% repayment record.

Natutuwa naman ako na may kinatawan ang mga kalalakihan sa mga MFI clients na nakadalo ngayong umaga.  Kahit nag-iisa siya, maituturing na pambato siya ng kalalakihan!  Lumuwas siya mula sa Aklan noong siya’y 17 taong gulang lamang at noong una’y nagsikap maghanap-buhay bilang empleyado ng mga merchandise stores sa Divisoria at bilang janitor sa bangko.  Nang maglaon ay sinubukan niyang magtinda ng prutas at uling at ditto siya natulungan ng CCT na unang nagpautang sa kanya ng P2,000.  Ngayon, si Daniel ay may mini-grocery na may gross sales na P30,000 bawat araw!  Nakapagtapos na ang kanyang panganay at tatlo pa ang kanyang pinag-aaral.

Palakpakan po natin si Daniel, si Rose, si Nelly at ang ibang mga nanay na naririto ngayon.  Kayo’y di lamang mga pinunong dapat tularan ng lahat.  Tulad ni Ninoy, kayo ay mga bayani ng ating bayan.

Moving forward, I appeal to banks, corporations and foundations, civic organizations, religious groups and civil society, and all patriotic Filipinos to invest in our people especially those who in spite of their poverty continue to pursue enterprising ventures to confront their problems and difficulties.  In memory of Ninoy’s martyrdom, I pledge to continue to promote People Power and harness our collective support for this key strategic endeavor in our common fight to eventually conquer poverty.

Mabuhay kayong lahat.  Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino.  Maraming salamat po.

 

 

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