This Country Will Always Be Free
Ayala Avenue, Makati
August 20, 1999
Labing-anim na taon na ang nakalipas noong sinabi ninyo kay Nlnoy: Hindi ka nag-iisa!
At ngayong hapon na ito, maraming maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat at ipinamamalas ninyo kay Cardinal Sin at sa akin na hindi kami nag-iisa.
Ang aking panalangin ay sana'y ngayon at mag-pakailan man, hindi tayo mag-iisa.
Alam ninyo, hindi raw mahilig sa tsismis si Pangulong Estrada. Gayon din ako. Mas gusto ko ang nag-uusap ng tapatan, hindi ang bulong-bulungan. Gusto ko ang nakakapagsalita ng harap-harapan, na naririnig ng lahat na may kinauululan. Ito ang dahilan kung kaya't kami ni Cardinal Sin ay naririto ngayon upang ipamahagi sa inyo ang mga bagay na nakakabahala sa amin at sa ating lahat. Ang Cha-Cha na naman! (The President says he does not like gossip. Me neither, I prefer to speak face-to-face out in the open. That is why the Cardinal and I are here, to address in this rally your concern and ours, about the burning issue of the day — Charter Change again!)
The issue is not whether to remove the economic provisions of the Constitution. The issue is whether these are all we stand to lose – or we may well ask: will cherished rights and liberties be lost as well? The issue is whether the Constitution should be touched at all by Malacañang, because it seems only a few are, asking for it. The same, survey that says the President has an approval rating of more than 70 percent says that 86 percent of the people rejects Charter change.
The issue is not whether the Charter should be changed, but why now, when Malacañang admits it does not yet know what should be changed.
Bakit nga ba ngayon, kung kailan laganap ang kidnapping at bank robbery, at lalo pang tumataas ang drug addiction at drug dealing? At kung kailan pati na ang ilang tauhan ng National Bureau of Investigation ay nasasangkot sa carnapping; kamakailan lamang ay sumabog pa ang kanilang gusali. Hindi nga ba't higit na nakakatakot para sa mga dayuhang investors ang mga bagay na ito? (Why now, when not only are kidnapping and bank robbery on the rise, and drug addiction and drug dealing at an all-time high, but, agents of the National Bureau of Investigation are into carnapping. Their building even blew itself up. Are these not more disturbing concerns for foreign investors?)
Terrorism? The only thing terrifying today is the level of incompetence among some of the advisers in government, not to mention their hidden agenda.
The issue here is not whether the Constitution can be changed. But, given the cast of characters who will control the change, should we lay the constitution wide open to them?
The issue is not whether the President can extract a promise from a constituent Congress not to tinker outside the economic provisions. The concern is whether they will define the economic to include everything that is to their advantage.
No doubt he can extract that promise, but will they keep their word and will the Marcos crowd in Malacañang encourage them to break it?
The issue is trust. Not trust in the President but in the company he keeps.
I trust the President. But who can trust the people who stepped out of the police line-up of the People Power Revolution?
Walang naghalal sa mga taong ito na ngayo'y nagsasamantala sa ating Pangulo. Walang may gusto sa kanila. Sinubukan nilang bumalik sa kapangyarihan, subalit sila'y nilampaso ng mga botante. Ngayon, hindi lamang lumalakas ang loob nilang tumuntong muli sa Malacañang; bagkus ay nais pa nilang pakialaman ang Saligang Batas ng sistemang demokrasya na kanilang winasak. (Nobody elected them. Nobody wants them. They tried to come back, but the people rejected them at the polls. Now they have the, gall, not just to be back in Malacañang, but to tinker with the fundamental law of the democratic system they once betrayed and destroyed.)
Of course, we should not be telling the President what kind of company to keep. But he cannot expect us not to worry when he tinkers with the Constitution given the company he keeps.
We are not saying that this administration is like the Marcos regime, but we do have cause to worry, because even George Hamilton is back. The characters in power today are the ones the people threw out yesterday.
The Marcoses and their cronies lost every election for national office. But they are back again because of a popular President who did not say in the campaign that he was taking them with him. Maybe he did not know. But they appear to be back in and trying to grab back everything they stole.
Mr. President, you say, "Be not afraid of Joseph Ejercito Estrada."
Yes, Mr. President, we are not afraid. You are a gentleman, kind, considerate, compassionate and, I believe, sincere. But you are too trusting for our country's own good.
But, trust me, Mr. President, we are not afraid.
When Marcos men threatened me during my campaign rally for the Snap Election in Basilan, — "Cory, isang bala ka lang” — I stood my ground and answered, "Marcos, isang balota ka lang.”
Mr. President, do not worry about us being afraid. We have been threatened by experts.
We have faced bullets outside the silver screen and faced down tanks with only rosaries in our hands.
But there are things of which we are afraid.
We are afraid of evils that may tear up the country again.
Mr. President, you say, "Be not afraid of breaking loose from the past."
Mr. President, we are afraid of the past breaking loose in the present with a Marcos restoration.
Mr. President, it is not just the future, but the present that calls for courage, clarity of vision and concord. It calls for vigilance against the return of a past this nation paid so high a price — in blood, tears and wasted years — to escape.
We have the courage to stand here. We have the clarity to see that there is no sound reason to tinker with the Constitution. And we are in accord that it must be left alone for now.
We have mastered our future. We engraved that mastery in a Charter that reserves the best of the country for our own countrymen and guarantees the rights and liberties that were once taken away by those who now advise the President to change the Constitution.
Mr. President, be not afraid. Mayroong kinabukasan ang sambayanang Pilipino, kahit na hindi mo baguhin ang Saligang Batas. Ang tanang lamang ay ito: kung ito'y babaguhin, mayroon ba silang kinabukasan bilang mga iskuwater sa sariling bayan dahil hindi nila kayang makipagsabayan sa mga dayuhan sa pag-angkin ng kanilang sariling lupain? (The Filipinos will always have a future. The question is whether they will have a future as squatters in their own country because they cannot compete with foreigners for their own land.)
President Estrada has said that he is not violating the freedom of the press, but people are asking whether he is doing enough to protect it under his oath to uphold the Constitution.
No one expects the president to take insult lightly, and distortion with grace. But I had it just as bad if not worse from the press in his place.
Learn from my experience Mr. President; never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel. Forget about suing them, you will not win in the end or in the meantime.
Because we have nothing to fear but fear itself, we are here, risking your misunderstanding and anger, to let you know that: Peace will never be achieved at the expense of justice.
Harmony cannot be attained by suppressing the past and floating balloons of forgiveness in the air.
Concord will not come by exalting those whose abuses once united the nation against them.
Peace comes from justice. Harmony from working for the common good and not for common criminals. And concord will be achieved again by being with the people and against their old abusers.
The enemies of freedom say that we are leading the protest against Charter change, a Marcos restoration, and the curtailment of press freedom, because kulang kami sa pansin.
Modesty aside, I had experienced enough power and fame to last me a lifetime.
I do not find fulfillment only in power. The air in my garden smells better than the Pasig.
I don't know about those people in Malacañang, but I have a life outside it.
I have a wonderful life with my grandchildren, and a fulfilling one advancing special causes like democracy both here and abroad, wherever it is threatened or is crying to be born. From time to time I look back on when I was privileged to be at the center of the most glorious moment in the history of our country, one of the landmarks in the progress of the a human race.
The enemies of the people ask if we don't have better things to do than rally.
No, we don't. What is better than to stand up for freedom and good government against the threat of tyranny and the return of corruption?
When renegade soldiers challenged the Constitution to seize the government, faithful soldiers came to its defense. Many braved bullets, not a few gave their lives; all because I asked them to rally around the Constitution. I cannot do less even in my retirement.
Yes, we must always work for the greatest good of the greatest number. That is what we are doing here today, even if more people prefer to eat lechon in Luneta.
We are here to voice our concern about Charter change at this time and by certain people.
We are here to voice our concern about the increasing pressure for conformity in the press.
We are here to voice our concern about the return to power and wealth, without benefit of election, of those who brought only suffering and shame to our country, while taking most of its wealth abroad.
We are here to voice the concerns of the small coconut farmers. In their manifesto submitted to your office they said, that, "they eagerly await the realization of your commitment to small coco farmers, which you reiterated in your recent SONA, we quote, "...no matter what happens, I am expressing my full commitment to ensure that every single centavo of this [Coco Levy Fund] will go back to the farmers.”
Nobody likes to look for a fight or court trouble. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the President.
We are a peaceful people, but a freedom-loving and moral nation as well. Right and wrong are beyond political calculation.
Our children must see that stealing does not cease to be wrong because the loot is successfully hidden. Our children must see that the mastermind is not innocent because his hired guns are afraid to finger him. Our children must see that might does not make right but that, given time and determination, right is irresistible.
We will not surrender the guarantees of freedom and good government for which we paid so dearly.
We will not allow those who plundered our country to return to power no matter who they think their best friend is. The electoral mandate extends no farther than the candidate I himself.
We will not so easily allow the dismantling of what took the democratic resistance many years to recover under martial law, and succeeding years after EDSA to rebuild:
our democracy from the grip of tyranny;
our country from the pockets of thieves; and
our economic wealth that was stolen and mortgaged by the people who are back in power today.
President Estrada should not take this rally personally. This is not a fight against him. He has been President only one year, he was only mayor, not martial law administrator, during the Marcos regime.
This is a fight against a 14-year dictatorship and a dark legacy that refuses to die.
We are told to forgive and forget. Surely the President; understands why it is extremely difficult for us to just forgive and forget such deep wrongs done to our country, since he finds it hard to forgive and forget wrongs done to himself.
Let me say it now: there will never, never be a Marcos restoration, not by hook or by crook. This country will always be free and it will always be the country of the People Power Revolution.