Aquino: Unite, fight like a Filipino

MANILA, Philippines - Now is the time to come together to move the country forward.

This was the message of President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, June 12 at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to celebrate the 115th independence day of the Philippines.

At the same time, the President, in subtle references to recent territorial disputes involving the Philippines such as the Sabah conflict that resulted in bloodshed and the return to the country of thousands of Filipinos, reminded Filipinos that fighting for independence means "we must also show the true qualities of the Filipino."

"It's not in our blood to be aggressive but neither will we fold under pressure or challenge. And while we stand for our rights, and cooperate with all sides in order to reach an understanding, we must also improve our armed forces. At the same time, we need to prioritize the safety of the millions of Filipinos who may be affected by my decisions as President," he said.

Aquino added, "We are not asking for anything but to respect our territory, rights and humanity, the same way we respect territory, rights and humanity of others. We do this because this is the key to maintaining stability...to an encompassing and long-lasting progress not just in our country but also in our region and the world."

Aquino addressed a large crowd and encouraged Filipinos to unite and move the country forward. While it took 300 years for Filipinos to work together to gain independence from Spain, he expressed hope it would not take nearly as long for the country to overcome its current problems.

"Huwag sana tayong maghintay pa ng tatlondaang taon, o ng tatlong dekada, o kahit ng tatlong taon, bago tayo magpasyang magbuklod para maging malaya tayo mula sa gutom, kahirapan, o anumang banta sa ating soberenya’t seguridad. Hindi tama na mapahaba pa ang pagtitiis ng mga Pilipino ni isang minuto," he said.

(Let us not wait for 300 years, or 3 decades or even 3 years before we come together in order to free ourselves from hunger, poverty or whatever threats to our sovereignty and securtiy. It is not right to prolong the suffering of Filipinos by another minute).

DEFENDING THE NATION. Members of the armed forces were present at the 115th Independence Day celebration with President Benigno Aquino III. Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

DEFENDING THE NATION. Members of the armed forces were present at the 115th Independence Day celebration with President Benigno Aquino III.

Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

"Ngayon na mismo ang panahon para tayo’y magkaisang-loob, magkaisang-isip, at magkaisang-tinig. Ngayon na mismo ang panahon upang ialay ang ating oras at lakas. Ngayon na mismo ang panahon upang isang bansa tayong kumilos para sa katuparan ng mga kolektibong hangarin natin para sa Inang Bayan," he added.

(Now is the time for us to be one in thought and spirit and to have one voice. Now is the time for us to offer our time and strength. Now is the time for us to move as one country...for the progress of our Mother Country).

He also reminded Filipinos to contribute to the country in their own way, and to help uplift fellow Filipinos "because no one else will push for our freedom, if not us Filipinos."

"Malinaw po: habang may responsibilidad ang estado na ipagtanggol ang bayan, tungkulin din nating tutukan ang mga pangunahing pangangailangan ng taumbayan," he said.

(It is clear: while the state has a responsibility to defend the country, it is also our duty to focus on the primary needs of our people.)

Aquino campaigned on a platform of change. His administration's priorities include the crafting of a new law for the Bangsamoro Region, fixing fiscal incentives and the mining law, and ensuring that the country's stellar economic growth trickles down to the poor.

Protecting freedom

As President, Aquino said his administration has strived to protect the freedom achieved by Andres Bonifacio and the nation's forefathers, but has also focused "not just on the modernization of our defense, but also in honoring and raising the morale of our armed men," he said.

He cited almost 31,200 houses built for soldiers and policemen by July and a P5-B budget in the next 5 years to modernize the country's armed forces.

CELEBRATION. Members of President Benigno Aquino III's cabinet and other allies attend the 115th Independence Day commemoration in Manila. Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

CELEBRATION. Members of President Benigno Aquino III's cabinet and other allies attend the 115th Independence Day commemoration in Manila.

Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

Among those present at the celebration included Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, outgoing Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, National Police chief Alan Purisima and members of the military and the Philippine Coast Guard. Rappler.com

UNITY. President Benigno Aquino III called for unity among Filipinos on Independence Day. Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

UNITY. President Benigno Aquino III called for unity among Filipinos on Independence Day.

Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

LEADER. President Benigno Aquino III walks past members of the armed forces during the 115th Independence Day celebration. Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

LEADER. President Benigno Aquino III walks past members of the armed forces during the 115th Independence Day celebration.

Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

DONNED IN YELLOW. Supporters of the Liberal Party attended the Independence Day celebration with President Benigno Aquino III. Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

DONNED IN YELLOW. Supporters of the Liberal Party attended the Independence Day celebration with President Benigno Aquino III.

Screenshot from Rappler's livestream

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