MANILA, Philippines – It's Independence Day, and President Benigno Aquino gives this annual ritual a twist. Unlike presidents before him, Aquino takes the celebration to the shrine of a hero for the poor.
Paterno Esmaquel reports.
(Watch Rappler's video report below.)
(The script of the video report follows.)
For the first time, President Benigno Aquino leads the 115th Independence Day rites at Liwasang Bonifacio.
It's a shrine devoted to Andres Bonifacio, the hero who led the armed revolution against Spain.
The Palace says it's a recognition of Bonifacio’s role in history. The country marks Bonifacio's 150th birth anniversary this year.
Aquino says Filipinos should follow Bonifacio's example. He calls for courage and love of neighbor.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: Maliwanag po ang pahiwatig ng kanyang tindig: Karangalan ang magtaya ng buhay para sa bayan; taas-noo nating maipagmamalaki ang mga naiambag natin para sa kalayaan. Kasabay nito, tila mapanghamon din ang titig ni Bonifacio: Ikaw, Pilipino, ano na ang nagawa mo para sa iyong bandila at kapwa? (It's clear in his posture: It's honor to lay down one's life for the country; we take pride in our contributions to promote our freedom. At the same time, Bonifacio's gaze poses a challenge: You, Filipino, what have you done for your flag and your neighbor?)
Aquino says this in the face of protests over government services.
In Tutuban, Bonifacio's birthplace, militant groups denounce Philippine independence as fake. They downplay the government's economic gains.
A day before this, the National Statistics Office reports more Filipinos are jobless in April compared to the same period last year. This, despite a stellar 7.8 percent growth in the country's economy.
PATERNO ESMAQUEL, REPORTING: One hundred and fifty years ago, Andres Bonifacio fought to uplift the plight of the masses. But the same issues hound the poor to this day, posing a challenge for the Philippine government.
Aquino says ending poverty is everyone's responsibility.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: 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. (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 security. It is not right to prolong the suffering of Filipinos by another minute.)
Today, Independence Day, Bonifacio, the hero of the masses, shines above other heroes from that era – a fitting symbolism for Aquino, whose stellar economic numbers have yet to trickle down to the working man.
Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila.