Speech of President Aquino at the 25th Anniversary of EDSA Eucharistic Celebration

The large golden statue of the Virgin Mary on ...Image via WikipediaSpeech of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
At the 25th Anniversary of EDSA Eucharistic Celebration

[Delivered at the EDSA Shrine, February 24, 2011]

It has been twenty-five years since EDSA, twenty-five years since our people poured out into the streets to achieve the unthinkable: the end of a violent regime through nonviolent means.

It is only appropriate that this milestone is commemorated here in this shrine. The images of EDSA, after all, cannot be divorced from the images of the church. Look at the pictures of EDSA—they show nuns, priests, rosaries, and people carrying statues of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders. This is because EDSA was not merely a political act; it was also an act of faith. And it was this faith that somehow helped keep EDSA from turning violent.

It is interesting to note that our celebration of 25 years of EDSA today coincides with the wave of democracy now sweeping parts of the Arab world. Even by just watching on TV, the emotion in Egypt and Tunisia was so palpable that it brought back memories of our own experience in 1986. While ours was less violent, the similarities between EDSA and Tahrir Square are uncanny. This shows that the human passion and thirst for freedom is so universal that no autocratic regime anywhere in the world could succeed in its attempt to stay in power forever.

It would seem that 25 years after the restoration of democracy through EDSA, this country should be well on its way toward making democracy truly felt by the people—through a better economy that produces quality jobs and services.

We, unfortunately, are not quite there yet. The past 25 years have been marked with significant gains, followed sadly by backsliding. We would sometimes take two steps forward, then one step backward.

This is what our government today is confronting: the challenge of making progress irreversible and growth equitable and felt by every Filipino. Only then can we say that the democracy we fought so hard for really works.

The good news is we are getting there. We passed a national budget on time for the first time in 11 years. We have put an end to excessive bonuses at government-owned and controlled corporations, to remind them that they are there to serve the people and not themselves. We have ordered some of the most comprehensive restrictions on commercial logging, not to hurt the industry, but to protect our environment for the sake of future generations. This year alone, we are building new irrigation and rehabilitating silted irrigation systems for our farms, so we can produce an additional 1.56 million metric tons of palay per year.

Moreover, we are fighting corruption—not only in the Armed Forces—by seeking to stop an unjust plea bargain between the Ombudsman and General Carlos Garcia. But beyond that, we are allocating to the AFP resources to benefit ordinary soldiers, as well as the PNP. This year, we will build 20,000 housing units for our soldiers and policemen, and providing it to them at very low prices—very much lower than what they are currently paying to rent dwellings that they do not own.

This good news does not always make it to the headlines, but it is happening, and we are committed to achieving more in the coming years.

If there is one key lesson from EDSA that I would like to impart to all of you, it is that the democratic struggle should go beyond a single event. People power did not end at EDSA. The work goes on toward building a more fair and equitable society

To fulfill the promise of EDSA, we have programs to ensure that the most needy among us are not left behind.

Conditional Cash Transfers will keep poor children in school, so that they can have a better future. More schools and public health centers will help keep them healthy as they acquire the skills to earn a decent living.

All of this and more are being done not so much for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren.

Those who were spared the misfortune that was martial law must now be the beneficiaries of our hard-fought democracy. I would like to think that this celebration is for them, the young people. After all, this is what EDSA was really for.

Remember, our faith teaches us, we will be asked, “What did you do to the least of our brethren?” At EDSA, we stood side by side with complete strangers, with full confidence in them that they were with us in trying to transform our society. That is the key. That is what we have to do to get our country truly transformed.

Thank you. Good evening.