Speech of President Aquino during the People Power Awards

Speech of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the awarding ceremony of the People Power Awards

[Delivered at Rizal Ceremonial Hall, MalacaƱan Palace on February 26, 2011]

It has recently become fashionable in some circles to point at the unfulfilled promises of EDSA. Some have even dared to say that maybe one-man rule was not such a bad idea, never mind the oppression, and never mind the lack of liberties.

By now, some say, we could already have become another Singapore. The “some” is just one.

It is true that much remains to be resolved. But at the same time, who could deny what we have already achieved? Are we not better off today than we were a generation ago? Have we not finally regained the respect of the global community as a beacon of democracy? Are we not on the way to becoming a more equitable society?

People are entitled to their own opinions, and they can say what they want. It is not my intention to reopen old wounds, but I feel obliged to set the record straight with my own opinion.

With respect, I do not think we would have become another Singapore had we stayed the course with Marcos. Singapore is one of the richest countries in Southeast Asia; it’s a place where poverty has become an exception, and where there is a growing room for artistic expression. This was not the case during Martial Law. During those dark years, inequality worsened and free expression was stifled. We were far from becoming another Singapore. Were it not for EDSA, we probably could have become another Libya.

You don’t even have to take my word for it. Just ask the people who were there. We can ask Fr. James Reuter, who was tried for 12 days in Camp Aguinaldo for editing and publishing “The Communicator,” a four-page paper on Martial Law, and who subsequently was put under house arrest for two years.

Ask Tito Nap Rama, who shared a prison cell with my father—his crime?—for sponsoring the “Ban Marcos” Resolution, which would have prevented the Marcoses from running for the top post under a new Constitution.

Ask our favorite Chair wrecker, Billy Esposo, who also put up a Cory Media Bureau that battled against media monopoly.

Ask the families of Chino Roces, Teddy Benigno, and Representative Stephen Solarz.

Chino Roces, who was my father’s mentor in journalism, who was also detained in Fort Bonifacio during Martial Law for bravely publicizing the unsanitized truth about the Marcos regime.

Teddy Benigno, who found it necessary, along with other foreign journalists, to establish the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, so that they could help balance the Marcos-controlled media.

And of course, Stephen Solarz, who helped change US policy toward the Marcos regime from collaboration to eventually “Cut, and cut clean.”

Why don’t we ask these people if it would have been better? These heroes of ours knew better and, for the sake of the Filipino people, had to act. They, along with millions of Filipinos, acted in 1986 to take back and win back our democracy.

I thank the awardees and their families for the sacrifices they undertook to restore democracy in the Philippines. It is those sacrifices that we honor today. The revolution did not end in 1986, nor will it end after this 25th anniversary. As Senator Ted Kennedy said, and I quote: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Perhaps there will be no parades, no extravagant shows, no constant reminders on the banners amid our streets, but this is where the real challenge lies. Much of what needs to be done will be difficult and will be met with some opposition. It will not be achieved merely by marching on the streets. For example, through Executive Order 23, we imposed comprehensive restrictions on commercial logging in an effort to preserve our environment.

We recently reduced the excessive perks for those in government-owned-and-controlled corporations to remind everyone that they are mere stewards of the people’s money.

We have also sought to intervene in an unjust plea bargain in the case of General Carlos Garcia, because this would have made a mockery of our justice system. All of these will be resisted by certain quarters that will be affected adversely by these actions. But these are the things that will eventually fulfill the promise of EDSA, and it is imperative that we, like those that flooded the streets in February 1986, persevere so that these things are achieved at the soonest time possible.

We owe it to those who sacrificed for our freedom. Most of all, we owe it to those who will come after us to make a freer, fairer, and more prosperous society. With your help, we will succeed.

Thank you and Good day.