President Aquino speech at the 57th Liberal International Congress

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
[Delivered at Rizal Hall, Malaca├▒an Palace, Manila on June 18, 2011]
The current global milieu has been described by some thinkers as “post-ideological,” and one would find it hard to argue with such a description. Schools of thought have come and gone; ideological frameworks meant to describe the world we live in—and to prescribe the best ways to survive and flourish—have gained popularity, then fallen by the wayside. While it cannot be denied that advances in human knowledge have provided us with comforts and allowed us to address some of the greater, more complex problems that humankind has had to face, I think we can all—as Liberal thinkers—agree that, by the moment, more and more questions arise, and answers can not always be at hand.
It is in this context that we find ourselves gathering as Liberals, in a world that gives greater value to a certain ideological dexterity; a nimbleness of thought that allows governments to respond quickly to crises, to foresee trends, and to utilize these trends for the benefit of the people. This of course requires the clarity of vision to recognize what is happening on the ground, and the humility to adjust accordingly.
The lines that have traditionally defined us, at least politically, have become blurred. While in some corners of the globe, liberals have for generations been a small but staunch opposition, in others they have banded with other parties in order to pursue their agenda. While on one hand we may have pushed for greater deregulation of industries, on the other we have called for governments to step in, in order to save an ailing economy.
And so the question persists: What does it mean to be a Liberal today? Our governments have all had to operate within different environments, and we’ve all had to adapt in order to face the challenges of our individual nations. Perhaps the question I must first answer, then, is: How am I as a Liberal?
My candidacy was organized along two tracks: there was the hard work and organization required of the Liberal Party, and there was the cooperation without undue integration of the many other groups and associations that wanted to help campaign so that the people’s mandate might be obtained.
As we have seen, there is plenty of room for both, whether in a campaign or in governance.
And when in the past, the ruling party in its quest to perpetuate itself in power recognized no limits and no other voice but its own, we now choose to be as consultative and inclusive as possible. When before the law was used to harass and silence those who brooked opposition, today we choose to consider the law as a means to engage others in discourse. When before, authority was used to quell hope, today we use it to realize hope.
In other words, in power, we choose to be different from those whom we replaced.
This is what we have constantly communicated to our people. Our blueprint for governance—our Social Contract with the Filipino people—acknowledges the dissatisfaction with the status quo that got us elected in the first place. Our policies have been crafted on the basis of firm lines of principle.
When I announced my candidacy for the presidency, I said my job is about the efficient allocation of resources. We made zero-based budgeting the basis of all our public spending. We refused to accept previous assumptions and went back to basics.
We also felt that only through a thorough reexamination of contracts and expenditures could we achieve the fiscal prudence that has allowed us, in April, to record our highest monthly surplus in 25 years. In turn, this has allowed us to ensure that we will have adequate resources for the administration of justice as well as programs such as conditional cash transfers for the poor.
And while these policies of my government are in response to the needs of our people here and now, they are also firmly in keeping with principles first laid down by our party when it was organized in 1946.
In essence, it is also what has called our people to rally along the “tuwid na daan”—the straight and righteous path. It is also what binds us all as Liberals, even in this so-called post-ideological century of ours: the respect for the individual’s rights and freedoms; the commitment to make growth inclusive and equitable, so that every man and woman may have the means to fulfill their fullest potential; and the unwavering compassion for those with little means to pursue their dreams.
We continue to be guided by these principles in every aspect of governance. Whether it was in my appeal to the Supreme Court to permit the Maguindanao Massacre trial to be televised, so our people may have an opportunity to witness justice served, and to understand the causes of impunity in our country; or whether it was in my pursuing a pocket open skies policy as part of our liberalization and deregulation efforts; or even in my recent signing of Executive Order 45, which allows our Department of Justice to take legal action in the case of monopolies and cartels—what we are pursuing are these broad things, unbound by narrow-minded dogma, but consistent with our obligation to pursue the greater good.
This is also why this Congress has chosen to locate Human Rights as parallel to Free Trade in the articulation of our theme: Because we believe that the latter must be pursued to ensure that the former is upheld. As I have mentioned once before, governments must ensure direction, so that the market might be used as a plow to cultivate the fields of social justice. In rhetorical terms, How can an individual enjoy the rights he has on paper, when from birth he has been denied the tools to take his destiny into his own hands?
Such a question continues to persist in my country, and in many of yours. Some of us have already obtained a mandate to address this, and as my people pray—and work—so that my nation may overcome its own set of challenges, so do I pray, and pledge my support, to the ultimate flourishing and concretization of our principles as liberals around the globe.
The Liberal Party of the Philippines joined Liberal International 23 years ago, the first to do so in Asia. In the span of a generation we have grown from a small band of believers to a multitude capable of passing laws and implementing them consistent with our agenda of equal opportunity, human dignity, and individual freedom. While in 1989 a mere handful of our stalwarts journeyed to Paris to reiterate our beliefs and gain entry into this global liberal family, today we host this Congress as the party that our people deemed worthy to lead them. And while this indicates that part of our journey has come full circle, by no means has it achieved its full potential.
And is that not what we gather here for—the achievement of our potentials as leaders, as parties, and as nations? This is the challenge that lies before all of us as committed party members and committed liberals—the same challenge that has been posed to the first people to bear the Liberal mandate.
May we continue to rise to this challenge. Thank you for honoring my party and my country by coming to Manila to hold this Congress.