Friday, October 10, 2014

Speech of President Aquino at the opening session of the 7th Bali Democracy Forum

From the Website of GPH - Government of the Philippines

Speech of President Aquino at the opening session of the 7th Bali Democracy Forum

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the opening session of the 7th Bali Democracy Forum on the Evolving Regional Democratic Architecture

[Delivered at the Bali International Convention Center, Indonesia, on October 10, 2014]

Your Excellency Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia; Your Majesty Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei; Your Excellency Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste; Foreign Minister Marty M. Natalegawa of Indonesia; Mr. Douglas Broderick, the UN Resident Coordinator in Indonesia; members of the various delegations, ladies and gentlemen:
Once again, good morning.

Allow me to express my gratitude for the honor of co-chairing the Seventh Bali Democracy Forum with the leader we all consider our big brother, President Yudhoyono. Our gathering today provides me with an opportunity to share with you some ideas, which, I believe, resonate with the Philippines’ own narrative as a democracy.

As leaders of our respective peoples, all of us represent the shared aspirations of our countrymen: the goal of meaningful progress, the desire to live peaceful and dignified lives, and the freedom to fully realize their potentials as individuals and as members of a single community of peoples.

These are the very aspirations that have united the Filipino people in our pursuit of building a nation where human dignity and justice serve as the bedrock principles of society, where each voice is heard, and where the interest of the majority, and not of the powerful few, is the ultimate compass of government.

Might I share: In an open forum during my recent trip to the United States, I was asked by a student who hails from an ASEAN country if I missed the good old days, particularly the stability fostered by authoritarianism. As you might know, my family and I lived in exile in Boston for a good three years, and obviously, as a member of a family victimized by an authoritarian regime, I could not share the sentiment. Instead I wondered: What were good about those days? The discussion with that member of our youth gave me the impetus to reflect even more on the matter.

It can be said: In a totalitarian regime, things get done faster, whether they are right or wrong, precisely because there are no checks and balances in place. Very often, the consent and support of the governed are neither sought nor attained. Naturally, such a regime, one divorced from the desires of its people, will have weak foundations. In that kind of regime, might I point out, the opinions and wishes of the governed are only second to the objective of staying in power. And as we have seen in history, all authoritarian regimes, regardless of the cause of their coming to power, will at one point make political survival the end all and be all of government.

As leaders, all of us here have had our share of frustrations borne of the many factors that sometimes hinder the realization of our vision. This breeds the temptation to consider an authoritarian method, as this might promise immediate gains. Sitting down and reflecting on this idea, however, we realize that, with the lack of consensus and consent from the people, such a mode, which offers quick, short-term gains, may be detrimental to society in the long-run. That lack of consensus, combined with the great degree of dissatisfaction that inevitably arises, leads to instability and the eventual collapse of that particular system.
On the other hand, in a democratic state, which is the opposite of an authoritarian regime, government is systematically attuned to the voice of the people; it represents the people and works towards the betterment of its people. And while consensus building, which is the foundation of such a state, may be a long and complicated process, it nonetheless presents more stable, more solid foundations for equitable advancement.
Democratic institutions, after all, seek to free and enable its citizens, and the first freedom should always be from hunger, as my father once thought. In turn, that empowered citizenry becomes capable of nurturing and fostering democracy. This ultimately redounds to a virtuous cycle of inclusiveness, stability, and development.
Meanwhile, when a people are rendered vulnerable and their rights and freedoms are undermined, they become marginalized and more susceptible to coercion, abuse, and the temptation to acquiesce to absolutism. Coupled with an increasing population, one neglected by government, that specific populace is left in a much worse state than the generation before it. Such a condition hinders them from contributing to a nation’s growth, creating a vicious cycle of poverty, patronage, and underdevelopment.

Indeed: when consensus is sought and achieved on the basis of justice, openness, and democratic engagement, then there will be permanence, in as much as it is humanly possible. This ultimately paves the way for the creation of a truly just and progressive society.

While this path has not been without obstacles, the trials we have faced in the Philippines as a democracy have only strengthened our resolve as a people. This was nowhere more evident than in 1986, when the Filipino, after more than a couple decades of oppression under a dictator, met tanks and armed soldiers with vigilance, hope, and democratic will. The world would come to know this historic event as the EDSA People Power Revolution.

People Power was the defining democratic movement of its time. I believe it remains to be the absolute measure by which all democratic actions in our country will be judged: to respond to intimidation not with force but with peaceful determination; to chart the destiny of a nation not with an authoritarian mindset but with a consensus-seeking vision that aims to afford all opportunities to advance, and to tirelessly forge a future together despite the challenges that may arise.

It was upon this premise of hope that my mother led our people in rebuilding our government and society, in the early years after the dictatorship fell. It was also that principle that enabled our people to carry on through the “lost decade” in our country: a time when, under my predecessor, democratic institutions were compromised and weakened by a culture of transactionalism and impunity, where the very select few rode roughshod over the will and aspirations of the vast majority. It was that very belief in People Power that manifested once more in 2010, when Filipinos, after many years of neglect and misgovernance, campaigned with us and voted for an idea whose fruits we are already reaping today: and that idea was, “Where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty.”

The results speak for themselves; one only needs to look at our resurgent economy, a more empowered citizenry, and the growing confidence of the international community in the Philippines. What we have done is to bring back government to its core: to be a provider of genuine service and by so doing, empower society and enterprise; to champion what is right, fair, and democratic towards the benefit of all, and thus enable our people to participate in fulfilling the promise of our freedom.

This is why, in the Philippines, we have sought to continue to empower our people by expanding the coverage and depth of our social services and anti-poverty initiatives, so that they themselves may serve as productive catalysts in building a more equitable and more inclusive society.

All of our reforms in the domestic sphere complement our approach in building meaningful consensus with our ASEAN brothers and partners in the region. Like all of you, we share the belief that stability and cooperation are fundamental in maximizing the prospects of success brought about by democratic participation. Whether in addressing concerns on the international front, or engaging our fellow nations in a positive manner towards mutual gain, we have always advocated a democratic approach, one that upholds our conviction of advancing the rule of law and respecting one another.

As President, I believe that the most striking example of this is the strong partnership that Indonesia and the Philippines have enjoyed. Even before the establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1949, our two nations supported each other’s struggle for independence in the 1920s and 1930s. Our two peoples have always found kindred spirits in each other, perhaps owing to the fact that we share a common history and heritage as maritime peoples of Southeast Asia. It is likewise evident that, even today, our shared values fuel our drive towards equitable prosperity. We have worked, in our respective ways, towards fortifying the institutions of democracy in our countries and in our region, whether by encouraging discourse, by holding free and credible elections and open debate, and most importantly, by broadening the horizons of opportunity and relentlessly pursuing inclusive growth.

Indonesia has indeed been a true friend to my people. They have worked with us to address shared challenges, such as securing our maritime borders, combating terrorism, and raising awareness as regards climate change. They have supported us in our efforts towards establishing a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, by previously chairing key committees in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and conducting consultation meetings between my government and the Moro National Liberation Front, and by taking part in the International Monitoring Team in our negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The ever-strengthening relations between the Philippines and Indonesia owes much to President Yudhoyono, who has indeed been a big brother and an able partner to many of us. A leader committed to a vision of mutual prosperity, he sought to find solutions to a longstanding concern between our two peoples, and did so while bearing in mind what is best for all parties. With his assuring leadership, our two nations were able to resolve in an amicable manner the issue concerning our maritime boundaries in the Mindanao Sea and the Celebes Sea, thus moving our nations forward with an even deeper trust in each other. President Yudhoyono’s commitment to the rule of law has likewise been crucial as we advance the peaceful and just resolution of disputes in the South China Sea. Under President Yudhoyono, not only has Indonesia seen impressive reforms that have redounded to economic growth; Indonesia has likewise emerged as an influential voice in both regional and international affairs.

To those who represent the different ASEAN states here today, all of us know full well that the collective growth of our citizenries may only be fulfilled in a regional context where our shared ideals and individual beliefs are respected by our partners.

As we have always emphasized ASEAN centrality, we have likewise worked to strengthen our respective institutions, accord our peoples the rights due them, and thus allow them to fulfill their duties as citizens of our respective societies and as members of the ASEAN community. As democracies, we share the view that the path to sustainable progress must be one that redounds to the benefit of our Bosses, the very people from whom our mandates emanate.

This said, we can say that the ASEAN mode of engagement considers each one as a brother in the path to mutual progress; it is one that encourages our fellowmen to embrace the democratic way of life. While this process requires a significant amount of time, the prospects it brings are promising, and we are seeing this method bear fruit at present. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to continue to show our brothers and sisters in ASEAN that they chose the right path; we can do this by extending assistance to them, in every manner possible.

What we continue to demonstrate here, I believe, is one of the many manifestations of People Power: of harnessing our united resolve towards a democratic regional community, one where our respective peoples fully enjoy the freedoms borne of democratic aspirations, where our peoples have the wherewithal to open the doors of opportunity for themselves and their fellowmen, and where, indeed, no one is left behind.

Today, I stand as a leader of a proud nation, a country that is determined to contribute even more to the discourse at hand. On this note, I look forward to the insights that our partners will share in this forum, towards achieving our shared objectives for our peoples, our regions, and the rest of humanity.
I thank you all.

GPH Website





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