Excerpts from Cory Aquino’s Farewell SONA

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - August 2, 2020 - 12:00am

President Corazon Aquino passed away on Aug. 2, 2009. I am sharing some excerpts from her last SONA delivered on July 22, 1991.

People empowerment, through people’s organizations, NGOs, foundations and cooperatives, is the surest means we know to make government mirror the aspirations of the people. We want elections to be just one of other more effective means to bring the people into government and government to the people, to make it truly a participatory democracy. This is the only way to end the character of total war that elections have assumed, where the aim is the division of spoils and the victims are not just the losers but those who voted for them too.  Participatory democracy will end the practice of punishing provinces and municipalities for the wrong vote in the last poll. It will separate elections, where the people vote for their favorites, from the provision of public service which every Filipino has a right to expect from the government, regardless of how he voted.

The organized participation of the people in daily government may provide the stabilizing element that government has always lacked. Policies have radically changed with each administration, yet the basic needs of its unchanging constituencies have not been met: less bureaucracy for business, more public services and infrastructure support for agriculture and industry, and economic safety net for the common man. The active participation of the people in government will lend proper direction and continuity to policy.

But surely, our objective is right – the improvement of our people’s lives. And the new way is much better than those before. To give the people greater power over their lives is the essence of democracy that we must strive to bring out completely.

I ask you to consider that we have tried the politics of spoils and patronage for half a century, with no better result than the stagnation of the country in a region where everyone else is racing ahead. The formula for success is said to be dictatorial government. But we tried that already, with worse results than the most irresponsible democracy can produce. Besides, the spirit of our race will not accept a dictatorship; and memories, fresh as the scars it left, will not let us consider that option again. Democracy is the only way for us. We must therefore find the ways by which the pitfalls that go with its blessings are reduced, while its inherent strengths are brought to the fore. Of those strengths, the most promising is people power, a reserve for nation-building we tapped only once in our history with such marvelous result.

I firmly believe in the freedom of the press. And I accept the criticisms poured on me, painful as they are, as part and parcel of the hazards of public service, and conducive to its honest performance. True, I have sued for libel, but I did not use the power of the presidency to advance my cause. And this is shown by the fact that four years later my case continues to drag on. I have not forgotten that what my husband wanted most in prison was for the public to hear the side of freedom, and no newspaper would print it. I submitted myself to the judicial process as an ordinary citizen, and exposed myself to indignities a president should not endure.

I have consoled myself that great men like Gandhi were not spared criticism either, but –  regardless of it – he pursued the path he believed was true, mindful only of harmful effects on the people, but not of the consequences to him. He believed that God demands no less of us than that we follow our conscience. God will take care of the rest.

I could have promoted only military officers popular with the press and ignored the experience of a democratic government that has been the principal military objective of the rebel forces and an insurgency that just doesn’t know when to quit. But I chose instead commanders of proven courage, leadership and fidelity to the Constitution. I could do the smart thing still, and do the things my opponents unfairly charge me of preparing – rigging the elections in 1992, the way I did not rig the ratification of the Constitution, the national elections and the local elections. The way they rigged elections from 1969 to 1986.

But my instructions to the military and police are explicit. Let them hear it again: The right of the soldier and the policeman is merely to cast his vote; his greater and solemn obligation is to assure the right of others to cast their votes and get them honestly counted. No member of the military shall lend his name, prestige and the influence of his position to anyone’s campaign. The same holds true for the police.

The military has earned the people’s trust as the spearhead of their liberation and the constant defender of their democracy. To these honors, it is my aim to add the distinction of shepherding our democracy through its first political succession, by clean and peaceful elections. I will not preside as commander in chief over the kind of military that cheated the opposition in 1978, and me in 1986.

I hope that history will judge me as favorably as our people still regard me, because, as God is my witness, I honestly did the best I could. No more can be asked of any man. On June 30, 1992, the traditional ceremony of political succession will unfold at the Luneta. The last time it was done that way was in 1965. I shall be there with you to proudly witness the event. This is the glory of democracy, that its most solemn moment should be the peaceful transfer of power. Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat at paalam.

An Invitation For Young Writers, ages 8-15:Young Writers’ Hangout is back! Zoom with us on August 15 & 29, 2-3pm. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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