A Time to Heal, Unite, Rebuild Our Divided Nation
Habang nalalapit ang pagdiriwang sa Sentenyal ng ating Unang Republika na isinilang sa apoy ng pakikibaka, nais kong gunitain natin ang diwa ng marami nating martir at bayani: Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Antonio Luna, Macario Sakay, Claro M. Recto, Jose W. Diokno, Ninoy Aquino.
Ang nasyonalismo, ang pag-ibig sa sariling bayan, sa tinubuang lupa, ay hindi kailanman lumilipas. Ito ang diwang yumayanig sa maraming bansa sa daigdig, mula sa mga Republika sa Unyong Sobyet
hanggang sa maraming dako ng Europa, Latin Amerika, Middle East, Aprika at Asya. Ito rin ang damdaming patuloy na umiiral at umaalab sa mga bansang matatag at malakas, tulad ng Hapon at tulad rin ng Estados Unidos, Alemanya at Pransya.
Mr. President, this is a time like no other.
As we decide on what is perhaps the single most important issue in our country today, we witness events in other parts of the world that none would have dared believe were possible in our lifetime. So, too, is the decision we are about to make today.
Today, we Senators of the Republic are given by our Constitution the awesome task of severing the last remaining shackles of colonialism in our motherland: the U.S. military bases. Today, we find ourselves at the threshold of national freedom. The spirits of our heroes—great men and women who were capable of even greater sacrifice—must be hovering in this very hall, stirring our hearts, filling it with courage to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of a people longing for freedom and prosperity.
Today is our turn to perform our duty to history, and we must not fail.
The past days have been, to many of us, a truly difficult period. Members of this chamber have been harassed, vilified, called “cruel and insensitive,” and sometimes virtually called “communists.” But
if we could for a moment be blessed with a historic chance to proclaim sovereignty for our country, if we could contribute, no matter how small, to the creation of an opportunity to put a stop to the spilling of our people’s blood and gain peace in this troubled land, then we would consider it a privilege to pass through the same ordeal and gladly pay the price.
Mr. President, there are a number of reasons why we should not concur with this Treaty-- but foremost among them is our firm belief that
the Filipino people will prosper better in freedom and independence. As we prepare to enter the new millennium, we must be able to honorably take our place in the community of independent and sovereign nations. The sight of the last American warplane flying out of our skies, the last American battleship disappearing from our horizon, and the last American soldier being airlifted from our soil should inspire us to greater heights of achievement. For now, we can finally be on our own, free to chart our destiny as a people; free, as the great Ka Pepe Diokno would have it, to sing our own song.
In casting my vote, I also place my faith in the youth of this land. To the youth I say, yours is the generation who will continue to build on the sovereign gains that we have today achieved. You, our sons and daughters, shall never again have to fear the threat of a foreign power intervening in our national affairs.
To heal the wounds of this nation—that is the duty we must all perform, extremely difficult though it may be. The road to lasting peace, to be sure, is fraught with danger, prejudices, distrust, and there can be no guarantee unless we resolve the basic ills in the land: poverty, injustice and oppression. But if we can take that first crucial step, I say DARE and SEIZE the moment!
No effort is ever wasted if it promotes the cause of peace.
As God is my witness, I too have agonized over the plight of our fellow Filipinos who would lose their jobs in the wake of the U.S. bases' withdrawal. While we must care for them, make every assistance available, and find relief to lessen their hardship, we cannot let an entire nation continue suffering from the deeper and more far-reaching effects of foreign domination.
But still more painful, more agonizing, more devastating is to have to witness the deep division that separates our people over the bases issue. It is a division stoked by fears, the lack of confidence and political will of our leaders, by the greed and vested interests of some sectors, by the shameful disregard of national dignity and honor. It is a division that has seen the most embarrassing and pathetic manifestation of colonial subservience and a seeming reluctance to gain true independence. We must say, ENOUGH OF THIS DIVISION!
There is no other choice but to put our hands to the plow and move forward together. The prospects are daunting only if we continue to be divided. We must take on the problem as ONE NATION. We are Filipinos, proud and hardworking, from the days of our ancestors. We must summon all the strength and fortitude of the Filipino character that will advance our country towards progress and development.
As we enter this new era of our nationhood, we affirm our friendship with the U.S. government and
the American people, whose own dedication to freedom and democracy has fired them two centuries ago with the will and determination to chart their own destiny as a nation. We have a history of shared aspirations. I therefore believe that we shall find a firmer and more lasting ground for friendship.
To you, my exalted colleagues, Senators of the Republic, I extend my congratulations. I am proud to have walked with you in this journey to freedom and pilgrimage for peace. May the wisdom and strength of conviction that we have acquired during these historic days form a collective conscience and courage that our people need in this times of great challenges and opportunities.
Permit me, finally, to pay my personal homage to a man under whose caring arms I grew up to learn love of country above self—a man who spent a lifetime of untiring struggle for nationalism and independence, a man whose dream of freedom for his people may soon be realized by the vote we are to take,
a man who I am deeply proud to call “Tatay”, the former Senator Lorenzo M. Tañada.
On July 4, 1986, in his testimony before the Constitutional Commission's Committee on the Declaration of Principles and State Policies, my father stated:
“That the bases no longer serve the national interest should be clear to anyone who keeps himself well informed of current affairs…
“Any country's foreign policy must proceed from the paramount national interest. More paramount than any other national interest are the safety of our people and our survival as a nation. The bases, instead of guarding that safety and security, are now a threat to our survival. This fact can no longer be disputed. Protestations about the need for us to contribute our bit to the strategic defense of ‘freedom and democracy’ are now empty and meaningless because for 14 years our own country lived under a dictatorship and was neither free nor democratic, and this with the full sanction and actual encouragement of the government of the United States. This was possible not despite but because of the existence of those bases and the rights granted to the United States under the Bases Agreement. The argument invoking the overall strategy of freedom's defense the world over is a false and hypocritical argument. For it is the strategic defense and global hegemony of the United States that the bases are about, not our protection.”
Those words were uttered five years ago; yet, they now are more relevant than ever.
For as he remarked, we could live with certain shortcomings or even mistakes in the choices we may make regarding our form of government or electoral systems, but in the matter of drafting or enforcing a sovereign Charter or defining a self-determined direction for our future, we cannot shirk from our historic responsibility in the supreme task of building a sovereign nation.
For all Filipinos, for the future generations, I cast my vote. National freedom cannot be postponed; the dignity and honor of our people cannot be compromised. I therefore vote a million times NO to this Treaty and a million times YES for Senate Resolution No. 1259 expressing the decision of the Senate not to concur with this treaty.
Tanggihan natin ang tratadong ito. Tanggapin natin ang pagsubok ng pambansang kasarinlan at kapangyarihan tungo sa kapayapaan. Ngayon na!
Ang sarili kong panata sa tunay na kalayaang Pilipino ay iniaalay ko, buhay ko man ay kailanganin. Dahil dito, ang aking boto ay isang malakas na bagsak na “NO”!
MABUHAY ANG SAMBAYANANG PILIPINO!
MARAMING SALAMAT PO.