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Aquino confers awards on 6 key people who inspired 1986 EDSA revolt

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President Benigno S. Aquino III conferred on Saturday morning the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo on the late Joaquin “Chino” Roces and five Legion of Honor Awards with the rank of Commander to the late Teodoro Benigno and the late U.S. Rep. Stephen Solarz, as well as Fr. James Reuter (SJ), Napoleon Rama and Billy Esposo.

The awarding was held at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of Malacanang as part of the weeklong celebration of the 25th anniversary of EDSA People Power Revolution.

In a speech, the President said it has recently become fashionable to point out the unfulfilled promises of EDSA with some daring to say that “maybe a one-man rule was not such a bad idea, never mind the oppression and the lack of liberties.”

“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,” he asked.

The President said he disagreed because “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,” he said.

He challenged his critics to talk to people who were there during the dark days. “Just 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 (journalist and floor leader of the 1986 Constitutional Commission), 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,” he added.

“Ask our favorite chair wrecker, Billy Esposo, who also put up a Cory Media Bureau that battled against media monopoly. Or the families of the late Chino Roces, Teddy Benigno and Representative Solarz,” continued the President.

“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.”

He thanked 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: ‘The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.’”

He said 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,” he added.

He said he also sought “to intervene in an unjust plea bargain in the case of Gen. 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.”

“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,” the Chief Executive added.

Among those present in the awarding ceremonies were members of the diplomatic community, the Cabinet, the families of the awardees, Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga, columnist Conrad de Quiros and members of both houses of Congress. (PNA)




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