Duterte: “change must come from above; change and reforms from below are upheavals”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 24 February) — As the nation is commemorating the 31st anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolution that toppled down the Marcos dictatorship, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said change or reforms, if they are to bear fruit “must come from above” because reforms that come from below are “upheavals, both violent and transitory.”

“As we push through ourselves to a better Philippines, I recall Dr. Jose Rizal’s writings. Thus I have also written the change or reforms if they are to bear fruit must come from above for change or reforms that come below are upheavals, both violent and transitory,” Duterte told the 21st International Assembly and Conference of the Knights of Rizal at the SMX Convention Center here Thursday night where he was also conferred the Knight Grand Cross of Rizal.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte urges the members of the Knights of Rizal to follow the good attributes of Jose Rizal in their own little ways in his speech during the 21st International Assembly and Conference of the Knights of Rizal at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City on February 23, 2017. The President was conferred with the Knight Grand Cross of Rizal, the highest degree in the Order. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./Presidential Photo

Duterte was honored for his “unprecedented victory as President and restoring people’s faith in government.”

Davao City’s mayor of 22 years narrated that when he ran for the Presidency, he knew the country was beset with multitude of problems but “did not know then “how deeply ingrained and enormous those problems were.”

“Nonetheless and early on, I felt that there must be a meaningful change or reform with those occupying the highest positions in government,” he said.

He said leaders know “what we need or ought to do but we do not do them because our concept of government is parochial and we cannot rise above our family ethnic and clan loyalties.”

He said it would be good to “revisit the wisdom” of Rizal’s words.

He cited how a Jesuit priest who feared for Rizal’s life after the latter wrote “Noli Me Tangere” asked him if he did not fear for the consequences of his boldness, and Rizal replied: “Father, you are a missionary. When you are on a mission, do your duty without fear of consequences. Are you not afraid, too?”

When the priest said that was a completely different thing, Rizal replied: “Not at all, Father. Your mission is to baptize pagans. Mine is to dignify men.”

Duterte also cited Rizal’s letter to Resurrección Hidalgo, where he said, “I have laughed at my misfortunes because nobody wanted to weep with me.”

He also noted that Rizal was “ahead of his time.”

“My administration has proposed to shift from a governmental structure to a federal system. But it is really nothing new,” he said, noting that Rizal had said this in  his essay, “The Philippines a Century Hence,” published in La Solidaridad in 1889.

He said Rizal saw the merits and the advantages of a federal system of government. “No wonder, he predicted that the Philippines would probably adopt a federal republic once liberated,” Duterte added.

He said he hopes the Knights of Rizal would be at the forefront of the shift to federalism.

“Dr. Jose Rizal is as relevant to us now as he was in this nation during his lifetime. His words echo and re-echo through the years, but sad to say, it seems that we have not profited enough from their wisdom,” Duterte said.

He spoke of the need to “reexamine our conscious along the lines of Dr. Jose Rizal. Rizal’s thoughts, aspirations, and vision, and then decide whether we strengthen the bond that unites us as a people and nation or tear this country apart.”

Duterte ended his speech by saying, “you can be a Rizal, I can be Rizal in our own modest ways and within the limits of our competence and capacities. We can all be Rizals.”

The President returned to Davao City Tuesday night.  In the past two weeks, he has spent more time in the city than in Malacanang.

Duterte, the 16th President of the Philippines and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, did not show up at the 31st EDSA Anniversary commemoration program at the Grandstand of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Friday.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea represented Duterte at the program.

It was the first time a sitting Philippine President did not attend the People Power commemoration that toppled the Marcos dictatorship. Duterte is also the first President to have allowed Marcos’ remains buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) in November last year.

This year’s theme is “A Day of Reflection: Celebrating People Power for Nation Building.”

In his message read for him by Medialdea, Duterte said “EDSA lives on and its spirit should continue to inspire heroism in all of us for the greater glory of God and country.”

“My administration has always believed in the power of the people to chart their own destiny, and establish a government that will put the people’s interests, especially the welfare of the poor and underprivileged sectors, as its topmost priority,” he said.

“More than a mere commemoration, now is the perfect time for all of us to reflect and objectively assess what we have lost and what we have gained as a nation since that historic event,” his message (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)