June 22, 2018, 9:18 am
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Hecklers disrupt Rody address in Cavite

PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday said Filipinos should cherish the freedoms that Filipino heroes and forefathers left behind as legacy in honor of the country’s independence from foreign subjugation more than a century ago. 

In his 120th Independence Day speech, the President said both the current generation and the generations to come will never be able to pay in full the “debt that we owe to the heroes that founded this nation,” but Filipinos could honor them by being worthy of their legacy.

Duterte had just started addressing the crowd when members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Southern Tagalog held a lightning rally in front of the Aguinaldo Shrine and started shouting, “Huwad na Kalayaan, Duterte patalsikin! (Fake freedom, oust Duterte!)” and “Duterte, traydor! (traitor!)”

Members of the Presidential Security Group and police operatives ushered the protesters out of the venue. 

“Hayaan mo lang (Let it be). It’s a freedom of speech. You can have it. Okay lang (It’s okay). I understand. ‘Di bale, hindi, manood ako kasi hindi naman lahat eh (No matter, no, I will just watch because it’s not everyone). Hi,” Duterte reacted to the heckling and even waved to the crowd.

He directed the police, who arrested the protesters, to “just deal with them peacefully and with maximum tolerance.” 

Senior Supt. William Segun, Cavite Police Provincial Office director, said one of the nine hecklers was arrested. He was identified as Francis Couichie , 20, a resident of Barangay Kaingin, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Segun said police enforcers who ran after the group cornered Couichie. 

Police also recovered a placard from Cuoichie with the words, “Kapayapaan para sa lahat, at lahat para sa kapayapaan-Bayan ST” (Peace is for everyone, everyone is for peace—Bayan ST).

Segun said Couichie was allowed to exercise his freedom of expression but will be charged for violation of the Revised Penal Code for disturbance of public order.

When he resumed his speech, Duterte said: “We cannot agree at all times for all seasons. We may not understand each other but at least there is a common denominator and that is love of country. Nobody but nobody can ever question sa pagmamahal ko sa bayan (my love for the country).” 

He added what the protesters did was allowed under the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

Duterte led the flag raising ceremony at the Museo ni Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite but skipped the arrival honors and wreath laying ceremony due to the rains. He instead dropped by the Emilio Aguinaldo monument and paid his respects to the first President before he left Cavite.

The President said it was a great honor for him to join the celebration of Independence Day, his first since becoming president in 2016.

Duterte was supposed to lead the Independence Day celebration last year at the Rizal Park in Manila but Malacañang claimed he had to attend to some “challenges” confronting the country at that time. Instead, he sent Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano to represent him and join Vice President Maria Leonora Robredo at the flag raising ceremony.

The annual Independence Day vin d’honneur was also cancelled last year in deference to the siege in Marawi City then which came under terrorist attack on May 23, 2017. 

There is no announcement yet as to whether the Independence Day vin d’honneur, which is usually attended by members of the diplomatic corps, would be held this year. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, when asked, said “no info (information).”

In his speech, Duterte said: “The story of how our forebears fought for our sovereignty and established a Filipino nation shall forever inspire us to cherish the freedoms that we enjoy, all of us, today.” 

He lamented, though: “Sadly, more than a century since our heroes liberated us from foreign subjugation, our nation still has to face enemies that attack from within. This, time, we face the modern challenges of poverty, corruption, environmental degradation, terrorism, criminality and illegal drugs.” 

Duterte said he has made it his personal mission to free the nation of the social ills, but admitted he cannot do it alone and would need the support of the Filipinos to address the problems and ensure they would not cause more damage to the future.

He renewed his commitment to get rid of illegal drugs and corruption, and reiterated what he had already done or has started to do since assuming the presidency, such as firing government officials involved in corruption and intensifying the anti-drug campaign problems.

He added he is also exerting efforts to achieve peace and renewed his call for communist leader Jose Maria Sison to return to the country for the peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines. 

He likewise appealed again to Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law to avoid another “round of ruckus.”

He also reaffirmed his commitment to address terrorism problems especially in Mindanao, while reiterating his gratitude for the different law enforcement groups that had been fighting local terrorist groups.

“Ako, sabi ko (I said), I have a few more years. And I will do my best especially in the matter of graft and corruption. I have fired so many and will continue to fire everybody…I said I will stop graft and corruption and I’m doing it. Talagang ginagawa ko. Inuupakan ko lahat. Sinabi ko, hintuin ninyo ang droga  (I really do it. I hit everyone. I said, stop drugs) because drugs will destroy this nation,” Duterte said.

In the afternoon, the President flew to Clark in Pampanga where he administered the oath of office to some 3,100 newly elected barangay officials.

Duterte urged the barangay leaders to help him in his fight against illegal drugs. 

He also reassured the officials he would back them up and not allow them to go to jail if they are charged for doing their duties, as long as they do not get involved in illegal drugs.

In Camp Crame, ranking police officials led by Deputy Director General Ramon Apolinario, the deputy PNP chief for administration, held the traditional flag-raising activity in the absence of PNP chief Oscar Albayalde who joined President Duterte in Kawit, Cavite.

In a speech he read for Albayalde, Apolinario reminded policemen to be loyal to their sworn duties to protect and serve the people.  – With Raymond Africa 
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