Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in his 120th Independence Day message said the country was enjoying a “fake freedom” due to killings and injustices.
“Freedom is fake if we’re toying around with justice. We repeat: It is against the will of God to destroy life. Killing is not a solution to personal and societal problems,” Tagle said in Filipino.
Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the country is now turning into a killing field, and that murderers are now victimizing clergymen.
“They are killing our flock. They are killing us the shepherds. They are killing our faith. They are cursing our Church. They are killing God again as they did in Calvary,” Villegas said.
He said that nowadays killing is the solution of everything.
“Killing is the solution. Killing is the language. Killing is the way. Killing is the answer. Killing is encouraged. Killing is their job. Killers are rewarded. Killers boast of their murders,” he added.
“They kill in the streets. They kill inside homes. They kill in tricycles and jeeps. They kill in plazas. They kill in the malls. They kill in the chapels. The nation is a killing field. They kill everywhere. They are happy to kill,” he said.
He then asked supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte if they still find killing “funny.”
“Are you still clapping? Are you still laughing? You still find it funny? You still think ‘Dapat lang?… Are you still saying our people feel safer now? Are you still saying this is the best government we ever had? Is this the change you want? Are these the changes you dream of? Are you still saying ‘There are some good things happening! Focus on the good?’ If they curse us again for speaking up, we will not be surprised,” Villegas said.
He then called on fence-sitters in the government not to remain silent.
“Are you afraid to talk? You think silence is a virtue? You think we your shepherds should sow unity by being like the monkeys who see and speak and hear no evil? You think we can be the next target if we speak? Do you still care? Where is your faith? You talk in whispers. You are afraid to be heard? Have we become numb and dumb?” Villegas asked.
Villegas said the killing of clergymen—three priests have been killed in the last six months—would not stop the church from criticizing the Duterte administration.
Instead, Villegas said the killing of priests will even embolden them to continue crying for justice. With Rio N. Araja, Vito Barcelo, Macon Ramos-Araneta and PNA
“We are not afraid. We trust in the Lord. We are ready to battle for God’s honor. They want to bury us, priests. But they forget that we priests are seeds. When you bury us, we will grow more and flourish. You cannot stop the Gospel from growing. You cannot stop God from being God. You cannot muzzle the voice of truth,” Villegas said.
The recent murder of Fr. Richmond Nilo was the third of a priest in six months, following the killing of Fr. Mark Ventura in Gattaran, Cagayan on April 29 and Fr. Marcelito Paez in Jaen, Nueva Ecija on Dec. 4.
On June 6, Fr. Rey Urmeneta of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Calamba was wounded after being shot by unidentified suspects. Urmeneta, a former police chaplain, suffered wounds to his left upper back and left arm was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Vice President Leni Robredo called on the Filipino people to fight for their freedom against oppressors threatening their human rights, right to affordable commodities and territorial sovereignty.
“Today, it appears that our freedom is being threatened by different faces of danger—from widespread poverty amid inflation up to lack of justice,” she said.
“From setting aside human rights to [our] claims of our territories by foreign forces,” she added, referring to the administration’s reconciliatory approach to the country’s territorial disputes with China.
“Amid these, the Filipinos I know will not give up. Instead, they will remain steadfast and fight for our freedom,” she said in a statement.
A group of protesters heckled Duterte and called him a traitor at the rites in Kawit, Cavite, but the President kept his composure and said it was their right to speak their minds.
But later Cavite police arrested a 20-year-old man for interrupting Duterte’s speech.
The Kawit Municipal Police Station identified the suspect as Francis D. Couichie from Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Police said they arrested him for repeatedly shouting “huwad na kalayaan” (fake freedom).
Duterte told protesters that despite their differences, they had at least one common denominator.
“We may not understand each other but at least there is a common denominator and that is love of country,” Duterte said in his speech where he led the flag-raising ceremony amid a downpour.
Duterte said that he understood the reason protesters staged their outcry, saying the 1987 Constitution itself guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and free expression.
“It’s freedom of speech. You can have it. It’s okay. I will understand,” Duterte said.
“Our Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and free expression. So I would just advise the law enforcement to just deal with them peacefully and [with] the maximum tolerance,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Philippine independence has never been stronger now that globalization is in full swing and the country is friendly with other trading global partners.
“Change is inevitable,” he said.
“Our people’s pride and love for country has never waned and we take the last line of our national anthem to heart,” Sotto said.
Another ally of the President in the Senate, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, said the freedom that the country achieved more than a century ago continues to inspire every Filipino.
Senator Loren Legarda, urged Filipinos to be open to all kinds of change but to never forget the importance of protecting and preserving Filipino culture and identity.
Senator Richard J. Gordon also called on Filipinos to work together to achieve the true independence that the brave men and women in history envisioned and fought for.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said independence is just the first step to improving the quality of life for all Filipinos.
“We cannot falter in securing the gains we have made since our independence. Filipinos must use their political rights to empower their countrymen, especially the poor and needy,” he said.
In the House, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the Philippines has become “truly independent” only during the term of President Duterte.
“Our politics was controlled by Americans, our economy was controlled by the Americans. Were we truly independent? No,” Alvarez said in his speech as the guest speaker during the Independence Day celebration in Tagum City in his home province of Davao del Norte.
Alvarez cited the Duterte administration’s “major shift in the country’s foreign policy” -- which he said was for the welfare of the Filipino people.
“Our President’s only wish is for the peace and development of our country,” Alvarez said.
“And we can say we are truly an independent nation because we now have the power to chart our own destiny,” he added.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate contradicted Alvarez’s claim.
“Are we really free? Are we free when the whole country is a virtual US military base due to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement? Are we free when the West Philippine Sea where our exclusive economic zone and other valid sovereign and territorial claims are being controlled?” Zarate said. With Rio N. Araja, Vito Barcelo, Macon Ramos-Araneta and PNA