President Rodrigo Duterte said democracy in the Philippines is “a work in progress” but took pride in Filipinos being “free.”
In his intervention at the United States’ (US) Summit for Democracy convened by US President Joseph “Joe” Biden Jr. on Friday, Duterte described democracy in the Philippines as “vibrant”.
“I am proud to be at this Summit for Democracy to tell you about the Philippine experience. Philippine democracy is indeed a work in progress. But the Filipino is free. The Philippines is free,” he said in his speech.
Duterte touted the Philippines as being the “first republic in Asia” and the “inspiration of all Asian struggles for independence.”
He said freedom of expression and of the press is fully enjoyed and the regular transfer of power is guaranteed through free and honest elections.
However, he noted that corruption, poverty, and peace and order issues have always been and continue to be the country’s major challenges.
“They weakened our institutions and deprived many Filipinos of democratic agencies,” he added.
He stressed the importance of peace and progress, noting that he aspired for a government that really works for the Filipino people, especially the poor and the marginalized, when he was elected president in 2016.
As part of his pledge to ensure meaningful change, he said “difficult undertakings” had to be done such as making necessary reforms, healing deep wounds of division, and redressing stark inequalities in the country.
“My government worked to give the Filipino people the basic means to lead a life of dignity. This entails creating jobs, safeguarding peace and security, and instituting social safety nets,” he said.
Duterte said the country has made “significant headways”, especially in economic expansion, but Covid-19 struck and reversed many of the country’s hard-earned gains.
Though his government sought to broaden democratic participation through federalism, he admitted that his constitutional project did not get Congress support.
“So be it. I respect the separation of powers vital for democracy,” he said.
Despite this, he said he will spend the remaining months of his term ensuring that no one is left behind as the country recovers from the pandemic.
“I step down in June 2022. The work of our imperfect democracy will certainly continue. My administration will ensure an honest, peaceful, credible, and free elections in May,” he said.
Duterte said it would be his “highest honor” to turn over the reins of power to his successor knowing that he did his best to serve the country and people.
Earlier, Malacañang described Duterte’s decision to participate in the US-organized summit as “consistent” with his independent foreign policy of being “friend to all, enemy to none.”
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, acting presidential spokesperson, said Duterte has always prioritized a policy that will first and foremost serve the people and protect the interests of the country. (PNA)