Cotabato City—When ceremonial flag-raisings were simultaneously flashed on TV for the 121st Philippine Independence Day, the Filipinos were looking for the most important person to have led the rites in at least one of the familiar historical landmarks.
But President Rodrigo Roa Duterte instead chose to celebrate the country’s Freedom Day in Malabang, Lanao del Sur where he was warmly welcomed by security officials, and local executives led by Vice Governor Mamintal Bombit Alonto Adiong Jr.
In his speech, Mr. Duterte said his heart will always be with the Moros, as he himself is a Maranao by blood. He promised to be fair and will always protect the welfare of the Bangsamoro.
“Exploit your natural resources as those are yours,” Duterte told the crowd as he was joined by Ludovico Badoy, chairman of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, who also grew up in Malabang.
The President paid tribute to soldiers who fought and those who died fighting against local Maute terrorists inspired by the self-styled Daesh, widely known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chose to celebrate the birth of our freedom with the Bangsamoro, here in Mindanao, the Land of Promise, and the final frontier of freedom,” said Adiong.
“I believe that Mindanao is now the most important focus of human freedom in the country: Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from injustice. We shall continue the fight against terrorism and poverty until peace, security and prosperity take root in this part of the country.”
Speaking for his mother Governor Bejoria Alonto-Adiong, the vice governor expressed “utmost appreciation and sheer optimism” by President Duterte’s gesture in joining Lanao del Sur in celebrating the Philippines Independence Day on June 12.
The President also laid a wreath onto a landmark in Malabang, which the NHCP built in honor of Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, who was the country’s acting President when executed by a unit of the invasion forces in Malabang, Lanao del Sur on May 20, 1942.
Muslim hero Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat, also ancestor of the Alontos, delivered his famous Lake speech in nearby coastal village of Picong (now part of Sultan Gumander) in 1639.
The historical significance of the Kudarat’s speech is for his people to keep the torch of struggle for generations and against subservience to the colonial Spanish forces. The speech was recorded by Jesuit Francisco Combes, Spain’s ambassador to Kudarat’s court.
Adiong said once he assumes office as the province’s governor on June 30, he would focus more on the economic development of his province by drawing in more investments, generating more job opportunities and on sustainable livelihood development programs.
This, he said, is in support of the Duterte administration’s quest for a prosperous nation.
The 121st Philippine Independence Day Celebration and Presidential Visit were organized by the Office of the President, National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur.