Keynote Address by Philippine Senate President and Former CALD Chair, Hon. Franklin M. Drilon, on the occasion of the 6th CALD-ALDE Meeting held on 09 November 2013 at the Manila Hotel, Philippines.
Hon. Graham Watson, Hon. Sam Rainsy, Dr. Rainer Adam, Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
Exactly ten years ago, I was in Bangkok, Thailand—the birthplace of Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats – to take part in the celebration of a decade of democratic activism amongst liberal political parties in Asia. Many of you in this audience were with us then.
Today, as we celebrate CALD’s 20th anniversary, we extend our warm welcome to our friends in Europe and Asia. Literally, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and the CALD, meet in Manila in the eye of the storm–the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land in world history. Welcome to Manila!
I remember the engaging discussions in Bangkok ten years ago when key personalities from CALD and allied liberals worldwide were wide engaged in. I was touched by the hospitality of our hosts led by former Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai; our founding Chair, the former Thai Foreign Minister and ASEAN Secretary General, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan; and the CALD Chair during that time, Prince Sukhumbhand Paribatra, now the Governor of Bangkok.
At that time, I was on my third year as the President of the Philippine Senate. I was then a newly minted Chairman of the Philippine Liberal Party.
Since then, CALD and the Liberal Party have become important parts of my political and professional life, especially from 2005 to 2007 during my tenure as CALD Chair.
I can proudly say that through various political, economic and social turmoil, from one crisis after another, CALD and the Philippine Liberal Party were there to tackle head on the most pressing and relevant issues and concerns of the day. We did it with clarity of vision, and the determination to seek the best solutions which, in turn, can only be achieved by our willingness for serious self-examination. Our only prejudice–our liberal ideology. Our only bias–our conviction to serve the people.
Today, we open the 6th meeting between the ALDE and CALD. This is the second time for the Liberal Party of the Philippines to be given the honor of hosting this most important event.
As many of you know, while CALD was born in Asia, it was conceived in Europe. But it has not been a one way street. Yes, it is true that many of us in Asia still have a long way to go to reach the level of democratic advancement, political maturity and stability and of course, economic development that you have in Europe. Despite the multifarious problems facing the European Union, so clearly outlined by Mr. Graham, it still remains, for many of us a model of regional integration, which the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for example, can emulate.
The cooperation and engagement between CALD and ALDE have become a partnership in the truest sense of the word; a partnership characterized by mutual respect, transparency and mutual accountability; a partnership that has resulted in mutual growth and development, and even synergy.
Today, CALD remains relevant. We are now on our 20th year—stronger than ever, ready once again to serve as a clearing house for the best ideas and practices that can aid us—whether as political parties, as parliamentarians, as government or even as opposition leaders offering viable alternatives—in drafting political agendas, policies and platforms of governance.
In a span of ten years, many CALD member parties gained, lost, or regained power. Parallel to the ups and downs of the political fortunes of bigger political parties within CALD is the continued persecution of our political allies. But even within authoritarian and semi-authoritarian regimes, CALD has significant victories.
In Myanmar, our beloved Aung San Syu Kyi has been released after spending more than 15 years in detention, and is actively campaigning in and outside Myanmar to lead her people to the path of freedom and democracy.
Aung Suu Kyi once said, and I quote: “Throughout my years in detention, CALD has been a consistent voice in calling for the restoration of freedom and democracy. Much remains to be done….there still remains many oppressive regimes all over the world, and in our part of the world…CALD and its allies continue… to use (their) freedom to promote ours” (end of quote).
In Cambodia, the united opposition, headed by our dear friend and incumbent CALD Chair, Sam Rainsy, has officially won 55 seats—an increase of 26 seats. Because of allegations of massive cheating, vote buying and a partisan electoral commission, Sam Rainsy and the National Rescue Party continue to reject the results of the national elections, and have taken their case to another venue which we Filipinos are only too familiar with—the parliament of the streets.
In Singapore, Dr. Chee Soon Juan, after repeated prosecution and incarceration, can now travel freely, and will be joining us this afternoon after several years of forced absence.
In the Philippines, the Liberal Party rose to power with the election of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. The Aquino Administration strongly pursues the twin goals of good governance and sustainable development. However, good governance and addressing the scourge of corruption by relentlessly pursuing transparency and accountability are not easy tasks.
Today, the Aquino government is getting intense public beating because of the alleged misuse of government resources earmarked in the national budget by some legislators, popularly known in the West as the pork barrel, to fund preferred projects and programs. We see this challenge, colossal as it is, as a cleansing process. The Aquino government will not spare anyone who will be proven guilty from accountability and punishment. This might be a painful politically cleansing process, but we are confident that when the political and judicial process is completed, and the guilty is punished, the platform of good governance upon which the Aquino Administration stands, will have a stronger foundation.
Today, in the Philippines, government transparency and openness have been made possible, we must emphasize, because of the Aquino administration’s strong adherence to democratic principles and ideals.
Bad governance – the root of all economic ills – can be squarely addressed only in a democracy, because of the presence of institutions and legal environment that make governments and public officials accountable.
Democracy is a continuing struggle. For as long as we remain steadfast in our convictions and principles, we will prevail.
For some countries in Asia, the pursuit of democracy is long and arduous. Aside from the political persecution and oppression of those in the opposition, or even in exile, those of us who are in power, or who have been in power, also face serious challenges to the democratic gains we have made. Political patronage, populism and dogmatism, continue to hound otherwise stable democracies such as the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan.
However, we must remain optimistic. We must not lose hope. Certainly, we look forward to the day when Aung San Suu Kyi becomes the first democratically elected president of Myanmar after decades of military rule. And, we will all be there cheering and proud, when our CALD Chair, Sam Rainsy, is elected as Prime Minister of Cambodia. CALD will certainly be sending a delegation to your inaugurations, as it did when President Aquino became the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines.
Today, as we celebrate our victories, we recognize the sacrifices, and even the martyrdom, of those who made these possible. There are other things more important than becoming the party in power. Our core liberal values, among them the protection of the rights of every individual, the rule of law, good governance –these are what defines us. In times of struggles, these are what keep us going. In times of victory, these become our moral compass.
Political parties are the heart and soul of a democracy. We, liberals, should be at the forefront of political party reform. We must reach out to our constituents. We must remain inclusive and consultative. A political party that does not practice internal democracy, can never be expected to rule democratically.
To those who continue to remain with us, we say thank you. To those who will be joining us in our endeavours, we extend our warm welcome.
To those who are no longer with us—President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea, President Ab-dur-rah-man Wahid of Indonesia, Senator Vi-ja-ya-rat-Nam of Malaysia, and our very own, President Corazon Aquino—we humbly offer our eternal gratitude.
Thank you very much.
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This post was written by CALD