(UPDATED – 3:15 P.M.) MANILA – As the Philippines marks the 121st anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal’s martyrdom, President Rodrigo Duterte asked the public to reflect on the values the national hero had instilled into his fellow countrymen and beloved land.
“May we take this occasion as an opportunity to recognize Dr. Rizal’s ultimate sacrifice for the country,” he said in his message to commemorate Rizal Day on Saturday.
Duterte arrived at the site of the Rizal Day commemorations early — near the spot where the national hero was executed by Spanish colonizers — and left after brief rites.
Vice President Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo was in attendance. She was positioned side by side with President Duterte at the flag-raising ceremony.
In his message, the chief executive noted that more than a century ago, Rizal inspired a movement that gave rise to the Filipino national identity.
“During the dark chapter in our nation’s history, his writings served as the light that guided our forebears in the fight for genuine equality and independence,” he said.
Rizal, a man of many professions, an author, a physician, and a teacher among others, was shot in Bagumbayan, now known as Rizal Park, on Dec. 30, 1896 after publishing his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which tackled the cruelty and injustices committed by Spanish colonizers against Filipinos.
“As an author and as a scholar, he denounced the corruption, greed, and other social ills that up to this day continue to plague our society,” the President said.
“Even in death, he imparted upon us his aspirations for a nation that is free from the scourge of injustice, tyranny, and suffering,” he added.
With this, Duterte appealed to Filipinos to reflect on Rizal’s patriotism as the nation “strives to continue his work of building a more united, peaceful and prosperous Philippines”.
VILLANUEVA, LP SOLONS PONDER RIZAL
In his own message sent to media outlets, Sen. Joel Villanueva said: “As we celebrate Rizal Day, may we all take time to contemplate his teachings and principles, and ask ourselves what we can do to contribute in nation-building.
Let us further take this opportunity not only to pay tribute to Rizal’s heroic and selfless deeds, but also to strive to emulate his sense of duty and burning passion to bring progressive and nationalistic reforms for the love of our Motherland.”
The Liberal Party, the minority in the Senate, described Rizal as a “millennial” of his time. “He was 25 when he published Noli Me Tangere, a novel that described the ills for the cancerous colonial Philippine society toward the end of the 19th century. He was 30 when he published El Filibusterismo, the follow-up to his first novel that prescribed societal cures.”
Even up to the point of his execution at age 35 “for expressing the idea that everyone has inherent, inalienable rights, Rizal inspired Filipinos to believe that they were capable of ruling themselves,” the LP said in a statement.
The party urged “today’s millennials to be like Rizal, to work for a better Philippines, free of poverty and fear, and where justice and solidarity reign.”
Meanwhile, Duterte nemesis Leila de Lima issued a message from her detention cell in Camp Crame, likening the oppression that Rizal fought against to the current situation of Filipinos.
“Malinaw po: Si Gat Jose Rizal ay bilanggong pulitikal ng isang mapaniil at malupit na pamahalaang Kastila. Sa pagtataguyod ng reporma, sa pagtatanggol ng karapatang pantao, sa paglalahad ng katotohanan ukol sa baluktot na patakaran ng gobyerno, ipinakulong siya at hinatulan sa kasalanang hindi niya ginawa. Siniraan ang reputasyon at pangalan ng mga gawa-gawang paratang ukol sa rebelyon at destabilisasyon.
“Mahigit isang siglo na ang nakalipas, naritong muli ang isang mapaniil at mapang-abusong gobyerno—walang pakundangan sa paghihirap ng maralita, pinapatay ang mahihirap at walang kalaban-laban, ginigipit ang malayang pamamahayag, ipinakukulong ang inosente at kinakasuhan ang mga humahadlang sa kanilang mala-diktador na pamamahala.”
De Lima said everyone is being called to live the principles championed by Rizal and those who worked for independence after him.
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