Gloria Macapagal Arroyo: My mission is to free those imprisoned in poverty

From the State of the Nation address delivered by the President of the Philippines in the House of Representatives, in Quezon
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The Independent Online

A revolution gave birth to the first republic in Asia. A sense of nationhood was born but also the dream of a better life for all Filipinos. Andres Bonifacio, the poor man, the great plebeian who started this revolution, nurtured this dream. In 1963, another poor man rose; he rose to the most powerful position in the land and risked everything to fulfil the poor man's dream.

Inspired by the great plebeian, my father, President Diosdado Macapagal, he promulgated the land reform law as a revolution to emancipate the peasant from a feudal bondage to the soil. More recent events have crystallised our vision. In 1986, Filipinos peacefully reclaimed their civil Liberties in the People Power Revolution. Under the leadership of Corazon Aquino, we reaffirmed our commitment to freedom and democracy on a mere stretch of highway – with hardly a drop of bloodshed or a shot fired in anger.

Six months ago, on that same highway, people rose up to restore morality as the first institution of society and as the animating principle of justice and the rule of law.

Thus we see the historic pillars of a national vision: prosperity, freedom, justice. We've also seen in our great revolutions a progressive advancement towards the ultimate goal to transfer power over the state from the traditional economic and political bosses to the people. Last May, the poor raised their voices in anger and their fists in fury. Imprisoned in poverty, shackled to shame, denied justice in society, they personally delivered the message that, one hundred years after they revolted to establish this nation, they had yet to partake of the national dream.

When I became President I told the people about my vision of winning the war against poverty within the decade. To succeed, the template of our national agenda must revolve around four components. The first is an economic philosophy of free enterprise appropriate to the 21st century. Not a pitiless free-for-all but free enterprise with a social conscience. The second component is a modernised agricultural sector founded on social equity. The third component is a social bias toward the disadvantaged to balance our economic development plan. And the fourth component is to raise the moral standards of government and society.

I have organised my interpretation of the state of the nation along an anti-poverty ideology. Under this philosophy, the way to fight poverty is to create jobs, not destroy them. To create jobs, we will attract investments. To attract investments, we will attend to macro measures and concerns. In addressing macro concerns, we will focus on long-term structural issues.

To reduce corruption among elective officials, we will help honest people elected by financing the full computerisation of elections. Let us make the polls of 14 May, 2001 the last national elections that use primitive methods of voter identification and ballot tabulation.

We need every ounce of resource to wage this war on poverty. We cannot afford to lose anything to waste or graft and corruption. We must strengthen justice and the enforcement of law and order. This pertains to two levels. At the level of principle, this administration affirms its commitment to the principle that no one is above the law. Thus, our policy is to support the fair and speedy trial of all the accused involved in the cases against the former president Joseph Estrada. If there were times that I showed concern for the personal circumstances of the former president, it is not a sign of diminished determination to see justice done. Rather, it is out of sensitivity to the feelings of those who have continued to identify with his personal circumstances.

But the government cannot do it alone. I am not a miracle worker. All of us must do our share. We have to think Filipino, buy Filipino, invest Filipino. I invite you to create jobs, accelerate progress and thereby address the root causes of the crime and unrest that so much alarm us.

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