There is an image from the EDSA People Power Revolution that has been branded into our national consciousness: Nuns on their knees, who despite being worried at the sight of guns, continued to display faith and compassion. Through the rosaries and flowers we handed to armed soldiers, through the human chains we formed to stop the advance of tanks, we were able to prove: Compassion is the most powerful response to anger; there is no greater weapon than love.
This was the same strength our countrymen showed my family back in 1983, after my father was assassinated. There is a photograph that serves as a reminder of the depth of suffering we underwent back then. In this picture, I could no longer recognize my father’s face. He was like a slab of meat dropped on the tarmac, and thrown into an AVSECOM van.
If you put yourselves in my situation, you might understand where I am coming from. That’s my father covered in blood after getting shot. I am his only son. I will admit: I thought of vengeance; I said that debts in blood must be paid in blood. In fact, the Bible says: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” It came to the point that I was even prepared to sacrifice my life, if I could only take my father’s murderer to the grave with me.
But my perspective changed when I saw thousands of people gathered outside our house in Times street, demonstrating solidarity and expressing sympathy. Their fear of Martial Law appeared to be completely gone, and they bravely expressed compassion for my father. Like what would eventually happen in EDSA, they showed us: We were not alone. And it was the Filipino people who taught me: Achieving my father’s dream of peaceful change was still possible.
I recall this story today not to win sympathy for myself, but to emphasize the lessons it taught us. As President, I am fully aware that I would be remiss in my duties if I do not remind our countrymen of the power of compassion. I would be remiss if I do not remind everyone that, in times of grief, we are not alone, and that there are other paths to take. Despite videos displaying violence, despite the anger that may solidify in our hearts, we must remind ourselves: Truth, compassion, love, and peace will always be more powerful.
Let us bear in mind: The conflict in Mindanao continues to bring conflict for all of us. This is why each one of us is obligated to pursue peace in Mindanao. We also know that the path to peace is not easy to tread. When negotiations between our government and the MILF reached a deadlock, I decided to personally talk to Chairman Murad Ebrahim in Japan, together with Chairman Mohagher Iqbal and their companions, to continue the peace talks. The characteristic we all needed to display during that time was clear: that was trust. The good sincere exchange between the two sides that led to an agreement that was acceptable to all was a product of trust.
We have an opportunity to change the narrative of ARMM, and there are many reasons for it. Many countries are showing their support for our peace talks. Malaysia is one example. They have shown this not just in words, but in actions. They have shown us that they are partners in achieving peace. And because of our people’s trust in our administration, not once was I tempted to use ARMM for its command votes. The leaders of the MILF likewise expressed to us their trust and confidence that they would be our partners, together with the entire Bangsamoro, in pursuing peace. This is indeed a golden opportunity, a time when peace in Mindanao is finally within our reach. To all those calling for a stop to the peace process, and to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we ask: How can they guarantee that such an opportunity will present itself once more?
What happened in Mamasapano was truly painful. Let us not forget that our police went there, not to inflict violence, but to fulfill the law. They sacrificed so much so that we could attain peace; it would not be just if what they gave for peace became the spark that ignited further violence. Like what Martin Luther King said in America: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” In these days, we are called to remember the lessons carried by these words.
I wish I could guarantee to you that no one would take advantage of this incident. We are exerting every effort to maintain order. At the same time, we know that, as we move nearer and nearer to the fulfillment of our aspirations, those contrary to our goals are becoming more desperate. It would be ideal if they were able to propose alternative solutions, instead of hurling criticism after criticism. Thus, we cannot help but think: They do not want peace, because they themselves benefit from chaos and violence. What they want: for Filipinos to once again think only of themselves and for us to lose our faith in each other, and choose only to pursue our individual agendas.
If we allow ourselves to be defeated by those who oppose peace, it would be tantamount to allowing the chaos in Mindanao to worsen. If we were to surrender the pursuit of the Bangsamoro, it would be tantamount to allowing them to bequeath arms to the next generations of our fellow Filipinos.
We will not allow this to happen. It is only by realizing a just and lasting peace that we can say that the sacrifices of those who fought in EDSA—together with those who gave their lives to put an end to the sowing of fear and violence in society—were worth it.
For those of us who experienced EDSA, we know the positive fruits of exercising sobriety and remaining calm—of allowing reason, faith, and love for one another to take precedence—instead of allowing ourselves to be carried away by anger and our emotions. If back then God guided our nation towards peaceful change, I have faith that, in spite of these new challenges, our trust in each other will prevail.
When Cardinal Sin and my Tito Butz called on Filipinos to gather in EDSA, millions of people, together with the religious, flocked to this thoroughfare. The truth is that all this was sudden. All the elements to yield a bloody revolution were present: fear, tension, and weapons. But, as I said, with the guidance of our loving God, the dictatorship was overthrown successfully, in a peaceful manner, and this was revered by the whole world. All things considered, this pursuit of peace in the entire country, especially in ARMM, is far more planned, with more contributing to it. Perhaps if God helped us then, he will also help us today. Perhaps what is asked of those of us who learned the lessons of EDSA is to work even harder in fostering the condition that will allow us to realize peace.
In the name of all the Filipinos who fought in EDSA, and of all our countrymen who have sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice for their fellowmen and our country, let us continue the fight towards the peace and prosperity to which we have long aspired.