Robredo Not Satisfied with Freedom

"Filipinos are truly enjoying more freedom now than two decades ago. But if the question is 'are we satisfied with this freedom?,' to my mind, the answer is 'not yet.'"
In her Freedom Speech at Enderun Colleges in Taguig on 4 December 2014, Congresswoman Leni Robredo said that there was a need to give people more choices and to empower them so that they can truly enjoy their freedom. She narrated the classroom situation in one of the poorest barangays in her district where there were 38 students and only nine chairs. The teacher would schedule the days when a child can sit on a chair.

"Every day, I worry that I am not doing enough or that there is someone I missed, or there is another child waiting for a chair that I have not seen. There is an opportunity right now, to calcify policies so that freedom will be sustained," said Robredo.

Robredo mentioned the bills that she filed in the House of Representatives to promote citizen participation in governance: House Bill 4113 allowing the people to inspect projects and programs before they are paassed as part of the General Appropriations Act; House Bill 4911 or the People Empowerment Bill creating People's Councils in all local government units; and the Full Disclosure Bill requiring all government agencies to disclose its financial documents to the public. Robredo also champions the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI).

"There is a need to institutionalize opportunities for engagement. Administrations come and go. Political leaders come and go. Policies that encourage citizen engagement and enrich personal and societal freedoms must not come and go," stressed Robredo. "This has now become my work as I try to fill in my husband's tsinelas (slippers)."

Robredo represents the Third District of Camarines Sur. She is the wife of the late Interior Secretary and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo whose story of "tsinelas leadership" or genuine service to the people especially to the marginalized continues to inspire many.

The Freedom Speech is an annual speech that discusses the state of freedom in the Philippines. The inaugural address was delivered by Budget Secretary Butch Abad in 2011, followed by Election Commissioner Grace Padaca in 2012, and Senator Bam Aquino last year. It is organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), a German liberal foundation that promotes good governance.

During the program, four individuals were also awarded the Freedom Flame. "This award is given in the spirit of trust and hope that you will continue to be examples and our partners in this journey for development and authentic freedom in the country, said House Deputy Speaker Dina Abad when she presented the plaques of recognition to Makati Business Club Executive Director Peter Perfecto (integrity in business), journalist Vergel Santos (economic freedom), Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Atty. Arpee Santiago (human rights), and to Jess Lorenzo who accepted the posthumous award on behalf of his mother, Former Nueva Ecija Mayor Sonia Lorenzo.

"The Philippines continues its steady march upwards in the annual global corruption ranking. It is now at 85th place out of 175, and for the first time in the top half of the table," shared FNF Country Director Jules Maaten. "A lot still has to be done, but this is an incredible achievement especially considering that the country was in 139th place in 2009. It has moved 50 places in the first four and half years of this liberal administration," he added.

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