Celebrating Freedom Milestones in 2012

"We have always fought for our freedom from oppressive leaders, we are now challenged to use the measure of freedom that we now enjoy to push the bar a little higher, to take steps a little farther, from what we are expected,” said Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Grace Padaca in her Freedom Speech on 4 December 2012 at Hotel H20 in Manila. As put by the presenter of the event, USec. Chito Gascon: "Grace Padaca, and the eight individuals who were awarded the Freedom Flame, exemplify courage so that others may experience freedom, too".

The evening gathered over 100 guests and identified freedom milestones that took place in 2012. Freedom Flames were presented to outstanding personalities whose contribution to freedom in the Philippines this year was extraordinary. “Violence especially in armed conflict creates great insecurity, great fear among people, makes futures uncertain. The framework agreement sets a doable roadmap for bringing a just and lasting peace in the region and that is a movement towards freedom from fear, freedom from insecurity,” said Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles, who was awarded the Freedom Flame for her tireless efforts to promote a peaceful settlement for Bangsamoro. “Certainly, war has also brought great deprivation, it has brought hunger, great gaps in health and education services so with this roadmap that we are certainly determined to implement and to bring to a full completion, really addresses so many elements and aspects of freedom that our people certainly deserve,” explained Deles on how the peace agreement can allow for more freedom in the Philippines.

Multi-awarded investigative journalist, Marites Vitug, who recently came out with a book that recounts ‘the darkest hour’ of the Philippine Supreme Court, also received the Freedom Flame. “By reporting on a very secretive institution like the Supreme Court and judiciary, I have tried to push the limits of freedom in this field, and by blazing the trail, I hope that many of the reporters will follow this and eventually make the court a very transparent institution. When we achieve this then we can say that we have really exercised our freedom to scrutinize a very important branch of government,” said Vitug.

The Freedom Flames were presented by former Senator Wigberto "Bobby" Tanada, himself a celebrated human rights advocate. The other recipients were Congressman Niel Tupas for his role in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona; Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Neric Acosta and singer Noel Cabangon for their roles in helping the environment and promoting good governance; Congressman Erin Tañada for his efforts to promote the Freedom of Information bill; Senator Franklin Drilon, who was celebrated for pushing for the passage of the "sin tax" reform bill, as well as for promoting fair and free elections in Cambodia and the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo's family, Atty. Leni, Aka, Tricia and Jillian Robredo for being beacons of hope for Filipinos who wish for better governance.

The Freedom Project, which recognizes programs of national and local government and civil society organizations that allow communities to experience the benefits of freedom, was also recognized at the event. Mainstreaming Migration in Local Development of the City Government of Naga, which gives local Overseas Filipino (OF) sector a voice in local governance topped the 21 entries that were submitted this year. Biogas for Cooking and Power Generation of the Benedictine Nuns of the Eucharistic King and the Department of Energy (DoE) was the runner-up, while Sinag ng Pag-asa of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Campus Hour of Radyo Veritas 846 won in the online voting.

The event was the culmination of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s (FNF) It’s All About Freedom campaign for 2012. FNF country director Jules Maaten said that the evening was all about freedom: "Many of the historic events that we have seen this year, such as the impeachment of the chief justice and the Bangsamoro peace framework, and the outpouring of grief over Sec. Jesse Robredo's death, were people-driven. Meanwhile, these past two years the country has become more free, which comes with more responsibility and more creativity. And surely more freedom is yet to come. The Filipinos whom we honour this evening are not the exception to the rule, they are the rule."

FNF is a German liberal foundation that promotes good governance, free trade and human rights. It has been in the Philippines since 1986.

Comm. Grace Padaca's Freedom Speech can be downloaded here.

View Photo Gallery here.

Watch the Video: