"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
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.