by Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte leads today the 119th Independence Day celebration at Rizal Park in Manila – his first as Commander-in-Chief and while government troops continue to fight for the country’s sovereignty, this time, in the face of terrorist threats in the South.
This morning, Duterte will urge Filipinos to become more responsible individuals to “preserve our sovereignty” and be able to repay those who fought and risked their lives for independence almost a century and a score ago.
His message will delve on remembering the unpaved and bloody road heroes of our past had to travel in order to attain freedom.
“The journey to freedom was a long and arduous one – which our countrymen paid for with blood, sweat, and the ultimate act of selfless sacrifice,” read the copy of Duterte’s speech.
“Let us pay homage to their heroism by preserving our sovereignty and performing our own civic rights and responsibilities.”
Duterte pays homage to thousands of Filipinos who have laid their lives on the line so that every one of their descendants may live with the dignity and rights befitting a free nation.
Duterte will be joined by Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo as he leads the Independence Day and Flag Day rites at Luneta at 8 a.m.
This year’s Independence Day celebration carries the theme “Kalayaan 2017: Pagbabagong Sama-Samang Balikatin,” according to National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) chair Rene Escalante.
In Cavite, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson will lead the celebration at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, where the Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence in 1898.
In Bulacan, Senator Loren Legarda is set to join Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado and Bulakeños in marking the event at the historic Barasoain Church, where the First Philippine Republic was born.
Other selected senators and Cabinet members have been assigned to lead simultaneous commemorative rites in other key cities in the country.
However, Duterte has scrapped the original schedule of hosting the traditional Vin d’Honneur to be attended by diplomats, senior government officials, and other invited guests.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the President has cancelled the Vin d’Honneur to attend to the situation in Mindanao.
Due to the festivities, the Manila District Traffic Enforcement Unit (MDTEU) announced road closures and traffic re-routing schemes.
Both the northbound and southbound lanes of Roxas Boulevard from Katigbak to TM Kalaw Avenue and the stretch of Katigbak Drive, Independence Road, and South Drive will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. onwards.
From 1 p.m. onwards, on the other hand, the northbound and southbound lanes of Ma. Orosa Street from P. Burgos Avenue to TM Kalaw Avenue will be closed.
MDTEU also said all small vehicles intending to utilize the southbound lane of Roxas Blvd shall turn left to P. Burgos, right to Maria Orosa, right to TM Kalaw to point of destination.
Trucks and trailer trucks intending to utilize the southbound lane of Roxas Blvd shall turn left to P. Burgos, right to Finance Road to point of destination.
Small vehicles intending to utilize the northbound lane of Roxas Blvd shall turn right to TM Kalaw, left to Maria Orosa, left to P. Burgos to point of destination.
On the other hand, trucks and trailer trucks intending to utilize the northbound lane of Roxas Blvd shall turn right to Pres. Quirino Avenue to point of destination.
Starting 1 p.m., MDTEU said all vehicles intending to utilize the southbound lane of Maria Orosa shall turn left to P. Burgos, right to Finance Avenue to point of destination. While vehicles intending to utilize the northbound lane of Ma. Orosa Street shall go straight to T.M. Kalaw Avenue, turn left or right to Taft Avenue to their point of destination.
After confirming her attendance at today’s rites in Rizal Park, Robredo said: “We hope we would not forget the heroism of our countrymen, especially our soldiers who are fighting now in Marawi.”
“The lessons from people before us, we hope we would not forget them. We always pray that they would be protected,” Robredo said.
For his part, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) acting Secretary Catalino S. Cuy called on Filipinos to strengthen their nationalistic commitment and show their true love for the country.
“May the Independence Day holiday be a time for us Pinoys to retrace our history and be inspired of Filipino nationalism, unity and courage,” said Cuy.
He said the current generation should always remember and acknowledge that the contemporary Filipinos are enjoying freedom because of our ancestors’ courage in fighting foreign aggressors.
PNP ON HIGHEST ALERT IN MM
Meanwhile, police forces in Metro Manila are on their highest security alert status as part of the safety measures for the 119th Independence Day celebration as well as the concert of international pop star Britney Spears on Thursday.
Chief Inspector Kim Molitas, spokesperson of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO), said they have already mapped out security protocols for the events this week.
Intense security preparations have been made to block out any possibility of a spillover of attacks in Metro Manila from the ongoing battle with the Maute Group in Marawi.
Apart from preventing any spoiling of the holiday, police are also working double-time to prevent a “copycat” attack of the bombing of the concert venue of American singer Ariana Grande in Britain.
Spears is expected to draw a huge crowd at her concert at the Mall of Asia arena. (With reports from Jaimie Rose R. Aberia, Raymund F. Antonio, Anthony Giron, Freddie C. Velez, and Chito A. Chavez)