Speech of President Arroyo during a Special Mass with the Filipino-American community

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Philippines
During a Special Mass with the Filipino-American community

[Delivered at the Our Lady of Mercy Parish, Chicago, U.S.A., February 3, 2002]

Maraming salamat Ambassador Albert del Rosario.

Most reverend Bishop Goedert; Father Headley, Consul General Pineda.

At gusto kong ipakilala sa inyo ang iba’t-ibang mga elected officials na kasama ko sa ating delegasyon itong araw na ito. siguro bilang Pilipino pinapanood ninyo noong araw iyung mga pangyayari bago ako naging pangulo — iyung umabot sa January 20 People Power 2. Siguro napapanood ninyo sa telebisyon kung papano nag-umpisa iyung impeachment trial — kung papano iyung Speaker ng ating Kamara, House of Representatives ay nagsimula ng session noong November 30 year 2000, nagdasal nang mahaba pagkatapos tinuloy mula sa kanyang dasal, nagulat lahat, tinuloy na niya iyung kanyang diskurso na pinapadala na iyung Articles of Impeachment sa Senado, iyun ay si Speaker Manny Villar, ngayon Senador Manny Villar kasama natin itong araw na ito. Nandito rin iyong kanyang maybahay na Congresswoman ng distrito ng Las Piñas; mula naman doon sa Cavite, nandito rin si Congressman Plaridel Abaya; at Gikan sa Iligan sa Lanao del Norte si Congressman Alipio Badelles. Nandito rin ang ating mga, ang ating bagong halal na Governor ng Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao si Governor Parouk Hussin. Meron ng mga Cabinet Member na naririto, Secretary of Energy si Vince Perez, at ang Presidential Spokesman si Bobby Tiglao, at ang ating Senior Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs si Larry Baja.

Kasama ko rin ngayong umaga ito ang aking kabiyak, si Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo at ang anak kong si Diosdado Macapagal-Arroyo.

Thank you, Bishop Goedert, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this holy celebration today. thank you also, Reverend Headley, for your warm hospitality and providing a welcoming home for Filipinos in this Parish.

At mga kababayan ko, magandang tanghali sa inyong lahat! Caring Cabalen cung capangpangan, mayap aldaw quecongan! dagiti kakailiac ti bangir ni mamang ko, naimbag nga aldaw yo amin appo! sa atong mga kaigsuonan gikan sa mindanao asa ako ug Congressman Badelles ni dako, maayong buntag kaninyong tanan! Kag sa mga kasimanwa sang akong bana nga Ilonggo, maayong udto sa inyo nga tanan!

Nagagalak akong makapiling kayong mga mahal kong kababayan na nakatira sa Chicago, at sa mga kababayan na nanggaling pa sa ibang lugar lalung-lalo na sa mga taga-Wisconsin, Michigan,Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, at Ohio.

Mapalad po na tayo ay pinagtagpo muli ng Panginoon.

I appreciate this opportunity to be with all of you in this Windy City, which to its good fortune has been enjoying an unseasonably mild-winter. Demographers estimate that there are over two million Filipinos in the United States.

Because of your number, Filipino-Americans constitute a veritable second Philippines. Nowhere in the world outside of the Philippines can you find this mass of Filipinos. According to the 1990 Census report, Tagalog is the 6th most spoken foreign language in American homes.

And today’s mass among Filipinos, today’s mass for peace is most relevant to our times. The international community continues to face a clear and grave threat to its security and well being. As I did when I visited New York and Washington, D.C. last November, let me extend again my heartfelt condolences and that of the people of the Philippines to all those who suffered the loss or injury of a loved one as a consequence of the September 11 attacks.

I also find it proper that we, through this mass and this assembly, seek comfort, tranquility, and peace for ourselves, for our countries, the Philippines and the United States, and for the rest of mankind.

Long before September 11th, the Philippines was already fighting terrorism on the southwestern part of its soil and gained the upper hand, isolating terrorism to one small island. We have felt the pain of terrorism first hand and knew it must not spread to the rest of the world. That is why we were the first in Asia to lend our support.

Much has been written about our proctracted campaign to destroy the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in that remote island in southwestern Philippines in Basilan but headlines have been revved up recently with the arrival of U.S. anti-terrorist trainors and several hundred support troops who are there for joint military exercises. Predictably, their presence has stirred up passion among a vocal minority of our citizenry. Old rhetoric reminiscent of the U.S. bases debate and even Vietnam have again surfaced.

But as the first Asian leader to come out in support of the international coalition, I applaud the imperative to wipe out terrorism. That is why I took the politically risky action of recommending that this year’s annual joint military exercises between the Philippines and the U.S. be adapted to enhancing the capability of Filipino soldiers to fight terrorism. This will help us go the last mile in destroying the Abu Sayyaf terrorists and have peace at last in our land. I have done so in what I believe is a responsible and lawful contribution of the U.S. military to ensure the stability and freedom of our people. The Americans are there to provide the intelligence and capability building, including the operation of sophisticated tracking equipment. And even though in my view the circumstances exist for them to be lawfully engaged in combat, we have taken the policy decision for the American soldiers not to do combat in the Philippines because our own soldiers will do the fighting.

We Filipinos bring a unique view to this issue: from a few small islands in southwestern Philippines to the grand island of Manhattan, we have seen what terrorism can do to our society, our economy, our security, and our sense of moral purpose.

But this is a war that must be devoid of any religious undertones. The Philippines has institutionalized the tools of autonomy, consensus, and interfaith dialogue with our Muslim brothers. We have a ceasefire with the Moro National Islamic Liberation Front, and I thank them for having renounced the Abu Sayyaf. A few months ago, our Muslim brethren in Mindanao reaffirmed their solidarity with the Filipino nation when they renewed the electoral mandate of the leadership of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. They elected Parouk Hussin as the new Governor of the Autonomous Region — and he’s here with us today.

We have put a face on terrorists, and now we must put a face on the poor. We will eliminate terrorism but we must eliminate poverty. If we do not eliminate poverty, the breeding ground of resentment will begin again to plague another generation.

My battle plan for the war against poverty revolves around four components:

First, free enterprise appropriate to the 21st century;

Second, a modernized agriculture founded on social equity;

Third, a bias toward the disadvantaged to spread out the fruits of economic development; and,

Fourth, a commitment to high moral standards in government and society.

With God’s grace, under the custody of skilled economic managers like Vince Perez who’s here today, and with the cooperation of our Senators like our Senate President Pro-Tempore Manny Villar and Congressmen like our Congressmen here Del Abaya and Tikbong Badelles, the plan we created is bearing significant and tangible results.

Where bigger and richer economies failed during the past year, our Philippine economy moved forward. Our Gross National Product grew 3.7 percent — 3.4 percent without your remittances, 3.7 percent including your remittances. And this growth rate is one of the highest growth rates in the world today where many countries are suffering from recession.

Where bigger and stronger currencies collapsed, ours held firm, even though, as the IMF acknowledges, I am the only president who assumed office during fragile times who did not ask for an IMF program. So, we stabilized our currency without an IMF program and without instituting capital controls.

Indeed, we have gone a long way to bringing our country back on the radar screens of the world. And for the month of January 2002, Bloomberg says that the Philippine Stock Market was the top performing stock market in the world — a first for the Philippines. Our public deficit has been placed under control. Interest rates are at their lowest in the last 15 years, and inflation rates have likewise declined.

Even unemployment rates have declined. From 11.6 percent when first I assumed the presidency, in nine months we were able to bring down the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent and we intend to bring it down some more.

This is a good time for you to put in your investment or to expand your business in your homeland.

I have come to talk to our kababayans in the United States and to extend to you the gratitude of the Philippine government and the Filipino people. Filipinos are indebted to our brothers and sisters in the United States, the great Filipino workers in the United States, for many reasons:

Sa ibabaw ng magandang reputasyon na binibigay ninyo sa ating bansa bilang tahanan ng dakilang manggagawang Filipino, milyun-milyong kabataan ang nakapag-aral o nakakatapos ng edukasyon sa inyong tulong.

Libu-libong bagong bahay ang napapatayo ninyo at ang mga mahal ninyo doon na nagkakaroon ng mga bagong bahay ay nagkakaroon din ng bagong buhay. Dahil sa inyong tulong ay nakapaglunsad tayo ng napakaraming negosyo maging ng small business sa buong bansa. Ang matagumpay na negosyo na napatayo sa ating bansa dahil sa inyong remittances ay isang malaking haligi ng ating ekonomiya. Sumigla ang maraming barangay, bayan, lungsod at probinsiya sa kontribusyon ng mga overseas Filipinos.

Ang dakilang manggagawang Pilipino ay taun-taon nagpapadala sa ating bansa ng sixbillion dollars kaya kayo ay major economic investors sa bansa.

Alam niyo ipinagmamalaki natin, ngayon sa akin biyahe sa Amerika, Canada at U.K., meron na tayong nakuhang investments na 1.2 billion dollars ngunit kayo six billion dollars taun-taon.

Kaya sa aking palagay, dapat nang baguhin ang bansag sa inyo ng bansa. Kasi ang karaniwang tawag sa Filipinos sa ibang bansa, maging may kontrata or green card holder, ang tawag ay overseas Filipino workers. Palagay ko mas bagay na ang dapat itawag sa inyo ay overseas Filipino investors.

Kayo ay mga overseas investors na araw-araw ay namumuhunan sa kaunlaran ng ating bansa. Pinupuhunan ninyo ang inyong productive years alang-alang sa ating bayan.

The Filipino-Americans constitute 34 percent of overseas Filipinos, but you contribute 71 percent of all foreign exchange remittances to the Philippines in the last five years.

Filipino doctors, surgeons, dentists, nurses conduct regular medical and dental missions in many parts of our homeland.

And through your donations of books, food and medical supplies, Fil-Ams have made a great difference in the lives of poor school children and families in the barrios.

Our Senator and our Congressmen and women here have good news for your. Sabi nila, sabi ni Senate President Pro-Tempore Manny Villar at saka ni Congresswoman Villar at saka ni Congressman Abaya at Congressman Badelles na inaasahan nilang papasa iyung Absentee Voting Bill itong taong ito.

At sila rin ay lumikha ng panukalang batas on Dual Citizenship for Filipinos. Magdasal tayo na walang masyadong magbibigay ng oposisyon sa dalawang panukalang batas na ‘to para sa ganon pumasa nga sa madaling panahon.

In the meantime here in the U.S., let us strive to build a National Coalition of Filipino organizations and forge greater unity to promote the interest of Filipino immigrants, contract workers, and Fil-Am in this great country.

Lakasan pa natin ang ating pagkakaisa, ang pagtutulungan, ang pag-iisang bisig, ang diwa ng bayanihan, ang balikatan, ang kapatiran.

Lakasan pa natin ang ating pagmamalasakit sa inang bansa, sa inyong bagong bansa, sa ating kinabukasan, at sa ating mga kabataan.

Mga Pilipino dito sa Amerika, alam ko na kahit kayo ay naririto at marami ay green card holder na, marami nga ay mga citizens na, alam ko ang puso ninyo ay nandoon pa rin sa Pilipinas. kaya kami, inyong mga nanunungkulan sa ating bansa bahagi ng aming tungkulin, bahagi ng aming kasiyahan ay nakakabisita sa inyo dito sa Amerika. Pinagmamalaki namin kayo at sana sa mga darating na panahon kahit na naghihirap ang ekonomiya ng mundo ay kayo ay manatiling matatag sa inyong mga hanapbuhay, sa inyong pagtatrabaho, sa inyong pagnenegosyo; at huwag nating kalilimutan ang ating bansa, at gusto kong malaman ninyo na kayo ay hindi kinalilimutan ng mga Pilipino sa Pilipinas.

Mahal namin kayong lahat.

Maraming salamat po.

Source: www.op.gov.ph

Macapagal-Arroyo, G. (2002). PGMA’s Speech during a Special Mass with the Filipino-American Community. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20100412230818/http://www.op.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7622&Itemid=38