Duterte urges Filipinos to 'strive to continue' Rizal's battle vs corruption, greed


Posted at Dec 30 2017 02:25 PM | Updated as of Dec 30 2017 05:39 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte leads the wreath-laying ceremony at the monument of Dr. Jose Rizal in Manila Saturday morning in commemoration of the national hero's 121st death anniversary. Also at the event were Vice President Leni Robredo and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, among other officials. Alfred Frias/Malacañang photo

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday urged Filipinos to reflect on the heroism and patriotism of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal as the country marked the 121st anniversary of his martyrdom.

"As an author and a scholar, he denounced the corruption, greed, and other social ills that up to this day continue to plague our society," Duterte, who has waged a fierce anti-corruption campaign, said in a statement.

"Even in death, he imparted upon us his aspirations for a nation that is free from the scourge of injustice, tyranny, and suffering," the President said. 

Duterte said Rizal Day, which marks the hero's execution in 1896 for subversive literature against Spanish colonizers, reminds Filipinos to "strive to continue his (Rizal's) work of building a more united, peaceful and prosperous Philippines."

Several senators also encouraged Filipinos to reflect about the life of Rizal and think of ways to emulate his character.

"Dr. Jose Rizal showed what the Filipinos had to offer. He was an educator, agriculturist, writer, engineer, surgeon, freedom fighter.
He was an ordinary man before he was a hero. But, he used his genius to help uplift the lives of the Filipinos. He served the people, and that's what made the difference," Sen. Grace Poe said in a statement.

Sen. Joel Villanueva meanwhile said the national commemoration of Rizal's death was "an opportunity not only to pay tribute to Rizal’s heroic and selfless deeds, but also to strive to emulate his sense of duty and burning passion to bring progressive and nationalistic reforms for the love of our Motherland." 

Other senators called on Filipinos to champion Rizal's causes in their own little ways.

"Tinatawag ang bawat isa sa atin na isabuhay ang prinsipyong itinaguyod ni Gat Rizal at ng mga Pilipinong nakipaglaban para sa ating kasarinlan," detained Sen. Leila de Lima said in a statement.

(Each of us is called upon to practice the principles that Rizal and other Filipinos who fought for our independence espoused.) 

"Rizal and the other heroes during his time, gallantly fought with all courage for our independence and freedom from foreign oppressors. Today, we are in the middle of another battle - the war against poverty – and all of us are called upon to act and respond," Sen. Sonny Angara said.

The President laid a wreath at Rizal's monument at the Luneta Park in Manila early Saturday morning. 

Various cities across the country also celebrated Rizal Day by laying wreaths before the national hero's monuments.

In Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte, where Rizal lived in exile for a few years, a short ceremony marked by a 21-gun salute was held. 

Dynah Diestro, ABS-CBN News

Dynah Diestro, ABS-CBN News

Dynah Diestro, ABS-CBN News

Dynah Diestro, ABS-CBN News

Residents attended a flag-raising ceremony and offered flowers at the foot of Rizal's life-size monument, while school children recited poems written by Rizal during his stay in Dapitan.

In Bacolod City, a tableau about Rizal's life was showcased after a flag-raising ceremony near his monument.

Marty Go, ABS-CBN News

Marty Go, ABS-CBN News

Government officials, police, and private groups also laid wreaths before Rizal's monument.

In Iloilo City, Rizal's monument was transformed into a stage filled with flowers and wreaths. Government officials then delivered remarks extolling the national hero. 

Zeny Grace Quilantang

Zeny Grace Quilantang

Rizal died in 1896 after he was sentenced to death via firing squad for allegedly inciting rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy against the Spanish government that was then ruling the Philippines.

In 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo, the Philippines' first president, issued an order that designated December 30 as Rizal Day.

-- with reports from Dynah Diestro, Zeny Grace Quilantang, and Marty Go, ABS-CBN News.