Good afternoon, Mr. President, distinguished colleagues. Maraming salamat, Majority Floor Leader.
Mga kaibigan, mga kababayan, binabati ko po kayong lahat.
Today, I stand before you outraged by the cruel act of terror perpetrated in Davao City last Friday night.
Mr. President, matindi po nating kinokondena ang nangyaring pagbomba sa Davao City kung saan higit sa animnapu ang napinsala at labing-apat ang namatay.
At nakikiramay po tayo sa mga biktima at sa kanilang mga pamilya. Nagkakaisa po ang ating buong bayan sa mga Dabaweño.
In the halls of the senate, Mr. President, our colleagues refer to me as the gentleman from Tarlac. But, the truth is, I may very well be called the gentleman from Davao as well.
Unbeknownst to many, my mother’s family is from Davao.
And unlike my father’s side, which is a family of public servants, my mother’s side is a family of educators.
My grandparents moved to Davao from Luzon after the Second World War to help start and develop the University of Mindanao.
Ang lolo ko po, si Segundo Aguirre, ay naging principal ng University of Mindanao. At ang lola ko na si Victoria Aguirre ay naging chairperson ng Filipino Department po doon.
Sa Davao po lumaki at nagtapos ang aking ina. Sa Davao po niya nakilala ang aking ama habang sila ay nagtatrabaho sa Davao branch ng SGV.
Davao po ang setting ng kanilang love story at Davao rin po kung saan sila kinasal.
Growing up, I spent summers in Davao with my grandparents. And to this day, we have loved ones living in the ‘Crown Jewel of Mindanao’.
So, Mr. President, you can imagine that when we heard of an explosion at the bustling night market, when we heard of injuries, when we heard of fatalities, our chests tightened and we were engulfed with worry.
For many of us with loved ones in Davao City, our gut reaction was to think about them and ask about their safety.
But when the dust settled and our loved ones were finally accounted for, worry turned to outrage and outrage turned to anger.
It breaks my heart, Mr. President, that this orchestrated attack, a terrorist attack, was perpetrated by fellow Filipinos.
It infuriates me that these extremists attacked innocent civilians at the popular night market, where couples go on dates, friends meet up to get a massage after a tough week, and where families eat out and spend quality time together.
It enrages me that these agents of hate chose to attack innocent civilians at the night market on a Friday night, one of the busiest nights of the week, a night that could earn them the highest number of casualties.
This was a well thought out, malevolent assault that hoped to kill and injure as many innocent Filipinos as possible.
And the final tally Mr. President, over 70 were injured and 15 of our countrymen are dead.
They were more than just numbers, Mr. President. They are Filipinos that have laughed, cried, loved, and lived.
They are brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers.
They are people who brought pride and joy to their families. And now, their passing brings immeasurable grief.
One was a single mother, a former OFW working as one of the night market’s therapists while waiting for another opportunity to work abroad. Her name was Ruth Merecido.
One was a senior education official of CHED in ARMM who strongly supported the Mindanao peace process. His name was Pipalawan Macacua.
One was a teacher, a wife of a pastor, and a mother. Another one was her 14-year old son. Their names are Melanie Faith and Deniel Josh Larida.
Those are only four, Mr. President, four out of 15. But these 15 are a loss to our nation.
And more than that Mr. President, they are a loss to their families.
There are no words to describe the horror and the anguish one endures when a loved one, when a family member is taken in senseless violence.
And understandably, there are a variety of reactions to the blast, ranging from grief to anger, from fear to confusion.
There are roars of outrage and prayers to a higher power. There are flowers. There are hashtags. There are profile pictures. There are candles.
Mr. President, it has been 3 days since the attack and, if I may, I wish to propose some ways we might move forward together as a nation.
The first is to build our strength.
We need to support our policemen and the military. We need to support them as they conduct investigations, arrests, and find and convict these terrorists.
In a previous budget hearing, Sen. Honasan whispered to me that we should stop asking the impossible from our armed forces and our police.
We should stop asking them without the requisite resources that they need to be able to do the tasks that we ask of them.
These tasks and missions that we demand of our policemen and soldiers must be coupled with the appropriate resources.
So let us equip them with the necessary support so they may address crime and terrorism and deliver justice and safety for our fellowmen.
Second, Mr. President, is vigilance. Now, more than ever we need to be hyper-aware of our surroundings, of potential threats to our physical safety.
But Mr. President, aside from physical safety, we also must be vigilant, not just of unattended bags and suspicious behavior, but also of the misinformation that’s been going around the Internet and going around Philippine society.
Sadly, Mr. President, there are groups that are misinforming Filipinos and spreading conspiracy theories that seek to use this crisis to intensify our division.
With lives and our way of life at risk, we must be wary of the information we base our beliefs and actions on. We must be vigilant of misinformation and how it affects our judgment and our prejudices.
Let us make sure, Mr. President, that we ourselves share only the information that come from the authorities themselves.
And third, Mr. President, we must unite.
The objective of terrorism is to create an environment of terror – to make us suspicious of each other, to make it difficult to trust, and to divide our beloved country.
Terrorists have hit the hearts and homes of too many nations around the world.
In November of last year, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a sports stadium and a packed concert hall in Paris.
In March of this year, Brussels was attacked with bombs targeting the airport and a train station.
In July, there were attacks in Germany.
In these circumstances, there is usually initial calls for solidarity. But through time, Mr. President, sometimes doubt and fear get the better of the public and they become suspicions against those of different beliefs and cultural backgrounds that dig into the public consciousness.
Will we let this happen to our country, Mr. President? Will we let these acts of terror break us apart?
Today, the challenge is to remain united against the true enemy.
Because Mr. President, once there is infighting among the citizenry, then terror wins.
Now, more than ever, we need to work together to synergize all the organs of government, our civil society, and our citizenry to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
In the short term, let us set aside the politics and provide authorities all the resources that they need to combat these perpetrators.
And for the long term, we here in the Senate must lay the foundation for a future free of terror because of inclusive growth, and peace and prosperity for all.
We do this for those who were killed and injured in Davao, we do this for our soldiers fighting for our freedoms, we do this, Mr. President, for every Filipino.
The Philippines has endured typhoons, earthquakes, floods, and countless natural calamities.
And in those moments, Mr. President, the Filipino people never cowered and, instead, banded together to gather donations and distribute aid.
Today, our enemy, unfortunately, is more sinister, more calculating, and more strategic.
Now, more than ever, Mr. President, we need to unite in goodness to build a future that is bright, peaceful, and full of hope.
Maraming Salamat Mr. President, thank you very much.