The past few days have been filled with solemn reflection. Thank you to all who supported me, prayed with me, and who patiently understood my discernment process for the 2022 elections.
There was no room for ego or self-interest in this process. The presidency is an enormous responsibility, and a decision whether to run for president or not cannot be based on ambition or outside prodding. When it comes to leadership, there should only be one consideration: What is best for our country?
This question takes on more gravity especially given the immense challenge of the pandemic. Many have lost their lives. Many have gone through the experience of having to do everything to save our loved ones; to put food on the table; to survive another day.
The road to today has been long. I had not planned to run. I was already thinking of heading back home to our province, where so many are also relying on me to help bring about change.
Over the past few weeks, we met with different individuals. I made it clear: I am ready to give way and to simply help. They also offered to join forces — as a candidate, or as part of their administration if they succeed. My reply: This is not about positions; this is not a mere transaction. The important thing is to unite — to align along principles, along our shared dreams for the country, and the path that must be taken to achieve these.
I likewise clarified: What is at stake are the lives and the future of the Filipino. Hospitals are filled to capacity, health workers are calling for a timeout, the jobless are going hungry. Meanwhile, billions upon billions of pesos went into questionable contracts while millions of Filipinos struggle.
We should all know by now: There is much hunger, suffering, and death because those in power have prioritized self-interest over the welfare of the Filipino. The lack of good governance lies at the root of our many problems. This needs to end.
And if we truly want to liberate ourselves from this situation, we should change not just the surnames of those in power; the corruption, the incompetence, the lack of compassion must be replaced by competence and integrity in leadership. We should be prepared to take out entirely the agendas, the interests, the very people and kind of politics that is the root of all that we are going through right now. If you will not take a clear line; if you are willing to compromise; if you can’t even say that what is wrong is wrong — then whose side are you really on?
Where I stand is clear: I am on the side of all who are doing what they can to lift themselves, their families, and their fellow human beings from this pandemic. Though our contexts may be different, the feeling of being in the margins should be familiar to all — when you grasp for a lifeline, when you just want to knock on any door, when you cry out to whomever might be able to hear: Help.
I am a mother not only to my three children, but to the whole country. And every mother, every parent, understands what they are willing to go through and sacrifice for their children. I remember the multiple cases of domestic abuse that I handled when I was a practicing lawyer and how my clients endured all the pain and abuse inflicted by their partners. When you ask them why they chose to suffer, the answer was constant: Their children.
And I remember when, finally, they chose to be free – when they found the courage to pack up, bring their children, and take the first steps out the door. It is because they have realized that if they cannot find within themselves the resolve to leave, their children will only inherit their sufferings.
I am a mother who sees the suffering of my beloved country. I firmly believe: Love is not measured by forbearance alone but by a readiness to do battle. Whoever loves must do battle for the beloved.
Today, I stand with full resolve: We must free ourselves from the current situation. I will fight. We will fight.
I offer myself as a candidate for the Presidency in the 2022 elections.
The challenge before us is clear: We have all seen the lies and harassment that others are capable of doing to reach their goals. They have the money, machinery, an entire infrastructure that can spread whichever story they choose to spread. But no amount of noise can ever drown out the truth: If the same kind of governance, the same kind of people triumphs in the coming elections, then we cannot expect change to happen.
This is where we make our stand. The people’s exhaustion; the feeling of utmost helplessness, of having done everything and still it isn’t enough; the yearning to get past the suffering — we will give this a new, and more positive form. We will transform it into conviction. Into energy. We will defeat the old and rotten brand of politics. We will return the capacity to bring change to the hands of the ordinary Filipino.
Many of you have been, on your own initiative, working towards this goal for the past few months. I feel the trust you have granted me. Let me tell you now: I also wholeheartedly trust you. I call on you now: Awaken the strength sleeping inside of you.
Take a stand, and I assure you, others will stand beside you. Reach out beyond your usual circles; expand our ranks. Tell the truth that despite the limitations, despite the attacks, our humble office here at the Office of the Vice President has been able to do so much to help those in need: Our housing projects, medical and livelihood assistance, our relief efforts for victims of disasters, our electrification projects, classrooms and dorms; the Vaccine Express, Swab Cab, Bayanihan e-Konsulta, Bayanihan e-Skuwela, TrabaHOPE, Community Marts, free shuttle services, free PPEs, and so many other initiatives that we were able to undertake because of our unified strength.
If we were able to do all of this; if we were able to reach and help the farthest communities despite the harassment, from Agutaya to San Remigio to Marawi’s ground zero; imagine how much more we can do, how much farther we can reach, if we can focus the entire energy of the government where it really should be focused: The welfare of the Filipino people.
Six years ago, I accepted the challenge to run for Vice President. Today, we will take on a bigger fight. I vow today: To pour all of my strength, not just until the elections but for the rest of my days, to the fight for the Philippines of our dreams — a society where every Filipino who toils can be assured of comfort and progress; where someone will catch you and help you up each time you fall. Where plans for education, transportation, food security, health, and social justice are concretized because government is competent and has integrity; because government is honest and accountable; because government truly puts the interest of the Filipino people front and center.
There is a path towards this future. But it cannot be achieved by choosing silence in the midst of wrongdoing. It cannot be left to others while we simply watch on; we cannot close our eyes and hope the world is changed when we wake. The future is something we choose, something we work for, something we fight for. We have to choose to step forward.
Here I am today, taking that step forward. I will fight for you all until the very end. I will put everything on the line; I will give everything I have to give. Let’s place our stakes on this fight together. Let’s move as a country towards a future that is more just and humane; where every Filipino has the chance to succeed; where the strength of each one becomes the singular strength of all — a strength that shall overcome any crisis, any challenge, a strength that shall be the foundation of our collective re-awakening. I trust without any doubt: We will be victorious. I remain steadfast and fully faithful in God and in the Filipino people.
Thank you. Long live the Philippines.