Robredo says COVID-19 taught people to espouse ''radical solidarity''
Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday said the COVID-19 pandemic has taught people and governments to espouse “radical solidarity” as nations begin to rebuild and pursue a better normal after the pandemic upturned the world.
In her keynote address at the 63rd Ramon Magsaysay Awards, Robredo drew inspiration from the lives and works of the five laureates who were honored at the virtual ceremony, the first time that Asia’s premier prize held its ceremonies online.
This year’s awardees are fisherman and community environmentalist, Robert “Ka Dodoy” Ballon (Philippines); humanitarian and peacebuilder, Steven Muncy (Southeast Asia); affordable medicine champion, Firdausi Qadri (Bangladesh); poverty alleviation visionary, Muhammad Amjad Saqib (Pakistan); and media truth crusader, Watchdoc (Indonesia).
The pandemic, the Vice President said, has taught the world to build a “future of true and radical solidarity”.
“When poverty strips people of their ability to take hold of their own destiny; when disease threatens those who have already lost so much to prejudice and inequality; when conflict tears people from their homes, their culture, their hope and memory; when silence and lies shrink the space for important stories to be told; when even the seas cry out for reprieve from the insatiable drive to extract and consume—we look to people such as the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay awardees and their fellows from across the decades as examples of how humanity ought to respond,” Robredo said.
As the pandemic exposed the entrenched injustices in societies, Robredo said people must take stock of how each one has been treating each other. Governments, she said must build a system that is in itself “compassionate”.
“For too long, service has been treated as taglines at worst, and as acts of charity at best. When people are in dire need, it is supposed to be the structures of society that address these needs—and not some benevolent leader handing down projects and programs as a lord of the manor does to his servants,” she said.
“Inclusiveness should not be a matter of charity. It is the very rationale of governance. And this revelation can only be put into practice if those who govern truly understand the meaning of solidarity—walking in the slippers of the people not for show but for real, feeling their despair, carrying their burdens as their own,” Robredo said.
She added: “Only then can the structures blurred by patronage be seen with moral clarity—and be reformed, reoriented, or even dismantled to give way to a society animated by radical solidarity.”
Robredo has shaped her campaign for the presidency around the idea of “radical love” in answer to the bitterness and hate that have divided Filipinos because of their different political persuasions.
She also takes pride in her supporters’ organic “people’s campaign” for her and running-mate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, to become the country’s President and Vice President, respectively, come May 2022.
At the virtual ceremony, Robredo also paid tribute to humanity’s resiliency.
“We resume this annual tradition not necessarily in triumph over a darkness that still lurks, but in recognition of the human spirit that cannot be dimmed despite that darkness—that persists despite adversity; that, in the face of suffering or desolation, does not turn away or shrink, but rather expands with courage and compassionate resolve,” Robredo said.
Robredo said this year’s awardees embody this spirit as she introduced each one of them in her speech.
Ballon, upon seeing that unsustainable practices resulted to a dwindling catch in his province in Zamboanga Sibugay, led his community in the planting of hundreds of hectares of mangroves to resuscitate the seas. Neighboring municipalities followed suit. Robredo has worked with Ballon to introduce mangrove planting to more fisherfolks.
Saqib and a group of friends started Akhuwat, a micro-finance program that offers interest-free loans to Pakistanis in 2003. It was inspired by the Islamic tradition of Mawakhat, the idea that if one has a loaf of bread, half of it rightfully belongs to someone who has none. To date, Akhuwat has served three million families, building trust and communal responsibility among their borrowers.
Qadri, a biochemist, became instrumental in developing a more affordable oral cholera vaccine and a typhoid conjugate vaccine. Before the pandemic, she and her team helped in preventing a mass cholera outbreak when they brought vaccines to the Rohingya in Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee camp.
Muncy and his colleagues at the Community and Family Services International has spent 40 years helping refugees “uprooted by persecution, armed conflict, disasters, and other exceptionally difficult circumstances” in Southeast Asia, including in Marawi.
Indonesian media company WATCHDOC is the first organization to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, which has traditionally been given to individuals. Since 2011, WATCHDOC focuses on underreported issues, producing documentaries on human rights, social justice, and the environment which are available on YouTube.
The RMAF postponed last year’s awards due to the pandemic.
This year’s ceremony was aired via a Facebook livestream and on YouTube on Tuesday afternoon.
This was the sixth time Robredo gave the keynote at the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, which recognized her late husband, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, in 2000 for Government Service, following his achievements as Naga City mayor. Media Affairs Division Office of the Vice President