In defending democracy, Vice President Leni Robredo said people need leaders who protect human rights and has empathy and not those who display brute force and intimidate people they govern.
“Defending democracy for us means embracing all of its imperfections and supporting extraordinary leadership that will make democracy work despite its imperfections,” Robredo said.
“Now, more than ever, we need leaders who will step down from their pedestal and walk with the last, the least, and the lost. We need leaders who will commit themselves to the protection of human rights. Leaders that draws strength, not through brute force or intimidation, but through acts of empathy and respect,” she added.
The Vice President delivered the keynote speech during the leadership forum held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.
Robredo, a longtime human rights lawyer, spoke on the theme “In Defense of Democracy” before the top policy think tank. The forum is considered a premiere platform for discussing issues that have significant impact on Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific.
In her speech, the Vice President underscored the need for the United States and Philippines to make democracy “more relevant and responsive” for the people in the face of threats to democracy.
“We could, and should, make public institutions more responsive and promote good governance. We could, and should, do more in ensuring that democracy leads to more people living better lives,” Robredo said.
“However, the need to make our democracies more relevant and more responsive should never be an excuse to give up on its principles and values. Instead, it should inspire us to seek ways to make it better,” she continued.
The Vice President spoke about the emergence of new modes of “populism, protectionism, and extreme nationalism” that have become “alternatives” to “defunct” democratic values.
These, she said, are being spread by various networks on the Internet and social media to “bypass borders and institutional regulation.“
“This has given rise to a new breed of populist leaders, seeking to reintroduce tyranny as a more alluring counterpoint to democracy,” said Robredo.
Robredo then cited “How Democracies Die,” a book written by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, about the ways to break democracy.
“It is less dramatic but equally destructive. Democracies may die at the hands not of generals but of elected leaders—presidents or prime ministers who subvert the very process that brought them to power,” she quoted the book.
In her remarks, Robredo highlighted the importance of the Philippines’ defending its democracy, particularly against the “aggressive expansionism,” in the West Philippine Sea.
“Today, we reiterate our commitment to a rules-based order within the region, founded on mutual respect of international law, treaties, and agreements,” she said.
“The rise of China will no doubt usher in a new era of prosperity in Asia. But aggressive expansionism that threaten to trample on the sacred percepts of international law, and done at the expense of smaller, less powerful nations, must at all times, be met with diplomatic resistance,” Robredo stressed.
The Vice President also thanked the U.S for its assistance in battling insurgency and terrorism in the country.
“Ending it allows our military to focus on other growing external challenges we face, such as the row in the West Philippine Sea,” she said.