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Duterte leads Independence Day rites for the first time since becoming President

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President Rodrigo Duterte, for the first time since he took the highest elected post, led on Tuesday the celebration of the country’s 120th Independence Day with a flag raising ceremony at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite.

The President arrived at around 8:30 a.m. or 30 minutes late for the scheduled 8 a.m. program.

Among those present at Aguinaldo Shrine were members of the diplomatic corps including Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua whom Duterte talked with for several minutes.

When the President started his speech, hecklers started shouting at him but he told police to just let them do their thing.

“Hayaan mo lang. Freedom of speech, they can have it. Manonood ako. Hindi naman lahat e. Our Constitution ensures freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and free expression. The law enforcers can deal with them peacefully and with maximum tolerance. We cannot agree at all times,” he said.

Duterte asked for apologies for coming in late due to the bad weather.

“Ako ay naglilingkod sa inyo at humihingi ng tawad. Hindi ako makahanap ng butas, pa-landing at take-off,” he said.

“This is my first time to be with you. Maraming salamat. It’s a great honor,” the President added.

Duterte said he went to the celebration because he loves the country and the people.

“Nobody can question my love for country. Ang layo ko sa Mindanao. It is love of country and love of Kabitenyo kaya andito ako. Mahal ko kayong lahat, pati ‘yung nagprotesta, mahal ko rin sila. Ayaw niyong maniwala? Basta ‘yun ang totoo. I consider it a great honor and privilege,” he said. —KG, GMA News

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