Vice President Leni Robredo has called on the different people and governments of the world to embrace “radical solidarity” as nations begin to rebuild from the impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Vice President Leni Robredo (Screengrab from Ramon Magsaysay Awards Facebook page)

Speaking at the 63rd Ramon Magsaysay Awards on Tuesday, Nov. 30, Robredo drew inspiration from the lives and works of the five awardees of Asia’s premier prize.

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 the people must take note of how everybody has been treating each other. Governments, she said, must create 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,” the presidential aspirant 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,” she noted.

This year’s awardees are Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, a Filipino fisherman and community environmentalist from Zamboanga Sibugay; Steven Muncy, a humanitarian and peace builder working all over Southeast Asia; Muhammad Amjad Saqib, a poverty alleviation visionary from Pakistan; Firdausi Qadri, an affordable vaccine champion from Bangladesh; and WatchDoc, media truth crusaders from Indonesia.

READ: Pinoy fisherman among ‘Asian heroes’ feted with Ramon Magsaysay Award

The Vice President cited humanity’s resiliency, saying that this year’s awardees embody this spirit.

“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.

This was the sixth time that the Vice President gave the keynote speech at the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, which in 2000 recognized her late husband, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, for government service, following his achievements as former Naga City mayor.