AS THE country commemorates the 121st anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal's martyrdom, President Rodrigo Duterte calls on Filipinos to recognize the national hero's "ultimate sacrifice" to free the country from "social ills."

Duterte, in a message, acknowledged that Rizal had served as the key person to fight inequity, autocracy, and tribulation when the Philippines was under colonial rule.

"As an author and as a scholar, he (Rizal) denounced the corruption, greed and other social ills that up to this day continue to plague our society. Even in death, he imparted upon us his aspirations for a nation that is free from the scourge of injustice, tyranny and suffering," the President said.

"May we take this occasion as an opportunity to recognize Dr. Rizal's ultimate sacrifice for the sake of our country," he added.

Duterte's message was released in time for the flag-raising and wreath-laying rites, which he led on Saturday, December 30, in Manila for the national hero.

The President arrived at Manila's Luneta Park at around 7 a.m. to offer a wreath of flowers in front of Rizal's monument.

He also had the chance to meet some descendants of Rizal who graced the event.

Duterte said Rizal's fervor and dedication had encouraged Filipinos to launch a movement "that gave rise to the Filipino national identity."

He emphasized that the national hero's sacrifices should be requited through collective efforts to have a "united, peaceful and prosperous Philippines."

He said Filipinos should imbibe Rizal's patriotism and strive to sustain the national hero's aspirations for the country.

"During that dark chapter in our nation's history, his writings served as the light that guided our forebears in the fight for genuine equality and independence," he said.

"Let us reflect on his patriotism as we strive to continue his work of building a more united, peaceful and prosperous Philippines," Duterte added. (Ruth Abbey Gita / SunStar Philippines)