Today, we remember how the Philippine Senate, led by Liberal Party stalwarts Jovito Salonga, Wigberto Tanada, and Victor Ziga, stood up and voted 12-11 to end the term of the US military bases in the Philippines.

The vote cost Salonga the senate presidency because he took the position contrary to the executive’s. He made his choice because he knew that breaking the vestiges of colonialism holds more value than any political office and its perks.

The other senators who made up the Magnificent 12 included Senators Agapito “Butz” Aquino, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joseph Estrada, Teofisto Guingona Jr., Sotero Laurel II, Ernesto Maceda Jr., Orlando Mercado, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., and Rene Saguisag.

Although prompted by different motivations and party principles, all 12 cast the decisive vote that signalled our break from our colonial past.

Twenty-six years back, few could imagine life without the US military bases.

But after the bases left, the economy did not collapse, the communists did not invade us, the investors did not leave. The Philippines is, in fact, a thriving economy.

We in the Liberal Party advocated for the withdrawal of the US bases because of our faith and belief in the Filipinos — that we are capable of standing on our own feet and asserting our sovereignty.

We remember September 16 as the people’s victory in self-respect, political will, and courage to assert our rights.

Today, we as a people face unprecedented challenges to our existence as a nation. As our Liberal Party elders showed, we can prove ourselves equal to these challenges. We only have to look beyond our differences and unite.