Aquino thanks Cabinet, confers presidential awards to them
MANILA, Philippines – A week before he steps down from office, outgoing President Benigno Aquino III conferred presidential awards on some members of his Cabinet, saying they are leaving office with "heads held high."
“As we leave office, we can do so with our heads held high, because we’ve done right by the Filipino people. Thus, on behalf of our people, and from the bottom of my heart, I must say: Thank you very much,” Aquino said in a speech in Malacañang.
Aquino on Thursday, June 23, bestowed two awards – the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Gold Cross Bayani on Cabinet secretaries and the Presidential Medal of Merit on other senior officials.
The former, Aquino said, is meant to “recognize civil and political merit”, while the Medal of Merit is “granted to those who have rendered outstanding service to the President.”
The President took the time to personally thank his Cabinet members for their service and sacrifices. Some, he said, gave up their jobs and personal time with their families to “bring change” to the country.
“Indeed, over the course of our administration, I have remained keenly aware of everything you have given. This is why, every time I am praised for anything, I make it a point to say that I couldn't have done anything without you, and without our countrymen, simply because that is the truth,” Aquino said.
“Many of you gave up jobs and put your careers on hold to take far less lucrative positions; many of you gave up time with your loved ones; many of you have willingly stood with me in the crosshairs of opponents of reform, and have thus been on the receiving end of baseless attacks even on your character,” he said.
The President claimed his Cabinet made the “impossible” possible through their actions and enthusiasm.
To which Aquino joked, “In fact, I think that, if my dad could only see what we’ve done together, maybe he would be a little less inclined to sing The Impossible Dream,” eliciting smiles and applause from the audience.
The President said the awards could hopefully “make up” for the “shortfall” of rewards he has given his team. He added the two awards are meant to go beyond his “few kind words” to them and his invitation for them to share “modest meals.”
Back to civilian life
Aquino also took the chance to impart some of his last words as President to his men and women. He asked them to continue protecting democracy and improving people’s lives.
“In 7 days, many of us here will return to regular civilian life. Of course, I think all of us deserve some rest after all the work that’s been done these past 6 years. However, we cannot be complacent. Awards like the ones we are conferring today must always remind us of how much our country needs everybody's help, and how – as regular citizens – we must remain engaged in improving the lives of our fellowmen and protecting our democratic way of life,” he said.
The President expressed hope that members of his Cabinet, as civilians, will still work together for the nation.
“Now that our time in office is coming to an end, we must continue to do our own, small part in the grand task of building a nation. And I hope that, perhaps even on an unofficial level, we may still find ourselves working together, as fellow citizens this time, to give rise to a Philippines that we can be truly proud of,” he said.
List of Awardees
In giving the awards, Aquino said he does not wish to belittle others’ contributions, adding he only wanted to officially recognize those who exceeded his expectations.
“To all our awardees today: You have been chosen to be here based on your remarkable performance during our administration. But at the same time, these awards are meant to raise the bar for all,” he said.
Here are the list of presidential awardees:
Order of Lakandula, Rank of Gold Cross Bayani
1. Asec. Susan Reyes - Socials Secretary
2. Amb. Celia Anna Feria - Chief of Presidential Protocol
3. Sec. Emmanuel Esguerra - NEDA
4. Usec Manuel Quezon III - PCDSPO
5. DG Lilia De Lima - PEZA
6. Administrator Gerardo Angelito V. Esquivel - MWSS
7. President and GM Robert G. Vergara - GSIS
8. President and CEO Arnel Paciano Casanova - BCDA
9. Commissioner Mary Ann Lucille Sering - Climate Change Commission
10. Chairman Chito M. Cruz - HUDCC
11. Chairman Cesar N. Villanueva - GOCC
12. Sec. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva - TESDA
13. Sec. Luwalhati Antonino - MinDA
14. Dir. Gen. Cesar P. Garcia - NSA
15. Sec. Mario Montejo - DOST
16. Sec. Ramon R. Jimenez Jr - DOT
17. Sec. Mel Senen Sarmiento - DILG
18. Sec. Corazon Juliano Soliman - DSWD
19. Sec. Janet L. Garin - DOH
20. Sec. Voltaire T. Gazmin - DND
21. Sec. Rosalinda Dimapilis Baldoz - DOLE
22. Sec. Armin A. Luistro - DepEd
23. Sec Rogelio L. Singson - DPWH
24. Sec. Jose Rene Almendras - DFA
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