Aquino boasts of modernization, thanks AFP in final speech
MANILA, Philippines – Rain threatened to dampen President Benigno Aquino III’s testimonial parade at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo on Monday, June 27, but the skies cleared early enough for the outgoing president to bid the military goodbye.
In his farewell speech, Aquino waxed nostalgic as he thanked the AFP for its service while highlighting improvements it's seen throughout his tenure. (For more on the Aquino administration, visit our Aquino Legacy page)
“Good governance is good economics,” said the President as he explained how, under his administration, more than P60 billion had been spent on much-needed modernization.
Acting AFP chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, speaking before the President, heaped praises on the outgoing commander-in-chief for the military upgrade. (READ: Aquino and the PH military: Toys for the big boys)
“Sa tamang pamamahala, at tamang paglalaan ng pondo, naging makasaysayan ang modernisasyon ninyo. Yung ilang mga dating pinapangarap lang natin, tangan na natin ngayon. Ang maganda pa: Hindi lang kayo tumatanggap ng biyaya mula sa estado; sinusuklian ninyo ito ng karampatang serbisyo. Sa huli, naging virtuous cycle ito; nagtutulungan ang lahat, at sa dulo, Pilipino ang panalo,” said Aquino.
(Through good governance and the proper allocation of funds, the modernization you’ve underwent has been historic. What we once merely dreamed of, we have achieved. What makes it better is that you didn’t just accept graces from the state; you gave back through your service. In the end, it was a virtuous cycle; everyone helped each other and in the end, it’s the Filipino who won.)
Innovation when resources lacked
Aquino cited instances in his presidency where the military managed to get the job done, even if its resources were lacking.
The President praised the Navy’s show of “seamanship” in its the mission to resupply Marines stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, the country’s unconventional naval detachment in the middle of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Since China had far superior resources, Philippines troops opted to pass fishing vessels through shallow parts of the sea, to keep modern Chinese vessels at arm’s length.
“Ganitong tapang at paninindigan, diskarte at inobasyon ang di dapat mawala sa ating kaisipan. Di pwedeng maging de-kahon, walang imahinasyon, at kapos sa inspirasyon ang pagtutupad ng ating tungkulin,” said the president, who was surrounded by current and former key officials of the AFP under his administration.
(This courage and resolve, strategy and innovation is something we must never let go of. We cannot be boxed in, without imagination, lacking in inspiration when it comes to fulfilling our duty.)
The dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea is the driving factor in the upgrades that the AFP has seen under Aquino. Still, the country’s military remains among Asia’s weakest.
Manila has chosen the arbitration route through an international court which is expected to release its ruling by July 2016.
Aquino’s many thanks
The President, who was awarded full military honors on Monday, made sure to thank the men and women who’ve served under the defense department and the military, particularly those who worked closest to him.
Voltaire Gazmin, Aquino’s first and only defense chief, had initially agreed to only one or at most, two years in the post.
“Pasensiya ka na Secretary Gazmin, nakalimutan ko 'yung usapan nating iyon, three days to go na lang, isagad mo na (My apologies, Secretary Gazmin because I seemed to have forgotten our agreement. With three days to go, I hope you make the most of it),” quipped Aquino.
Gazmin headed the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during the presidency of Aquino’s mother, the late Cory Aquino. The defense chief, a close friend of Aquino family, shares a storied history with them. (READ: Voltaire Gazmin: The untouchable)
Aquino’s father, the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was Gazmin’s wedding sponsor. When the older Aquino was jailed in Nueva Ecija during the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' rule, it was Gazmin who was officer-in-charge of the detention facility.
During the ceremony, Aquino conferred the Medal of Merit onto several officers who worked closely with him throughout his presidency:
- Major Xavier C. Celestial - For his composition of the Presidential March;
- Lieutenant Bryner R. Las - For his service as junior military aide de camp (JADC);
- Major James Erasmus F. Cagni - For his service as JADC;
- Lieutenant Colonel Justino T. Ramolete - For his service as senior military assistant to the President;
- Rear Admiral Raul R. Ubando - For his service as former Senior Military Assistant to the President and for his service as group commander of the PSG
“Siguro, ang iniisip ng iba, ang sarap ng buhay maging aide ng Pangulo. Ang di po alam ng marami, sila ang katapat at unang tagasalo ng stress, at pati na minsan, ng init ng ating ulo,” said Aquino of his aides.
(Others might think it’s easy to be the aide of the president. What many don’t know is that they’re the first to encounter and absorb the stress, even my anger.)
The 32nd Infantry Batallion, meanwhile, was awarded the Presidential Unit Streamer for their work in the 2013 Zamboanga siege.
The President is known for being on the ground in several crises, particularly in 2013 when a strong quake hit the Visayas, a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) tried to take over Zamboanga City, and the strongest typhoon to make landfall ravaged central Philippines.
Aquino thanked the PSG, led by Ubando, for having to deal with situation that naturally put the President at risk.
“Sa bawat hakbang sa Daang Matuwid, naging panatag ang loob ko, dahil nariyan kayo at laging nagpapamalas ng propesyunalismo, at maayos na pakikipag-ugnayan sa atin pong security forces,” he said.
(In every step along the Straight Path, I never feared for my safety because you were also there and you always showcased your professionalism and coordination with our security forces.)
The son of two democracy icons, seemingly confident of the legacy he was leaving behind, also reminded the military of martial law, a time when the military was “used by a dictator to abuse our fellow countrymen.”
The People Power Revolution, which saw civilians protect military-men-turned-rebels on the street of EDSA, was a “reconciliation and reunion” after years of alienation from the common Filipino.
“Sa pagtatapos po, dito natin nadadama kung gaano kakapos ang pagsasabi lang ng maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat. Palagay ko po, talagang kinakatawan ko ang sambayanang Pilipino na damang-dama nila lahat ng sakripisyo, lahat ng pinagdaanan niyo para sa kanilang kapakanan,” said the President.
(It’s only now as I end my speech that it’s clear how saying thank you is not enough. But I think I speak in behalf of the entire Filipino nation that knows what you’ve sacrificed and what you’ve gone through for their sake.)
Aquino officially ends his term on June 30, to make way for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. – Rappler.com