Aquino salutes veterans, calls for sacrifice
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III honored the contributions of veterans of World War II, and called on Filipinos to offer a different type of sacrifice to move the nation forward.
Aquino led the commemoration of the 71st Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) in Pilar, Bataan on Tuesday, April 9. It is a national holiday. (Read: Legacy of Bataan)
In his speech, Aquino recalled the ordeal of Filipino and American soldiers in Corregidor and Bataan in the 1942 Bataan Death March, where they surrendered to the Japanese army. In paying them tribute, Aquino outlined the benefits and services government offers to veterans.
“They are the thousands of soldiers who took bullets for the nation. They are the ones who fought not just enemies but also hunger and disease. They are the mighty soldiers who grabbed on to hope in a situation full of danger and uncertainty,” Aquino said in Filipino.
The commander-in-chief said that the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Mount Samat stands as a symbol of the soldiers’ valor and sacrifice.
Aquino said that while the government cannot pay them back through mere ceremonies, it sought to look after their welfare through the following:
- Distribution of the Total Administrative Disability Pensions where aside from other benefits, veterans who reach the ago of 70 get P1,700 each month
- Implementation of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Law that provides for the compensation of non-US citizens amounting to US$9,000 and $15,000 for US citizens. Aquino said in January, the compensation reached $224 million for 18,700 applications approved under the law.
- Services in 599 public hospitals accredited by the Veterans Memorial Medical Center as provincial or regional extensions
- In January, subsidy for patients in public hospitals was raised from P800 to P1,200 per day
“All these incentives are meant to pay back our debt of gratitude to veterans’ sacrifice of self,” Aquino said.
Aquino used the occasion to once again call on Filipinos to unite. In past speeches, Aquino has lamented what he called Filipinos’ seeming tendency to dwell on the past instead of moving the nation forward.
On the Day of Valor, Aquino again asked Filipinos to help each other instead of pulling one another down.
Aquino spoke before a crowd that included Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe and US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr.
“We are glad that nations who are former enemies are now partners in promoting peace, stability and progress. With America and Japan, we have proven that the best weapon against misunderstanding is strong cooperation, solidarity and upholding international law.”
Aquino said that in line with the commemoration of Philippine Veterans Week, Filipinos should look at veterans as models of sacrifice.
“Let us offer the change brought by the straight and narrow path to our fellow Filipinos who have not yet experienced the fruits of peace and prosperity of the present. As a new generation of Filipinos, let us show our readiness to sacrifice ourselves for widespread, meaningful change.” – with a report from Ayee Macaraig / Rappler.com