Aquino to reform critics: We will crush you
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III had strong words for those opposing his administration's reform agenda: the state will not hesitate to go against you.
In his speech to the new graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Sunday, March 15, in Baguio City, Aquino told the members of Sinaglahi Class of 2015 that their service to the country will send a message to those who go against reform.
"Sa pakikiambag ninyo, at ng iba pang magigiting na miyembro ng ating unipormadong hanay, malinaw ang mensahe natin sa mga nasa kabilang panig ng ating agenda ng reporma: Kung handa kayong makipag-usap nang sinsero, bukas ang estado sa isang risonable at tapat na diyalogo. Pero kung patuloy ninyong ilalagay sa peligro ang sambayanan, hindi kami mag-aatubiling sagasaan kayo," he told the graduates.
(Your contribution will make clear our message to those who oppose our reform agenda: If you are ready to talk sincerely, the state is open to reasonable and truthful dialogue. But if you continue to put the country in danger, we will not hesitate to crush you.)
His message comes at a time when calls for his resignation have surfaced, after the bloody Mamasapano clash last January 25 that left 67 dead. Members of the National Transformation Council have been urging “the installation of a civilian-military junta.”
There has been talk of a coup d'etat too, supposedly led by former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales.
Aquino urged the 2015 class to serve the country faithfully and continue the good examples set by their predecessors.
He also assured them that his administration's promise of better benefits, housing for soldiers, and an improved pension system will go a long way to strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
"Tunay nga: Mas malayo pa ang puwedeng marating ng mga susunod na henerasyon ng ating kawal dahil mayroon na tayong mas malakas at mas maunlad na Sandatahang Lakas na kinakalinga ng estadong kanila namang kinakalinga din," he said.
(The next generation of soldiers will go far because we now have a strong Armed Forces protected by the state.)
There were no arrival honors for the President at Fort Gen. Gregorio del H. Pilar upon his request, and he chose to walk instead of using a customary white jeep.
He began his speech by listing down the many challenges his government had overcome.
"Masasabi nating higit nang maganda ang kalagayan ng bansa kumpara sa ating dinatnan. Nilinis at nililinis natin ang burukrasya, tinugis ang mga tiwali, pinasigla ang ekonomiya, at nagbukas tayo ng mga bagong pinto ng oportunidad para sa ating mga kababayan," he said.
(We can say that the country is in a better state than where it was when I came on board. We cleaned up and continue to clean up the bureaucracy, pursued the corrupt, revived the economy, and opened new doors of opportunity for our people.)
"Ang dati pong tinatawag na 'Sick Man of Asia,' sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon ay investment grade status na. Kamakailan lang, natanggap natin ang balitang-balita na nasa 1.04 million ang nadagdag sa bilang ng mga Pilipinong may hanapbuhay. Katumbas ito ng pagbaba ng unemployment rate sa 6.6% ngayong Enero mula sa 7.5% sa kaparehong panahon noong 2014."
(What was once called the 'Sick Man of Asia' is now already on investment-grade status. Recently, we got news that an additional 1.04 million Filipinos now have jobs. This is equivalent to the unemployment rate going down to 6.6% this January, from 7.5% in the same period in 2014.)
"Bukod dito, walang patid ang pagsulong ng mga programa nating naghahatid ng agarang benepisyo para sa napakaraming pamilyang Pilipino," Aquino added.
(Aside from this, we have not stopped from pushing programs that provide immediate benefits to many Filipino families.)
In his speech, the President also praised a recent graduate, and called on the 2015 class to follow their upperclassman's example.
"Sana ay matumbasan o mahigitan ninyo ang ipinamalas ng inyong upperclassman na si 2nd Lieutenant Jerson Sanchez," Aquino said.
(I hope that you prove equal to, or even better than, what was demonstrated by your upperclassman 2nd Lt. Jerson Sanchez.)
Sanchez, a member of the Siklabdiwa Class of 2014, had already shown strength and excellence in carrying out his duties, even if he had graduated for a little less than a year, Aquino said.
Sanchez was the platoon leader of the 73rd Infantry Battalion which encountered 30 members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani Province last February 16.
Despite being outnumbered, Sanchez's men killed 7 members of the NPA. Eleven other rebels surrendered in the following days.
He was later given the Distinguished Conduct Star.
Worth dying for
"Bibigyan ko po ng diin: Bagitong sundalo si 2nd Lt. Sanchez, hindi pa siya miyembro ng isang elite unit. Pero sa maikling panahon pa lamang ng inilagi niya sa serbisyo, nagpakita na siya ng ibayong tapang at epektibong pamumuno. Malinaw sa kanya: habang nagpupursige siyang tugisin ang mga kalaban, lalo silang magdadalawang-isip na magsagawa ng operasyon dahil alam nilang de-kalibre ang mga sundalong nakabantay."
(I will emphasize this: 2nd Lt. Sanchez is a new soldier and not yet a member of an elite unit. But in the short period that he has been in service, he already showed extraordinary courage and effective leadership. It was clear to him: while relentlessly pursuing the enemy, they should all the more have second thoughts about conducting an operation because they know that the soldiers on watch are of high caliber.)
Aquino also said Sanchez's story was part of a larger narrative of a broad transformation of society, and that he is one of a growing number of people who not only say, "The Filipino is worth dying for," but truly live those words.
In his valedictory speech, 2nd Lt. Arwi Chiday Martinez said that his class would fight for peace, but added that this does not mean immediately employing military solutions.
"History would remind us that the most costly mistake of strategy came not from restraint but from the willingness to rush into military action without thinking of the immediate and long-term consequences of waging war," Martinez said.
The valedictorian, who was born and raised in the neighborhood of Fort del Pilar, spoke as long as Aquino and had as many applauses.
But he gave what could be the first valedictory address in 5 languages: English, Filipino, Ilocano, Ibaloy and Kankanaey.
The last two languages he used to salute his fellow Igorots, telling them to be proud of their heritage.
He also quoted a former superintendent about the real definition of success: "katapatan, malasakit sa kapwa at katapangan (faithfulness, caring for others, and courage)." – Rappler.com