PNoy speech in commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan 2012

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
In commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan
[Delivered at the Shrine of Valor, Mt. Samat, Pilar, Bataan on April 9, 2012]
Our history tells us that President Quezon once said to General MacArthur in a letter, and I quote: “I am greatly concerned as well regarding all the soldiers I have called to the colors and who are now manning the firing line. I want to decide in my own mind whether there is justification in allowing all these men to be killed, when for the final outcome of the war the shedding of their blood may be wholly unnecessary.”
Having the lives of thousands, or even millions of one’s countrymen in your hands is a serious matter; and it is likely that President Quezon found himself asking: What is all this for? Will these sacrifices be useful, or meaningful?
No leader wishes to face this kind of crossroads, especially with freedom on the line. Will we take up arms even in the face of such overwhelming odds, when fate itself seems to be against us? Or will we fold the flag in order to avoid bloodshed?
We do not want this to happen again. And this is at the heart of our commitment to strengthen our Armed Forces.
On this day, we celebrate the collective courage of our people—the courage of our veterans, who took arms against our enemies to protect their birthplace; and the courage of those civilians who stood for compassion, even in the face of guns and bayonets.
In times of war, each individual encounters challenges that measure their honor. Will I bow to the enemy, or face them with my head held high? Will I share this glass of water with a thirsty countryman despite the threat of being punished for it?
But for our veterans, the choice was simple: “This is the country I owe my life to; and the flag that symbolizes our dignity remains steadfast against the wind. I must fight for it.” As they put their bodies on the line to confront the enemies, they kept all doubt in the backs of their minds. They did not ask: “What is all this for,” or “Will my sacrifice be of any value?” They trusted their leaders to make the right decisions; in times of war, orders are orders, and they must be followed.
This is why today, it is only fitting for us to remember another kind of courage. This is the courage of our leaders: those who did not falter from the weight of the decisions they had to make—decisions that ended up molding the destiny of their fellow Filipinos.
Our government is working hard to ensure that our soldiers receive the services and benefits they rightfully deserve. In the event of battle, we want to be able to hold our own. The BRP Gregorio del Pilar, our first Hamilton Class Cutter, has set sail—proudly guarding our territory. This May, a similar ship will be arriving, so that we can further patrol our shores and our seas. A few months ago, four out of eight Combat Utility Helicopters were turned over to our Armed Forces; this November, the remaining four helicopters will be arriving as well. There are also 138 projects lined up in our Defense Acquisition System, all of which we will be implementing within the next five years.
All of these are results of good governance; and of our belief that integrity and honor will give birth to projects that the people will truly benefit from. I am aware that our soldiers are enjoying high morale right now, not just because of our housing program, or because of the combat allowance that they are receiving, but because they know that the culture of corruption is being eliminated from their leadership.
The opportunity to join our uniformed services is an honor; it is an even greater honor to be able to sacrifice one’s self for the country. This state honors its veterans, and I believe that they must be given proper care and compensation in return for their sacrifice. Allow me to deliver some good news to you: If you have not heard yet, as of the 31st of March of this year, our veterans will be able to receive their health benefits in a more convenient manner: 599 hospitals in our country have been accredited by the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center as regional or provincial extensions. We have also expanded the services that can be subsidized by the VMMC to include cataract operations, coronary angiograms, and cardiac bypasses.
And because of the Direct Remittance Pension Servicing System that we are implementing, our veterans will be able to receive their pension in a faster and more efficient manner. The list of our countrymen who receive pensions has also been purged of false claimants, so that these funds arrive only where they are meant to go.
These are only a few of the ways through which we can recognize the bravery of our veterans, who we remember on this day. So much time has passed since then; and indeed, so much has changed.
The country we once considered an enemy is now a trusted friend. And the alliance we formed with the Americans who were our comrades in war has only deepened. Today, we live peacefully, and history has taught us valuable lessons: that war and violence yield no fruit, that progress cannot be achieved if we do not positively engage our neighbors; and that mutual cooperation is in the interest of all.
The blood that was once spilt on our lands has long dried; the wind has long driven away the odor of gunpowder; and the passage of time has soothed the hurt of these memories. But we ask ourselves again: for what was this war for? Have all the sacrifices been worthwhile?
Seventy years have passed, yet to this day, we continue to seek answers to these questions. But I can guarantee you this: we owe it to our veterans to ensure that their sacrifices have not been in vain. Because we are free today, we owe it to them to attain the dream of progress; to ensure that no Filipino is left behind; and to achieve true justice. Everything we are doing to lay down reform, to develop the economy, and to help our countrymen rise from poverty, is rooted in a single idea: that we owe it to those who first sacrificed to ensure that it has been worth it, and that it is still worth it to be free, and to live free in the Philippines.
On this day, we recall the beginning of the Death March: after four months of standing firm, Bataan fell to the hands of the enemy. And the blood of Filipinos and Americans stained the hundred kilometers from Mariveles to San Fernando, before they were loaded into a train to be imprisoned in Capas.
This is what we remember today, but this is not what we are celebrating. We are celebrating the conviction of the Filipinos who faced the enemy with courage, honor, and love for country as their strongest weapons. We are celebrating the strength that sprung from their hearts—the strength innate to each and every Filipino, and the strength that can guide us every day as we tread the straight and righteous path. We are celebrating the Araw ng Kagitingan.
Long live our veterans. Long live a free Philippines. Long live the Filipino people. Thank you, and good day.