Aquino bids troops farewell, with omission
PRESIDENT Aquino on Monday bade farewell to the troops, profusely thanking them for protecting the nation from its enemies and for doing their share in changing the image of the armed forces.
“If you remember, when we started, we said: ‘We can dream again.’ And in the past years, we were able to change the image of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. From a force that had long been neglected, we have strengthened it to become modern and stronger to serve Filipinos, our bosses,” Mr. Aquino said.
Stepping down from office on Thursday after leading the country for six years, the President spoke after the military honored him with a testimonial parade and review at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
In his speech, Mr. Aquino highlighted major incidents that rocked the armed forces during his six-year watch, including the 2013 siege of Zamboanga City by Nur Misuari and the military’s stand-off with Chinese vessels in Ayungin Shoal in 2014.
But the President made no mention of another major incident, which at one point had threatened to bring down his administration—the botched rescue of police commandos that ended with 44 deaths in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Mr. Aquino said the AFP under his watch was able to modernize, adding that it now had four C-130 planes with one more arriving soon.
He also said that only last month, the government had made operational the BRP Tarlac, the nation’s biggest ship that could serve as a hospital and command center at sea in times of calamity.
The government spent P65.89 billion for 70 projects aimed at modernizing the AFP, he said, adding that was a far cry from the P31.75 billion spent by the past three administrations.
Mr. Aquino thanked the AFP for doing its job without complaint even if the task was difficult.
He recalled the standoff in Ayungin Shoal when there was an attempt by Chinese vessels to block supplies being delivered to the decrepit BRP Sierra Madre, which had ran aground in the area in 1999.
But he said that while the “enemy” had more resources, it was through “seamanship” that the government was able to deliver the supplies to the ship.
“They made the fishing vessels pass through the shallow part of the waters and that was why the modern sea vessel of the enemy was not able to follow. The result—mission accomplished—we were able to successfully send supplies to the BRP Sierra Madre,” the President said.
In thanking Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and honoring the 32nd Infantry Battalion, he said the battalion, which was just training in Zamboanga before the siege, was able to stop rogue forces of the Moro National Liberation Front.
“Even today, they are the ones facing the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.
Mr. Aquino also thanked Rear Adm. Raul Abando and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) for a good job, including assisting in the earthquakes that shook Cebu and Bohol, as well as during Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
He also thanked the PSG for guarding the Pope in January 2015 as well as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum hosted by Manila last year.
As he bade farewell to the troops, the President wished the people would continue to be one with the military.
“I believe I represent the people who feel all your sacrifices and experience for their welfare,” the President said.