MANILA - Attending the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Army for the last time as commander-in-chief, President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday expressed his pride over how much the Army has improved over the last six years.
The President described the Army's transformation from one that used to make do with what was available to an Army that is now well on its way to being respected, asset- and skills-wise, across the region.
Aquino promised that more is in store for the Army.
"Abangan na lang po ninyo mula sa inyong mga pinuno at commanders ang iba pang makabuluhang kagamitang mapapasakamay ninyo sa nalalapit na panahon. Hindi ko nga po ililista ang lahat, dahil may usapin ng national security sa pagbabahagi ng ganitong impormasyon. Ang puwede ko pong masabi: 68 big ticket projects, na nagkakahalagang P58.43 billion, ang atin nang naisakatuparan para sa buong AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines)," he said.
"26 na proyekto po diyan o katumbas ng P7.79 bilyon ang napunta para sa pagpapalakas sa kakayahan, kaalaman, at kahandaan ng ating Hukbong Katihan. Ipunto ko lang: Itong AFP Modernization, hindi lang iyan lagpas-lagpas sa inasahan nating magagawa sa loob ng anim na taon. Lagpas-lagpas din iyan sa talagang nagawa ng tatlong administrasyong nauna sa atin," he added.
As the President stood, the Philippine Army paraded some of its assets and personnel before him, beginning with the foot soldiers of various brigades to the Scout Rangers and the Special Forces.
These were followed by some of the 114 armored personnel carriers (APCs) donated by the United States, as well as the various infantry fighting tanks fitted with 25mm bushmasters, 105 and 155mm cannons, and assets for nuclear and disaster response.
Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, commanding general of the Army, likewise mentioned the assets that they have since acquired under the AFP Modernization Program such as new rifles and other weaponry.
Año also mentioned the various Army accomplishments against major terror and insurgency groups such as the neutralization of 595 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA), 82 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), 10 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and 56 members of the Maute group.
Several Army officers and personnel were also given awards, among which were the Kawal ng Kapayapaan Award given to 6th Infantry Division Commander Edmundo Pangilinan, and a Gold Cross Medal given to Cpl. Cliforduin Bade, a Scout Ranger who helped win a 13-hour gun battle between the Army and the Abu Sayyaf last December which led to 23 ASG deaths and the seizure of their encampment.
Awardees of the Philippine Army (officers, personnel, civilian employees) salute the flag. pic.twitter.com/wh5B4wD56w— Chiara Zambrano (@chiarazambrano) March 22, 2016
Aquino, in his speech, said all of the accomplishments and modernization that took place, not just with the Army but with the entire AFP, were done without placing an added burden on the people.
"Nagawa natin ang lahat ng ito nang hindi nagpapataw ng karagdagang pabigat sa ating mga kababayan," he said.