MANILA, Philippines – With only two days left in office, President Aquino yesterday bid goodbye to officers and men of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), saying he was proud to leave behind a modernized military.
The AFP leadership, led by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and acting AFP chief of staff Glorioso Miranda, expressed their gratitude to the outgoing Chief Executive for looking after the soldiers’ welfare and providing a P65.8-billion modernization fund.
Aquino noted that the AFP has come a long way, pointing out that during his predecessor’s term, the government could hardly purchase a second-hand C-130 plane.
Now, the AFP has four brand-new C-130s, with another one coming.
At the same time, the AFP is now equipped with frigates – the most recent of which was the BRP Tarlac, the largest in its fleet – so that the government would be able to defend its territory in the face of maritime encroachments by China, a military superpower.
In his speech at Camp Aguinaldo, where a testimonial parade and review was held in his honor, Aquino said that for the first time, the Philippines now has a sea vessel that can be transformed into a hospital and command center in times of disaster or calamity.
Meanwhile, Aquino thanked Gazmin, who also served as the guard of his late father, former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. when he was jailed by former president Ferdinand Marcos during martial law.
Gazmin, a retired Army general, was appointed chief of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) when Aquino’s mother Corazon was catapulted to power in the late ’80s – after the Marcoses were forced into exile.
Aquino said that when he appointed Gazmin, the latter requested that he would only serve for one to two years.
“Pasensiya ka na, Secretary Gazmin. Nakalimutan ko iyung usapan nating iyon, three days to go na lang, isagad mo na (Sorry, Secretary Gazmin. I forgot our agreement. It’s just three days to go, please stretch it a little bit more),” a smiling Aquino said.
The President also gave credit to Rear Admiral Raul Ubando of the PSG, who dedicated his all in securing him amid major crises like the Zamboanga siege, Bohol earthquake and the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda, all in 2013.
This was apart from securing Pope Francis during his visit in January last year, as well as delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in Manila last November.