Contributed by Jose Mari M. Garcia, PIA-Bataan
PILAR, Bataan – Remembering the fight for freedom against past colonizers, President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo both agreed that the country must be freed from the locks of poverty and corruption.
A national campaign against tobacco use was also renewed in the 77th Commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan in Mount Samat National Shrine.
The country’s top two leaders were united in their statements that the Philippines must prevail in its wars against poverty, hunger, corruption and terrorism.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año represented Duterte and delivered his message that called for a dutiful nation to defend itself from subjugation and poverty.
“Indeed, it is our duty as Filipinos to defend our country from any form of oppression. This time, it no longer comes from imperial ambitions, but from exploitation of oligarchs, corruption and widespread poverty,” Año read.
Duterte, in his message, once again thanked the veterans for lifting the country out of the darkest hours of World War II, and noted that the law increasing the monthly pension of living war veterans from Php5,000 to Php20,000 has been passed.
He directed the monthly provision of Php50 million to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center to support the medical requirements of ailing veterans.
Robredo, in a statement, called for the same fight against hunger and corruption, citing that Filipinos must be vigilant in ensuring that the country’s resources go to the real poor.
Smoke ban reinforced
In tune to poverty alleviation, anti-smoking advocate Bataan 2nd District Representative Jose Enrique Garcia III said the battle against tobacco use is a means to free Filipinos from social ills.
He announced that the 49-year-old Mount Samat National Shrine will now also be known as the first Shrine of the Smoke-Free Philippines in the country.
To support our President’s smoking ban, through (Executive Order) 26, we want to elevate the level of national consciousness by making Mt. Samat as the bedrock of a nationwide campaign for a tobacco-free generation and be similarly known as the Shrine of the Smoke-Free Philippines,” he said.
The lawmaker said the national shrine is one step closer to being the country’s premier tourism site with the no smoking policy, which has earned Bataan numerous Red Orchid awards, the highest citation given by Department of Health to institutions with 100 percent tobacco-free environment.
“We are all the more determined to exert our best efforts to make what President Duterte called is our golden age of strategic partnership even stronger and brighter over the years,” Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda said.
The country’s aggressor in World War II, Japan vowed to never again repeat the devastation of war and to continue its solid partnership with the Philippines on trade, investment, development assistance, security and defense cooperation.
As the country’s ally in the bloody war from 1941 to 1945, the United States extended its “undying admiration” through the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to living war veterans.
“The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor in the United States. It’s awarded in recognition to those whose services and achievements helped shaped American history,” US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission John Law said.
Thousands of war veterans, their families, students and citizens trooped to the national shrine to commemorate the annual Araw ng Kagitingan which carried the theme “Sakripisyo ng Beterano ay Gunitain, Gawing Tanglaw ng Kabataan Tungo sa Kaunlaran.”
It serves as the highlight of the annual observance of Philippine Veterans Week held from April 5 to 11.