Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the 75th Commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan and Veterans’ Week
Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan
09 April 2017
Kindly sit down. Salamat po.

I’d like to greet the following: Secretary Delfin Lorenzana; Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa; Mr. Michael Klecheski; Excellencies of the diplomatic corps; Governor Albert Garcia; Commissioner Rene Escalante; Mayor Alicia Pizarro; General Eduardo Año and the other service commanders; the esteemed officers and members of the various veteran organizations; fellow workers in government; mga mahal kong kababayan.

We are drawn together each year on this sacred ground to honor the gallant men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice – for our nation, for our people and for our future.

These are words uttered in utmost respect and gratitude for those who faced the biggest challenges and proved that they had much bigger hearts of courage.

75 years ago, the last stand was taken here in Bataan and Corregidor. Bloodied yet unbowed, men and women stood their ground to defend ang ating Inang Bayan and the values we hold dear.

We were a young democracy then transitioning from colonial rule. But in that war we never asked for, we fought shoulder to shoulder with a country that is now the Philippines’ only defense treaty ally – the United States of America.

This shared juncture in our past should be the firm basis for moving our relations forward – with full and mutual respect on sovereignty.

As we fought together to stave off the enemy then, so should we help each other to address the threats that confront our societies, our region and our world.

To be sure, there will be difficulties. Where before the lines of duties where clearly drawn, now the menace of terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crimes – such as the illegal drug trade – have called into question efforts to uphold the responsibility to defend the interests of the common good.

We know where we stand. We know what we should do. We will be undeterred in our efforts to secure for the citizens the future they deserve based on the mandate reposed on us by laws.

75 years ago, this site became the altar of valor.

Today, we should be reminded that amidst the traditional and emerging challenges we face, we must not be afraid to fight the good fight when we know – it is our heart of hearts – that we do so in exercise of our solemn duty.

That boldness is humbly edified here in Mt. Samat. This monument stands firmly for those who fought and fell. This is the bastion [for] the indomitable spirit that allowed us to rise again as a nation.

Our people did not die in vain. That generation was dauntless and determined. Despite the tremendous toll of a war we never wanted, we helped prevent the onward advance of the aggressors in the larger Pacific theater.

This is a legacy to the world that the Philippines should be rightly recognized.

Paid [for] in blood, the painful lessons of war behoove all of us in the community of nations to work for peace and development.

No matter the spoils, war is never worth it. The reasons of aggression against the occupation of nations should not be countenanced.

This is why the Philippines continues to articulate our principled position that disputes should be settled in a peaceful manner.

This is a responsibility of all States – great or small, strong or weak. As responsible members of the international community, this is our sacred duty.

This is also why the Philippines is the strongest advocate for the positive transformation of relations.

With our meaningful shared history, the Philippines and Japan emerge from a benighted period into a bright era of an expanding space for an unprecedented partnership.

In these modern times, Japan and the Philippines are new allies for peace, development and the rule of law in the region.

As Chair of ASEAN on this the 50th anniversary of the Association’s establishment, the Philippines resolves to do its part in regional community building. We will work hard to achieve greater peace, progress and prosperity. We will work with the interests and well-being of ASEAN’s peoples at the very core.

We owe nothing less than this solemn pledge for all those who sacrificed the most for our country’s freedom. Our veterans went through one of the darkest chapters in world history for the benefit of our generation and generations after us.

We must never forget that they endured a war for the sake of the future. We must remember we are the future that they fought for.

For us and for the world, they are rightly our heroes.

I was born in 1945 during the last stages of the war. Violence was at its worst. When the war ended in September, I was only a few months old. My family did everything to ensure that I would be protected from the ravages of war.

True, my family went through a lot. But we were among the fortunate to have survived.

Many others, however, did not. Thousands of lives were lost because they had to fight. And they had to fight forever for us.

They did not know me. They did not know my family. They did not know all of us. But they died for us.

We must never forget that we owe them a deep debt of gratitude. Utang po natin sa kanila ang ating buhay at pansamantalang ating bayan. [applause]

Let us take this moment to honor our veterans, the ones who passed away and the ones who are with us today. [applause]

No matter what we do, we can never do enough to repay you. But I would like for you to know that your government is doing much, much more.

Our surviving veterans have suffered much. They should not suffer more. In the twilight of their years, they deserve a better life. [applause]

I assure our veterans [and] their families that we are prioritizing your entitlements. [applause]

We have settled the backlog in disability pensions. We also made the management of almost 200,000 pension accounts more efficient.

Veterans with conditions and their dependents can be assured of free healthcare at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and 152 veterans-accredited hospitals. I am instructing them today to further improve their services and accessibility. [applause]

As a legacy to the next generation, we have subsidized the education of more than 2,500 of our veterans’ dependents under the Iskolar ng Bayan program. With education, we hope they can secure a better future.

These entitlements do not compare to the sacrifices that you have made. But we want you to know, our nation [and] our people are grateful to you for what you have done and we will do better. [applause]

I ask our young people today to look at your elders with much respect and to view them with a deep sense of thanks. Take the time to recognize them because what I say is not trite. It is the truth: Without them, we would not be here.

Let Araw ng Kagitingan remind us all that Filipinos are capable of tremendous feats of heroism. Let this monument be a beacon for all to be brave in the midst of challenges and uncertainties. Let today be an occasion to reaffirm our vow: we will never waver in our efforts to secure what is best for the greatest common good of our nation.

This is the sacrifice for our generation. This is our burden to bear. This we have to take on so we can say: we deserve the ultimate sacrifice paid in [our] name and our nation’s posterity.

I’m supposed to say “maraming salamat po” but I have something here for you.

Before I end my speech, this is really actually a pronouncement from my office. I am directing the Department of Budget and Management, DBM [cheers and applause]. Nahula na ninyo ha. Inom muna ako ng tubig. [applause]

Mabilis pa si lolo mag-project. [laughter]

I’d like to repeat it. I am directing the Department of Budget and Management, DBM, and the Department of National Defense to expedite the early release of the AFP’s retirees pension credentials for fiscal years 2008 to 2013 in the amount of 6,421,000,000. [applause]

Mabuhay ang beterano! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Saludo ako sa inyo, sir. Sana may giyera rin para ma-hero kami. [laughter]