Aquino hails vets: Your sacrifices not forgotten
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday praised war veterans and assured them that the government has not forgotten the sacrifice they had made for the country more than 70 years ago.
In his Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) speech in Bataan province, Mr. Aquino said that through good governance, war veterans could now enjoy the many benefits, especially for healthcare, that they deserve, having given much of themselves in exchange for the country’s sovereignty.
“Our commemoration of this Day of Valor is accompanied by the celebration of Philippine Veteran’s Week. To our veterans: The Filipino people honor the bravery you showed as you defended our freedom and fought for a better future. This is why we must protect and promote your rights, the same way you exhibited such compassion and commitment toward your fellowmen and your country,” the President said.
Along with their families, World War II veterans, some of whom survived the Death March that began after the Filipino and US forces surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, attended the 73rd anniversary of Araw ng Kagitingan at the Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan, on Thursday.
They came expecting Mr. Aquino to announce a raise in their old age pension, and left disappointed.
“Almost three generations have passed since Bataan fell. After intense fighting, Filipino and American soldiers were forced to surrender to the Japanese. Now, we gather once more to pay tribute to the collective valor of those who fought in that era. As we recognize their heroism, we stand united with former allies and foes in continued pursuit of widespread peace and prosperity throughout the world,” Mr. Aquino said in his speech.
For the war veterans, many of whom are now in their twilight years, Mr. Aquino said good governance has allowed for the improvement and the expansion of the benefits they receive.
He said that the government, through the Pensioner’s Revalidation Program, has been cleaning up and “correcting” the list of veterans receiving benefits, stressing that it is “only fair that legitimate veterans receive full benefits, and that no unqualified individual receives a share.”
The validation program, spearheaded by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), is being undertaken with the help of financial institutions, local civil registrars and other government agencies.
The President also said the records of veterans are now digitized. The system has led to a 99.95-percent validity rate of the pensioner accounts list in 2014.
“The money set aside for you now goes directly to you. In fact, as of March 2015, the number of pension accounts of living veterans and of dependents of injured or deceased veterans handled by the PVAO has increased to 198,169,” Mr. Aquino said.
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