By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte posthumously conferred on Monday the Order of Lapu Lapu Medal of Kalasag to the 129 soldiers and police who were killed-in-action fighting the terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
The medals were given during the celebration of National Heroes’ Day, themed “Taong Bayan: Ang Bagong Bayani ng Bayan,” at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City Monday morning.
Joining Duterte in handing out the medals to the families of the slain government troops, aged 21 to 33, were Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Eduardo Año, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The Medal of Kalasag is awarded to those who lost their lives while rendering extraordinary or exceptional contributions to Duterte’s campaign or advocacy.
In his speech, Duterte said he envies the fallen Marawi troops as they “went out of this planet blazing and leaving a legacy of the term ‘bravery.’”
“Today, we confer the Order of Lapu-Lapu [on] individuals who rendered extraordinary service to our country. Of utmost significance are the fallen heroes of Marawi, of Jolo, Sulu and in other places in the country fighting terrorism and subversion of the New People’s Army and the ISIS-Maute terror groups in Lanao,” he said.
“I cannot thank them enough for their valuable service to our nation, and we shall forever be in [their] debt,” he added.
The war in Marawi which started on May 23, 2017, prompted Duterte to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao for 60 days. The declaration lapsed on July 22 and Congress granted its extension until December 31, 2017.
Meanwhile, Duterte said that the National Heroes’ Day is not only for the likes of Jose Rizal or Andres Bonifacio, but also for those nameless individuals who died for the country.
“So every Filipino who actually done something for our country, must be recognized, living or dead. Every year, we come together every last Monday of August to celebrate the bravery of all Filipino heroes, named or unnamed,” he said.
“In these trying times, when our people are in need of heroes to look up to, we pay tribute to those whose heroism made our nation what [it is] today,” he added.
Duterte said that the country should also honor the nameless heroes whose exploits “are never published in history books [or] whose death anniversaries are not celebrated as public holidays.”
“We thank them still for their deeds and remember their exploits forever,” he said.
Duterte also urged to participate in the government’s efforts to build a stronger, peaceful, and more secure nation.
“We count on our people to emulate the patriotism of our heroes so that we may all prevail against the looming threats of criminality, terrorism and [illegal] drugs,” he said.
“In the face of the difficulties we are facing as a nation, I am confident that we can overcome the challenges and emerge triumphant for the simple reason that it is through tough times that heroes like you are made,” he added.
Honor the heroes
In his National Heroes’ Day message, Duterte encouraged the public to honor the Filipino heroes by upholding the rule of law, protecting the nation, and fostering goodwill.
He also encouraged the Filipinos to pay homage to the country’s heroes by harnessing the “same virtues as we continue to fight against lawlessness, criminality, and poverty that hinder us from achieving our full potential.”
“Their courage, leadership and wisdom paved the way for us to enjoy the blessings of freedom, independence, and democracy,” Duterte said.
“They have dedicated their lives to ensure that future generation will have a life that is full and comfortable,” he added.
Duterte also said that Filipinos should continue to embrace the heroes’ ways in everyone’s daily undertakings.
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