Law also emphasized the duty of keeping alive the legacy of the fighters, preserving their memory and ensuring that their fight was not and will never be in vain.
Ernie Penaredondo/File
10 war vets receive US Congressional gold medals
Raffy Viray (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Over seven decades after World War II, 10 Filipino war veterans received the US Congressional Gold Medal yesterday.

Privates First Class Florentino Platero, Macario Roque, Rogel Viray, Leopoldo Gunsay, Francisca dela Fuente and Democrito Domingo attended the awarding ceremonies yesterday at Emiliana Hall, Barangay Tenejero in Balanga City, Bataan.

Posthumous awards were given to the four others: PFC Lewe Domingo, Staff Sgt. Gabriel Layug, Capt. Quirico Evangelista and Maj. Pedro Quezon.

“The ceremony reminds us (that) the cost of freedom is not measured in pesos and dollars, but in the sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands, neighbors and friends who lost their lives to defend it,” US embassy Deputy Chief of Mission John Law said yesterday during the 77th Araw ng Kagitingan commemoration at Mount Samat National Shrine in Bataan.

Law also emphasized the duty of keeping alive the legacy of the fighters, preserving their memory and ensuring that their fight was not and will never be in vain.

“Because of their exceptional legacy of valor, the (Filipino) people and the Philippine nation will always have from the people of the (US) our greatest respect and our most profound thanks,” Law said.

Among the guests at the ceremonies were Assistant Director Kevin Mcallister of the US Department of Veterans Affairs; Department of National Defense Undersecretary for civil veterans and retiree affairs Reynaldo Mapagu and Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).

Also present were Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Caccia.

The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by the US Congress, is awarded to Filipino veterans for their achievements and contributions during World War II.

Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia III of Bataan’s 2nd district cited the heroic deeds and patriotism of the veterans.

Speaking before the veterans and their relatives, guests and local officials, Garcia said the Congressional Gold Medal is a “much deserved and long awaited recognition of bravery and valor of our Filipino World War II veterans.”

He said the medal recognizes what veteran-heroes have sacrificed during the war.

“But more importantly, this medal symbolizes and acclaims their indelible contribution in keeping the flame of freedom burning brightly,” Garcia said.

Bataan provincial board member Jose Villapando Sr. commended the “gallantry and patriotic exploits of Filipino-American soldiers during World War 2.”

Villapando also pushed for an educational program to enrich the knowledge of the youth about the Second World War.

For his part, Bataan Gov. Albert Raymond Garcia cited Mount Samat National Shrine as one of the tourism zones in the country.

Few survivors

About 5,000 World War II veterans are living and their number is dwindling.

Due to deteriorating health, an average of 295 veterans die every month, the PVAO said as it provides support for their welfare and families.

The PVAO is managing the pension accounts of nearly 160,000 veterans of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars and the dependents of deceased or totally disabled veterans.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who represented President Duterte at the commemoration, told the audience of the President’s directive for the PVAO to speed up the processing of monthly pensions of veterans.

Año also announced that a P50-million monthly support will be given to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and pension increase from P5,000 to P20,000 has been set.

Inspiration to PNP

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde said the heroism shown by Filipino veterans during the Japanese occupation in World War II serves as an inspiration to the entire 190,000-strong police force. 

“The undying gallantry of the Filipino heroes of Bataan and Corregidor lives on in the ranks of the police service, immortalized by modern day heroes who offered the supreme sacrifice for God, country and people; and those who continue to wage the national crusade against crime, drugs, terrorism and corruption,” he said in a statement. 

The PNP yesterday held flag-raising rites and wreath-laying ceremonies in all its police camps in honor of the war heroes. 

For their part, the Bulacan police conducted ceremonies for Gen. Alejo Santos for his contribution during the Japanese occupation.

Col. Chito Bersaluna, police commander of Bulacan, said a wreath was laid at the bust of the general in Camp General Alejo Santos Provincial Police Office in Malolos City.

Santos is best remembered as the founder of the Bulacan Military Area, the main guerrilla movement in the province that had 23,000 men under its command.

Peace process

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. urged yesterday Filipinos to draw courage from the heroes of Bataan to achieve peace in the country.  

“Let us remember the gallantry of these heroes who, even in the face of death, demonstrated to our nation and the whole world their immeasurable love for our motherland,” Galvez said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army and local government unit in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon have constructed a bust in honor of Col. Osito Bahian.

Bahian and eight of his men were on their way to negotiate a peace accord with the New People’s Army when they were ambushed in the outskirts of Butuan City.

Bahian’s heroism inspired his sons to join the uniformed services.

Robert Roy Bahian is now the provincial police commander in Camiguin province. Youngest son Neil Osito Bahain graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1995 but died in 1999 when his trainer aircraft crashed in Batangas. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Emmanuel Tupas, Ramon Efren Lazaro, Jose Rodel Clapano, Jaime Laude

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