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Newsmakers

Pride & Patriotism

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Pride & Patriotism
Outgoing Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana: Proud to have served the country and the Duterte administration. In a simple ceremony last June 16, Presi-dent Duterte awarded Lorenzana the Lakadula Award - degree of Grand Cross, for serving as Chairperson of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF-COVID-19).

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana walks tall, commands attention, but does not carry the bluster or arrogance of the powerful man that he is. He has, after all, had the country’s entire armed forces under his department for six years.

Instead, his cool and calm demeanor, tested often physically and mentally in the last six years, prevails. When he buckled under intense heat during a recent public event, he got back on his feet right away.

“I came from humble beginnings,” Lorenzana tells us. “My father was a farmer in Cotabato, so he didn’t go to school. My mother never went to school, but she’s a very strong-willed woman. She kept telling us that we should all go to school and finish college. And yes, I think it was the desire to succeed and to get out of that life that motivated me. It was not really a difficult life, but my mother wanted us to free ourselves from poverty and also move up the social ladder.”

So, whether as a Scout Ranger in Mindanao, a general guarding his commander-in-chief from the enemy at the gates or fighting for Filipino veterans’ rights in a foreign land, or a government official tasked with national defense, Lorenzana is a trained soldier aiming to accomplish a mission.

“I take my job seriously every step of the way, from lieutenant to captain, to general. That’s what gives me fortitude. To keep going in trying to do something good for the unit, the organization, so that when I leave, it is better than when I found it.”

Known for his untarnished record in public service, the 73-year-old outgoing defense chief says: “I want to be remembered as the Secretary of Defense who was able to make a difference: the improvement of the defense organization for the good of the country.”

In the last six years, the DND was relentless in its pursuit of modernizing and developing the department in order to optimize its response procedure to domestic and global security challenges. New defense capabilities were developed and military resources were boosted significantly.

According to the DND, among them are the acquisition of two multi-role guided missile frigates — the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) — which were commissioned in 2020 and 2021 respectively; six units of Embraer A-29B Super Tucano close air support aircraft; 16 units of S-70i Black Hawk combat utility helicopters; air surveillance radars, drones, missile systems, and various force protection and weapons systems.

“These new assets will further strengthen our humanitarian assistance and disaster response, air, maritime and land defense, as well as joint command and control capabilities,” Lorenzana says.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has also conducted 6,958 naval surface patrols and 6,432 air patrols in the country’s territory and borders, including in the hotly contested West Philippine Sea (WPS).

To expand maritime domain awareness in the WPS, the DND also built new structures on Pagasa (Thitu) Island in Kalayaan Island Group, Palawan. This includes a beaching ramp, which was inaugurated in 2020, and an airstrip, which is set to finish this month.

‘Mission accomplished.’
Photo by Jar Concengco

There were also improved structures in six other Philippine-occupied islands in WPS, namely in Kota, Parola, Panata, Likas, Lawak, and Panguan to assert the country’s sovereignty and fortify the military’s defenses of the said areas.

“With these modern and multi-role assets added to the AFP’s inventory, as well as the capacity development and reforms we have instituted, we are hopeful that the defense sector’s trajectory will continue its upward momentum and lead to sustained peace and stability for the nation,” Lorenzana says.

Moreover, through the government’s reintegration program, thousands of rebels and their supporters have returned to the fold of the law.

Secretary Lorenzana in action

“Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments of the DND is the liberation of Marawi, where we made accountable all of those who attacked the city in 2017,” declares Lorenzana, referring to the five-month urban war between the state forces against local and foreign terrorists.

The creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2019 through the ratification and passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in 2018 also came to fruition under the current administration.

This paved the way for the normalization track of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which was once a fierce enemy of the State. Under the normalization track, about 19,200 MILF combatants and 2,100 weapons were decommissioned by the government.

As of April 30, a total of 9,326 former rebels were provided with financial assistance; 30,009 surrenderers and their dependents have undergone skills training; and 978 others have received housing assistance.

“This is what we have accomplished. This is what we will pass down to the people and to the next administration. This is the legacy of President Duterte,” the tireless defense chief adds.

He’s gone a long way from being the poor farmer’s son from Cotabato who admits to almost resigning during his first month at the Philippine Military Academy.

“I was shocked on the first day we were there because I had no inkling of what life there was going to be like, unlike my classmates from Manila who knew a lot of people and were briefed about what to expect on campus. So, it was difficult, physically and mentally. I even contemplated resigning within the first month of being a cadet,” admits Lorenzana, who, ironically, was only one of two graduates from his batch to volunteer for Mindanao action after graduation.

And yet he persevered. Why? Because he is no quitter. “I stuck it out. After passing first year, my life became very easy. It was just a matter of years before I graduated in 1973.”

Lorenzana belonged to the “Maagap” class, the first batch of PMA cadets who graduated during martial law.

He can now consider his mission accomplished as he has achieved all his targets, with the support of the “One Defense Team” strategy.

Maagap, indeed.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

DELFIN LORENZANA

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