A week before moving out of Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino 3rd honored his official family for its dedicated service to the country.
In a simple ceremony at the Palace, Aquino bestowed the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Gold Cross Bayani and the Presidential Medal of Merit on his Cabinet officials.
“All of you in this hall have answered the call to bring change to our country and I, myself, am a witness to the depth of your sacrifice. Many of you gave up jobs and put your careers on hold to take far less lucrative positions; many of you gave up time with your loved ones; many of you have willingly stood with me in the cross airs of opponents of reform, and have thus been on the receiving end of baseless attacks even on your character,” he said.
“Some of you have put your own lives in peril, not once but multiple times, responding to disasters both natural and man-made. Each of you has shared in the burden, and each of you has made it a little bit easier to carry the responsibility of bringing hope and a better life for our people,” he added.
Aquino said that over the course of his administration, he remained keenly aware of everything that his Cabinet officials have given.
“This is why, every time I am praised for anything, I make it a point to say that I couldn’t have done anything without you, and without our countrymen, simply because that is the truth,” he said.
As they leave office, Aquino said he and his administration “can do so with our heads held high, because we’ve done right by the Filipino people.”
“Thus, on behalf of our people, and from the bottom of my heart, I must say: Thank you very much. For practically all of you, the solitary reward for your work may have been just a few kind words from me, or an invitation to share a modest meal, so perhaps this formal reward can somehow try and make up for that shortfall,” he said.
All members of Aquino’s Cabinet received the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Gold Cross Bayani, while others received Presidential Medal of Merit.
Aquino said he bestowed the two awards: The Order of Lakandula—one of the Senior Honors of the Republic, meant to recognize civil and political merit—and the Presidential Medal of Merit, granted to those who have rendered outstanding service to the President.
Among those who received the Order of Sikatuna were Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra, Mindanao Development Authority chairperson Luwalhati Antonino, National Security Council Cesar Garcia, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Health Secretary Janette Garin, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and resigned TESDA head Joel Villanueva.
The Presidential Medal of Merit Awardees were Social Secretary Susan Reyes, Presidential Protocol chief Celia Anna Feria, PDSPO Secretary Manuel Quezon 3rd, Philippine Economic Zone Authority head Lilia de Lima, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System administrator Gerardo Esquivel, Government Service Insurance System president Robert Vergara, BCDA president Arnel Paciano Casanova, Climate Change Commission Secretary Mary Ann Lucille, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chairman Chito Cruz and GOCC Commission Secretary Cesar Villanueva.
“Now that our time in office is coming to an end, we must continue to do our own, small part in the grand task of building a nation. And I hope that, perhaps even on an unofficial level, we may still find ourselves working together, as fellow citizens this time, to give rise to a Philippines that we can be truly proud of,” Aquino said.