MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte lived up to his promise to bring soldiers who were wounded in action, including a blind soldier who made him teary-eyed when they met a few weeks ago, to Malacañang Palace, which he prefers to call “Palace of the People”.
In a dinner he hosted for them Monday night, the Commander-in-Chief reiterated his assurance that he will not abandon his troops, particularly those who are wounded in action.
”I can assure you: My presidency will take care of you, you have nothing to worry about,” President Duterte assured the soldiers, most of whom visited the Palace for the first time.
While making the rounds of military camps nationwide, President Duterte promised to double the salary of soldiers and police, and provide them scholarships for their children, modern military equipment, and state-of-the-art medical facilities.
Saying that not every Filipino is given a rare chance to die for his country, President Duterte encouraged the wounded soldiers not to lose hope.
”There’s always a drawback somewhere when there is fighting. Whether you like or not, there is always a day for you. So kayong medyo lumusot (So those of you who escaped death), it means to say: ‘Fight again,’” the President told them.
Lt. Jerome Jacuba, who lost his eyesight after he was hit by an improvised explosive device during an operation in Maguindanao several months ago, received a laptop he requested from the President.
”Here’s your laptop, ibigay mo sa kanya pati siguro kotse na, isali mo na (also give him a car),” the President instructed his staff, drawing applause from the crowd that included Senate President Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III and Cabinet officials led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
In response, Jacuba expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the President for giving him hope that he thought would never come again after the Maguindanao blast that left him totally blind.
”Mahirap mawalan ng paningin. Marami pa ako gustong gawin. Marami pa akong pangarap sa buhay. Paano na ang mga anak ko? Hindi ko na makikita kung paano sila mag-drawing, gaano sila kagaling sumayaw. Pero ganun pa man, simula ng bumisita si President Duterte, talagang nagbago ang lahat,” Jacuba said.
(“It is difficult to lose one’s eyesight. I still want to achieve a lot of things. I still have a lot of dreams. What will happen to my children now? I will never see their drawings or how they will dance. Nonetheless, President Duterte’s visit changed everything,” Jacuba said.)
He said blessings have begun to pour in for him and his family after his emotional meeting with President Duterte at V. Luna Hospital last August 2. The meeting where the crying Jacuba tightly hugged the President went viral in the internet.
”Yun sana ang unang pagkakataon na makaharap at makita nang personal ang isang President pero ipinagkait pa. Masayang-masaya ako dahil sa inyo Sir, nagkaroon ulit ako ng pagasa,” he said.
(“It was my one chance to come face to face with a President but it was denied to me. I am so happy that, because of you Sir, I began to have hope again,” he said.)
The 28-year-old Jacuba also thanked the President for his sincerity to serve the Filipino soldiers and the entire country.
”Kung kami ang mga bayani, kayo naman ang bayani ng mga bayani. Ikaw ang naglift up ng morale ng mga sundalo. Kayo ang leader na may puso at sinsero,” Jacuba said.
(“If we soldiers are heroes, then you sir is the hero of heroes. You lift the morale of soldiers. You are a leader with heart and sincerity,” Jacuba said.) Jelly Musico/PNA/northboundasia.com