PEACETALK: The responsibility to espouse our shared idea of peace is for us to do what is right for others and the common good

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(Response of General Carlito Galvez, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on his conferment of the Ateneo Peace Award at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University on 21 August 2018. Galvez was awarded for his“supreme dedication to service to country, for a leadership career defined by excellence, honor, integrity and compassion and for his courageous commitment to achieve peace and security in Mindanao.”

 A pleasant and peaceful afternoon to everyone. It is with utmost gratitude and humility that I accept the Ateneo Peace Award. To have been thoughtfully selected as the recipient of this meaningful Recognition brings much honor not only to myself, but to every man and woman of the AFP who marches for peace.

Therefore, allow me to take this opportunity to duly express my deepest appreciation to the Ateneo de Zamboanga University headed by its President, Fr. Karel San Juan, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr Efren Wee, for recognizing our commitment in fostering lasting peace and progress of our beloved country.

As Commander, WestMinCom

During my stint as Commander of the Western Mindanao Command, let me share some of the efforts that attested to our lasting commitment for peace in the region. We were able to conceptualize, initiate and implement strategies that were specifically crafted to combat and defeat the threat of terrorism and other forms of threat. These strategies became highly effective and relevant with the active involvement and participation of the people and the community through the local government leaders.

As a result, we were able to open and broaden their understanding of the people on the root cause of conflicts as well as deepen their sense of shared responsibility in the attainment of peace and progress in Mindanao. The shared responsibility and commitment between the Armed Forces and the local communities eventually led to the considerable decrease in crime rates and incidents of kidnapping, surrender of hundreds of Abu Sayyaf members and helped them and the people realize their potential and greater opportunity for economic growth and development.

Lessons from Marawi and Challenge for the Youth

The events that have unfolded during the Marawi Liberation will certainly serve as an example of the necessity and importance of the genuine involvement and commitment of the people and the whole community in order to foil and prevent not only the threat of terrorism, but also the presence of mal-governance, corruption, social injustice and discrimination.

Let me therefore pose a challenge to the bright and young future leaders of our country. Commit yourselves towards peace-building and development initiatives of the government in Mindanao. Contribute in filling in the gaps through involvement in community building, mentoring organizations and societies. Remember that we have shared social responsibilities to institute needed social changes in your respective peers, families and communities.

ADZU

As a principle-based educational institution, Ateneo de Zamboanga University continuously serves as a paramount provider of quality education among Mindanao’s future leaders who are empowered to uphold peace and development in the region. With our genuine faith, the students and graduates of this esteemed university are capable of bringing lasting change in Mindanao. You molded your students to become vital partners of the community in good governance and in nation building. The Ateneo “model” is of the perfect model that we used in charting the Philippine Military Academy Roadmap in 2006 which you harness the Jesuit Heroic Leadership Model in leading people and communities towards understanding, harmony and resiliency. Ateneo taught us the threshold of the emotional and spiritual domain of humanity.

AFP’s Commitment for Peace

As the 50th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I proudly share this award to all the gallant soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines whose untiring dedication and passion to serve in the noble profession of arms which paved the way to the realization of the virtuous ideals of peace, freedom and democracy. It is through their courage and patriotism that the AFP was and is able to fulfill our mandate to the security of our nation as well as our commitment in the region.

Partnership with Stakeholders

Viewed in a larger context, this conferment is a testament to the continuous and successful relationship between the AFP and its stakeholders. We hope that through our strengthened partnership with the academe, we will be able to influence our youth and our society to join our cause for peace. After all, your generation will be the ones to inherit, maintain, and uphold the lasting peace in which our heroes have paid the ultimate sacrifice of shedding their blood and tears for freedom and democracy.

I therefore return the salute and acknowledgement to your institution and all its members for embodying your unrelenting commitment of service to God and country.

I urge that we reflect on the words of the great Martin Luther King Jr, and I quote, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but peace is the means by which we arrive at our goal.”

The responsibility to espouse our shared idea of peace is for us to do what is right for others and the common good. Let us carry on together in cultivating a culture of prosperity founded in the pillars of peace and justice.

In closing, let me express my sincerest gratitude for this honor that you have bestowed upon me. Rest assured that your Armed Forces will continue to foster cooperation and solidarity with our stakeholders to fulfill the duty of our sworn oath of protecting the people and the State. Now more than ever, let me invoke your support and commitment as we continue to shape peace in our community and in our country.

Buenas Dias Y Muchas Gracias con todos!

[The other awardees of the Ateneo de Zamboanga were Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar, (Pro Deo Et Patria award), and the late journalist Antonio Ma. Nieva (Mayor Cesar C. Climaco award) for his “contribution as a credible and respected journalist and workers’ rights advocate and his critical leadership role in the struggle to restore press freedom during the Marcos regime.” Nieva was represented by his daughter Aleta Nishimori. Gaspar recalls that before reading his prepared speech, Galvez said “I feel awkward to be standing here and to speak after the two other honorees were referred to as political prisoners under Marcos. I am sorry about this. I apologize for what happened.” Gaspar said the audience “erupted in a loud clap.” He said Galvez “went on to say that he is a soldier who will protect the Constitution as he is sworn to protect the people” and when he finished his speech, “he approached me, shook my hand and again said: ‘I am really sorry… So sorry.’” Gaspar later posted on his FB page a photograph of Galvez embracing him after, which Gaspar found to be a “memorable moment.”
“An abrazo to convey an atonement… that can only be reciprocated by warm expression of goodwill. Reconciliations are possible only if we do open our hearts to a mutual acceptance of the lessons of history,” Gaspar wrote.]

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