President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Speech at the conferment of presidential awards to various heads of departments and agencies
Malacanan Palace, Manila
23 June 2016

This afternoon, we continue a healthy tradition of gratitude—recognizing those who have served the country and the administration by means of the honors of the Republic. All of you in this hall have answered the call to bring change to our country, and I, myself, am 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 crosshairs of opponents of reform, and have thus been on the receiving end of baseless attacks, even on your character. Some of you have even 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. Indeed, over the course of our administration, I have remained keenly aware of everything you’ve 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.

Most of you here have personal experience of how healthy my impatience can be when it comes to our people’s well-being. Yet, without complaint and with boundless enthusiasm, you energized the bureaucracy and made an impact on the lives of our people. You saw the hopes and dreams of our countrymen and turned them into tangible realities. You took what many considered to be impossible, and made it possible. In fact, I think that, if my dad could only see what we’ve done together, maybe he would be a little less inclined to sing “The Impossible Dream.” As we leave office, we 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. Today, I bestow two awards: The Order of Lakandula—one of the Senior Honors of the Republic, meant to recognize civil and political merit—and, secondly, the Presidential Medal of Merit, granted to those who have rendered outstanding service to the President. I must emphasize: By giving these awards, I do not mean to diminish the contributions of those who are not receiving them. Nevertheless, I think it is incumbent upon me to give official recognition to those who have gone above and beyond even our expectations.

To all our awardees today: You have been chosen to be here based on your remarkable performance during our administration. But at the same time, these awards are meant to raise the bar for all. In seven days, many of us here will return to regular civilian life. Of course, I think all of us deserve some rest after all the work that’s been done these past six years. However we cannot be complacent. Awards like the ones we are conferring today must always remind us of how much our country needs everybody’s help, and how—as regular citizens—we must remain engaged in improving the lives of our fellowmen and protecting our democratic way of life. 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.

Thank you one and all, and congratulations.