MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday called on Filipinos to cherish the gift of freedom and take it as an opportunity to better serve the country.

“Side by side, let us not take for granted the gift of freedom, instead use it to make ourselves better citizens capable of serving our country above self; and when the circumstance calls for it, offer our lives with pride and honor,” said AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. in his Independence Day message.

He also thanked Filipinos for helping the government contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“We give our snappiest salute to the Filipinos who are with us in the struggle to overcome these trying times. This only shows that each of us is vital to our nation’s overall well-being, and is the primary contributor to national development,” he added.

As of Wednesday, Covid-19 cases in the country have reached 23,732, with 4,895 recoveries and 1,027 deaths.

Aside from the dangers posed by the pandemic, Santos said the country is also facing threats to its democratic principles which Filipino national heroes and martyrs have fought for and defended with their lives.

“These threats are beyond physical harm and are trying our resolve to stand up united and are testing the strength of our will to take our place in the defense of our nation,” he added.

Santos also assured that every soldier, sailor, airman, marine is committed to protecting freedom and preserving the people’s ability to live without fear and trust the country’s institutions.

“As protectors of the People and the State, the AFP is first in the front-line in preserving this freedom. With the support of every Filipino — from whom our mandate emanates — we will continue to work tirelessly to this end,” he added.

PH will prevail over Covid-19 threat

Meanwhile, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, said the country will prevail over the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to the cooperation between government and Filipinos from all walks of life.

“While we continue to battle with a treacherous adversary that remains unseen, our unity and cooperation will fortify each and every Filipino’s first line of defense. No matter how much harm the pandemic is bringing to our nation, we shall fight together and defeat it in the end just like our forebears who fought until our freedom has been won. The government’s efforts, complemented by the support from the private sector and our citizens – our Bayanihan, will lead us to victory,” Lorenzana said in his message for the occassion.

With the theme, “Kalayaan 2020: Tungo sa Bansang Malaya, Nagtutulungan, at Ligtas”, Lorenzana said this year’s celebration highlights the concerted efforts to keep the people safe and secure through the “Bayanihan” spirit.

He added that responding to challenges is nothing new for Filipinos as the country’s history proves the willingness of its defenders to go to battle to fight for its independence.

“Now the same call for courage and self-sacrifice echoes in our land as we grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic. Many have bravely responded to the call and dispensed their patriotic duties selflessly, and many have also paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana also urged Filipino to take the opportunity to honor the valor of all front-liners engaged in containing the Covid-19 threat,

“This Independence Day, as we once again salute our heroes, our noble fighters of old who secured for us the freedom and liberties that we enjoy today, we also honor the valor of our front liners in the battle against Covid-19 – our doctors, nurses and other health workers, our soldiers and reservists, our civil defense workers and the many others who put their lives on the line to deliver the basic supplies and services that our households and communities direly need. Isang marubdob na pagpupugay ang aming alay para sa inyong lahat (We offer a warm salute to all of you),” he added. (PNA)