(File photo)

MANILA – Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa on Monday said the initiative of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to confer awards to security and military officials of the Philippines will boost the two countries’ friendship.

This, after the Senate adopted House Concurrent Resolution No. 23 granting consent to Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, and 53 other AFP personnel to receive awards to be conferred by Widodo.

According to the resolution, Lorenzana and Sobejana will be awarded Medals of Peace, along with that other AFP personnel who will be given Dharma Defense Medal for their excellent collaboration with their Indonesian counterparts that led to the recovery of Indonesian fisherfolk who were taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group in 2019 and 2020.

"Let me also take this opportunity to thank President Widodo for this initiative which will certainly strengthen the friendship between the Philippines and Indonesia,” said dela Rosa, former chief of the Philippine National Police, in his manifestation of support for the resolution.

Dela Rosa said he knows that any award is only a "bonus" as it has always been their love for the country that motivates soldiers to perform their mandate.

"An award and commendation extended by the international community, however, takes an exemption. To our men in uniform, this is probably the highest award a soldier can receive. As not only this achievement recognizes them individually, but it is an opportunity for them to raise our flag beyond our country's national territory," dela Rosa said.

In his own manifestation of support, Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel congratulated the Filipino security officials and personnel.

“It would be a great honor and privilege for Secretary Lorenzana and General Sobejana to be the first-ever Filipinos to receive the prestigious Medal of Peace, in recognition of their meritorious achievements, particularly in developing peace, diplomacy, friendship, and brotherhood with Indonesia,” he said.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Panfilo Lacson also manifested their support to the measure.

Lacson, however, said the names of the officers and soldiers who actually participated in the rescue operations should have been included.

"If not, I would propose an amendment to include their names in the concurrent resolution before we pass it. I would like to think we should include their names in the resolution as proposed. Because they are the men on the ground. They risked their lives more than Sec. Lorenzana and former CS Sobejana. They deserve to be cited in the proposed resolution," he said.

In response, Pimentel said he has the list of the award recipients and vowed to amend the measure and include their names.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he will sponsor the measure for its speedy approval. (PNA)