President Gloria Arroyo pays respect to slain Lt. Colonel Angel Benitez at their home in Remonville Subdivision, Jaro, Iloilo City. (Rey Baniquet/Malacañang photo)

President Gloria Arroyo pays respect to slain Lt. Colonel Angel Benitez at their home in Remonville Subdivision, Jaro, Iloilo City. (Rey Baniquet/Malacañang photo)

The family of Marine Corporal Angel Abeto – sister Annie Grace, mother Sonia, wife Daisy and uncle Gerry Casandra – talk to the media before meeting the President. (FAA)

The family of Marine Corporal Angel Abeto – sister Annie Grace, mother Sonia, wife Daisy and uncle Gerry Casandra – talk to the media before meeting the President. (FAA)

Benitez’s widow to Gloria: Help our kids’ education

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

JUSTICE for the slain soldiers and modernization of AFP equipment were the main messages the bereaved families of two slain soldiers relayed to President Gloria Arroyo yesterday.

 

President Arroyo arrived in Iloilo City from Cebu to pay respect to slain Lt. Colonel Angel Benitez at their home in Remonville Subdivision, Jaro district.

 

Clad in black blouse and pants, the President was met by Benitez’s widow, the former Ma. Elena “Kooky” Antenor-Cruz. The media was barred from covering the meeting inside the Benitez residence.

 

Aside from financial and livelihood assistance, Mrs. Benitez said she asked the President to give justice to her husband’s brutal death in the hands of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members.

 

“I asked the President to give justice to my husband because he was brutally killed. Justice is enough for us. They are saying that he died a hero but I lost my husband and the kids lost their papa,” Kooky said.

 

Benitez’s widow said she hopes the government will do its best to eliminate the MILF “for the peace of our country.”

 

Mrs. Benitez said she was concerned with the education of her four children who are still in high school and elementary.

 

“I talked to the President about the education of the children. That’s the most important thing right now. I want them to finish their college education so they will have a good future,” Mrs. Benitzez said, adding Mrs. Arroyo assured them that she will help.

 

“I told her that I don’t want to be assured verbally because with what happened to my husband, the children deserve a better future right now,” she added.  

 

Lt. Col. Benitez and Kooky have four children – Twinkle, 15; Carlo Luis, 13; Vincent Jaime, 11; and Mark Angelo, 9.

 

“The children were happy because the President went here to visit us and pay respect to their father. They were surprised that she came over.”

MODERNIZE THE AFP

The family of Corporal Angelo Abeto of Mandurriao, Iloilo City was also present at the Benitez residence to meet President Arroyo.

 

Corporal Abeto’s wife Daisy, mother Sonia, sister Annie Grace and uncle Gerry Casandra were in tow to see the President.

 

Daisy said her husband’s death should serve as a lesson to the government to immediately respond to soldier’s wounded in the battlefield.

 

Abeto, who was wounded in a skirmish with the MILF last August 11, waited for four hours before he can be airlifted to Cebu for treatment. He died of massive blood loss and was buried Friday last week.

 

Abeto’s plea for help was aired by a giant TV network covering the Mindanao conflict.

 

“I feel bad because it took a long time before he can be flown to the hospital. It’s okay if we lost him as long as he was given immediate attention,” Daisy said.

 

Annie Grace, who is blind, said she asked the President to help her finish her political science course because her slain brother was the only one who supported her studies.

 

Annie Grace is a member of the Philippine track and field Paralympics team.

 

Casandra said his nephew’s death should prod the national government to modernize the AFP assets to facilitate evacuation of wounded soldiers. He also asked the President to eliminate the MILF in an “all out war” lest more families will lose their relatives to the Mindanao conflict.

 

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. said the Abetos will receive a house and lot from the Gawad Kalinga project.

 

Gonzalez accompanied the President during the meeting with the Benitez and Abeto families to hear their requests.

 

“All the benefits will be given to the bereaved families. In fact, part of it was already given to them. What is important is that we will pursue the killers of our soldiers,” Gonzalez said.

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