Voltaire Gazmin (born October 22, 1944) is the 35th secretary of the Philippines’ Department of National Defense, officially assumed office on July 1, 2010, after President Benigno S. Aquino III issuing his appointment on June 30, 2010.
For nearly 32 years, he was a career military officer in the Philippines’ Army, retiring as a Lieutenant General and 40th commander of the Philippines’ Army until 2000.
Secretary Gazmin first gained national prominence in 1986 as the loyal and disciplinarian Commander of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), who defiantly defended the government of President Corazon C. Aquino (mother of incumbent President Benigno S. Aquino III) from seven coup attempts during her six-year term.
The secretary was honored multiple times in his military career for his skills in intelligence gathering and effectively commanding troops in some of the most difficult operations and for a long-term vision in administrative matters. His disciplinary demeanor has earned him the respect of his peers and junior officers and staff as a military officer and as a civilian.
- 1 Early life and profile
- 2 Military career
- 3 Private life
- 4 Relationship with the Aquino family
- 5 Defense Secretary
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life and profile
Gazmin was born in the town of Moncada, in the province of Tarlac, 95 kilometers north of the Philippines’ capital Manila on October 22, 1944. He was born to Brig. Gen. Segundo L. Gazmin, Sr., PA and Petra T. Gazmin. His father also had a distinguished career in the Philippine Army, a survivor of the Bataan Death March during the Second World War and later joining the Philippine Constabulary.
Academic brilliance and leadership qualities was evident during Gazmin’s young years as an elementary and high student at the University of the Philippines.
He was successfully admitted into the academy at the start of the school year in 1964 and graduating on March 24, 1968, choosing to serve in the Philippine Army.
Gazmin started with his primary education at St. Paul College in 1949. He would later pursue his elementary education the University of the Philippines Integrated School in 1954 and his secondary education at the University of the Philippines High School in 1958.
He would spend two years at the University of the Philippines taking up Bachelor of Science in Chemistry before being admitted to the Philippine Military Academy in 1964.
After graduating from the Philippine Military Academy in 1968, Gazmin would take up several officer’s training courses in the Army. He would take the Command and General Staff Course at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1985. Gazmin earned a cum laude degree after completing his master's degree in Public Administration from the Manuel L. Quezon University in 1990.
At a very early stage as a young lieutenant in the Philippine Army, Gazmin would distinguish himself in the service. He first became Team Leader of the Home Defense Forces Group (Airborne) at the Army Special Warfare Brigade based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija province.
He also served as intelligence officer for various units of the Army and also distinguished himself during the brief insurgency war in Mindanao.
Gazmin rose through the ranks to command, attaining the distinction of commanding three Battalions – the 45th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry division in 1979, the 26th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry division in 1980, the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, First Scout Ranger Regiment, all based in Mindanao.
As an Army General
Gazmin would earn his first star and hold the title Brigadier General after nearly six years of distinguished service as Commander of the Presidential Security Group. He would later get appointed as Defense and Armed Forces attaché at the Philippines’ Embassy in Washington, D.C.
After his tour overseas, he would serve as Brigade Commander of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry division based in Isabela, Basilan province. In 1996, Regimental Commander, Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) Special Operation Command, Commander, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) – commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade – 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division.
On September 1998, Gazmin was appointed Commander of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) – the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) and later the Special Operations Command of the Philippine Army in 1997, and the Southern Luzon Command in 1998.
Commanding General of the Philippine Army
He would assume the post as the 40th Commanding General of the Philippine Army upon the appointment of President Joseph Estrada on July 13, 1999, and would retire as a Lieutenant General on his 56th birthday on October 22, 2000, the mandatory age of retirement for officers in the Philippines’ military.
Military awards and commendations
Gazmin was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor, three Distinguished Conduct Star, three Distinguished Service Star, one Gold cross medal, one Bronze Cross medal, eleven Military Merit medals, one Military Commendation medal, four Long Service medals, four Combat Commander’s Kagitingan badges, seven Anti-Dissidence campaign medals & ribbons.
As an Army commander, he would also receive the following awards; nine Luzon Anti-Dissidence campaign medals & ribbons, seven Visayas Anti-Dissidence campaign medals & ribbons, eight Anti-Dissidence campaign medals & ribbons, one Presidential citation badge, two Philippine Army command plaque in 1997 & 1998, one American Legion Citation of Appreciation, one AFP parachutist badge and countless number of Letter of Commendations.
In 1984, the PMA Alumni Association, Inc. awarded Gazmin the Cavalier Award for Outstanding Achievements in Combat.
Securing the Presidency and Democracy
Then-Lieutenant Colonel Voltaire Gazmin was ordered by President Corazon Aquino to lead a newly created Presidential Security Group on March 8, 1986, replacing the notorious Presidential Security Command under deposed President Ferdinand Marcos.
Gazmin and his able & specially chosen soldiers successfully thwarted seven attempts by renegade soldiers planning to overthrow the Aquino government and establish a military junta.
The presidential palace was in constant high alert against countless reports of attempts to seize the presidential palace. The bloodiest and the very last attempt to unseat Mrs. Aquino occurred in December 1989, resulting in a near fatal shooting of presidential son, Benigno Aquino III. His stint as head of the presidential security detail would be distinguished as one of the most serious security arrangements ever for a sitting President of the Philippines.
Members of the media covering Malacañang would often complain of the strict security measures imposed by Gazmin, later earning him the moniker “Tiger” from President Aquino.
For fifteen months, Gazmin would lead the Army in some of the most dangerous campaigns initiated by Estrada against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front when peace talks stalled.
Gazmin’s leadership would also result in the institutionalization of several initiatives in the way the Army conducted its affairs. He would also put emphasis in the welfare of the injured soldiers, and active-duty officers, especially those in fronts of engagements.
He would be recognized for his strict disciplined leadership but would earn respect for being fatherly over his men and women soldiers.
Voltaire Gazmin quietly retired from nearly 32 years of active military service. He was finally able to focus his attention on his family and started doting over his grandchildren.
He would be called to serve again in government on May 1, 2002, as an Ambassador to the Philippine embassy in Cambodia until June 30, 2004. Gazmin would retire anew and spend much of his time at his small farm.
Relationship with the Aquino family
On December 21, 1969, a then-young lieutenant Gazmin married his long-time fiancée Rhodora Hernandez with a young Senator named Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., serving as principal sponsor. Both Gazmin and Aquino were born and raised in the Province of Tarlac.
In 1972, when Martial Law was declared by President Ferdinand Marcos, Senator Aquino and several other political leaders opposed to Marcos were arrested and imprisoned. Aquino and Senator Jose Diokno were secretly transferred from Fort Bonifacio in the capital to Fort Ramon Magsaysay in General Tino, Nueva Ecija.
Aquino would continue his seven years of imprisonment in Laur, coincidentally having Gazmin as jailer of the detention facility. Gazmin at the time was District Commander of the 1st Military Service Detachment, Military Service Unit of the Army.
Adhering to his oath as a professional soldier, and following conditions set under the Martial Law rule, Gazmin discreetly watched over the status and welfare of Senator Aquino. He would extend courtesies to Aquino’s spouse, then a simple housewife, Corazon Aquino, when she visited her husband.
During the time of Aquino’s 40-day hunger strike, Gazmin would secretly bring milk to the detention cell and oversee the daily medical check-up on the Senator’s condition.
Marcos granted Senator Aquino permission to travel to the United States for a much needed heart operation on May 8, 1980. Aquino would return to the Philippines on August 21, 1983, only to be assassinated at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.
When Marcos called for a snap election in December 1985 and a widowed Corazon Aquino announced her intention to run under a united opposition against him, Gazmin was still on assignment in Mindanao when People Power Revolution on February 25, 1986, overthrew the Marcos dictatorship and installed Aquino as the 11th President of the Philippines.
President Aquino called on Gazmin to head her security entourage and command the newly organized Presidential Security Group (PSG).
Then-Lt. Colonel Gazmin, as commander of the PSG helped defend Mrs. Aquino's government from at least seven coup de etats, ending in December of 1989, marked as the most bloodiest attempt to overthrow the democratic government of Aquino.
Gazmin kept close ties to Mrs. Aquino and the rest of the family members while he returned to the Philippine Army and even after he disappeared from public view when he completed his tour of duty as Ambassador to Cambodia in 2004.
On August 1, 2009, the day Mrs. Aquino passed away from a year and a half battle against colon cancer, Gazmin and several senior military officials who served as her presidential security detail paid their last respects to their former Commander-in-Chief. Gazmin served as one of the pall bearers of the casket of Mrs. Aquino.
When Aquino’s only son, then-Senator Benigno Aquino III started his campaign for the Presidency in early 2010, Gazmin was one of the security consultants for the campaign sorties.
Gazmin’s long standing integrity in service, professionalism and his distinguished loyalty to the family resulted in his temporary departure from retirement, to be called again to public service as Secretary of National Defense when Aquino assumed office on June 30, 2010.
From a relatively peaceful life in the farm, Voltaire Gazmin returned to the public eye as the Defense secretary of President Benigno Aquino III.
Gazmin started his term as Defense secretary with a commitment towards transparency and expediting processes without cutting corners. His designation as Defense secretary was confirmed by the 24-member Commission on Appointments on February 23, 2011.
Programs and policies
Modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines - Under Gazmin's watch, the long overdue modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was being given a priority. The 15 year AFP Modernization Act of 1995 would expire as a law in 2011 including the allocations for the modernization but under the Aquino administration, a P42 Billion 5-year program was introduced that would give the AFP its long overdue hardware upgrade.
Establishing a Lasting Peace - At the on-set of his term of office, Gazmin pledged support for the Aquino government’s initiative to resume peace talks with the communist insurgents and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
He would implement President Aquino’s directives to appoint and install new commanders in the various military positions including a complete over haul of the senior officers of the Armed Forces including the post of Chief-of-Staff. The directive would result in controversies against the Aquino government of removing officials appointed by former President Gloria Arroyo to favor a different batch of officers from the Philippine Military Academy.
- Gazmin assumes defense post
- Noynoy names Cabinet execs, senior government officials
- Signing Ceremony on Japan-ASEAN-Cambodia Tripartite Cooperation Project
- Official Biography of Sec. Voltaire T. Gazmin
- Lineage Of The Philippine Army Commanding Generals
- People: Voltaire T, Gazmin
- "Ninoy’s jail cook prays for Cory" by Armand M. Galang, The Manila Times, August 6, 2009
- "Reminiscing with Cory" People by Joanne Rae M. Ramirez, The Philippine Star, February 26, 2009
- One of the revered and respected Generals
- This time a solemn Aquino burial
- Cory’s Generals pay their last tribute to their Commander-in-Chief
- Aquino declares presidential bid
- "They served Cory; now they serve Noy" by Regina Bengco, Malaya Business Insight, November 23, 2010
- "CA OKs appointments of DOTC, DND chiefs" by Kimberly Jane Tan, GMA News On-Line, February 24, 2011
- "CA confirms appointments of Gazmin, De Jesus and 6 AFP officials" Manila Bulletin, February 24, 2011
- "The AFP Modernization Status Report" by AFP Modernization Office, July 11, 2011
- "Senate President & Former Defense Minister Presses Modernization" by Mario Casuyuran, The Manila Bulletin, September 24, 2011
- Hope for peace aired on Muslim feast day
- RP Security Officials to Visit Pag-Asa island
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2010 – Present
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