These were the immortal words of French enlightenment writer François-Marie Arouet, also known by his nom de plume Voltaire.
It speaks no less than man’s continuous mission of service and labor of improving the world around–a description that best befits the goals of every worthy and diligent craftsman of our noble Order and words that best describe the steller life of our current Grand Master—MW Voltaire Tuvera Gazmin.
THE BIRTH OF A SOLDIER
Voltaire T. Gazmin was born to Brig. Gen. Segundo L. Gazmin, Sr., PA and Petra T. Gazmin on October 22, 1944 in the town of Moncada, Tarlac. Patriotism indeed runs in the family as his father, who also had a distinguished career in the Philippine Army, and was also survivor of the Bataan Death March during the Second World War, joined the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary after his service in the military.
He took his primary education at St. Paul College in 1951 and later pursued his elementary education at the University of the Philippines Integrated School in 1954. He took up his secondary education at the UP High School in 1957.
His soon-to-be decorated military life took a detour as MW Voltaire Gazmin spent two years at the University of the Philippines as a B.S. Chemistry student until he later decided to bid for a slot at the Philippine Military Academy, where he was successfully admitted in 1963. He graduated from the Academy on March 24, 1968, choosing to serve in the Philippine Army.
THE OFFICER COMETH
MW Voltaire Gazmin started his military career as Team Leader of the Home Defense Forces Group (Airborne) based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija province.
When then-President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, Senator Benigno Aquino and several high-ranking politicians from the opposition were arrested and imprisoned. Aquino and Senator José Diokno were secretly transferred from Fort Bonifacio in Taguig to Fort Ramón Magsaysay in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija. Gazmin was at the time the Detachment Commander of the 1st Military Security Detachment, Military Security Unit of the Army. As Sen. Aquino’s jailer at their detention, Gazmin discreetly monitored Aquino’s status and welfare while adhering to his oath as a professional soldier and following conditions set under Martial Law.
As a Tarlac native himself, Gazmin has always nurtured a special relationship with the Aquinos of Tarlac as then Sen. Aquino served as principal sponsor when Lt. Gazmin married his fiancée, Rhodora Hernandez in December 21, 1969.
During the term of the late President Corazon Aquino, Gazmin was tasked to handle her security requirements and to command the newly-organized Presidential Security Group (PSG). As commander of the PSG, then-Col. Gazmin helped defend President Aquino’s government from at least seven coup d’état attempts, ending in December of 1989, marked as the bloodiest attempt to overthrow the democratic government of Aquino.
He also served as intelligence officer in various units of the Army and also distinguished himself during the insurgency war in Mindanao.
RISE OF THE GENERAL
He would later get appointed as Defense and Armed Forces attaché at the Philippines’ Embassy in Washington, D.C. He got his first star at this post.
After his tour overseas, he served as Brigade Commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, 1st Infantry division based in Isabela, Basilan province.
On September 1998, Gazmin was appointed Commander of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) after serving as the Regimental Commander of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) and concurrently, the Commanding General of the Special Operations Command of the Philippine Army in 1997.
Commanding General of the Philippine Army
Upon the appointment by President Joseph Estrada on July 13, 1999, Gazmin assumed the post as the 40th Commanding General of the Philippine Army, and retired 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
As a highly-decorated and distinguished officer, Gazmin was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Commander), the Distinguished Conduct Star, the Distinguished Service Star, three Gold Gross Medal, a Bronze Cross Medal, Military Merit medals, eleven Military Commendation Medal, Long Service Medals, Combat Commander’s Kagitingan Badges, Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medals and Ribbons.
As an Army Commander, he was also awarded nine Luzon Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medals and Ribbons, nine Visayas Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medals and Ribbons, eight Mindanao Anti-Dissidence Campaign Medals and Ribbons, the 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.
FROM MILITARY TO DIPLOMACY
Having barely retired from the military service, his diplomatic acumen would catapult him to become the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia that began in May 2002 and ended for good in June 2004, the designation that he performed with honor and distinction in the service of the Filipino people.
DEFENDER OF GOVERNMENT AND OF THE CONSTITUTION
For another tour of public duty, MW Voltaire Gazmin was called from a relatively peaceful farm life to assume the post as 35th Defense Secretary under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III on June 30, 2010. His designation as Defense secretary was confirmed by the 24-member Commission on Appointments on February 23, 2011.
As Defense Secretary, Gazmin started his term with a commitment towards transparency and expediting processes without cutting corners.
Programs and Policies
Modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines: Under his 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 was set to expire as a law in 2011 including the allocations for the modernization but under the Aquino administration, a P75 Billion 5-year program was introduced that would give the AFP its long overdue hardware upgrade.
Establishing a Lasting Peace: Being a career soldier and a witness to the decades-long insurgency in Mindanao, 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 the post of Chief of Staff, AFP, in order to effect maximum efficiency and effectiveness in the professional management of the Armed Forces.
KNOCKING ON THE DOORS OF FREEMASONRY
The pursuit of the degrees of Freemasonry has always provided an additional challenge for those who nurture a successful career in the military. Yet, his career as a professional soldier has never served as a deterrent to the then determined good person, Bro. Voltaire Gazmin.
He was born into Masonry on August 14, 1982 when he was raised as a Master Mason in Maranaw Lodge No. 111 in Iligan City.
However, his duty to his mother lodge had to give way to the exigencies of his position as a military officer and his duty to country. Yet, this has never stopped him from pursuing his mission as a mason when the opportunity allows.
During his travels across the country, he led in organizing military and police masons in areas where he was stationed. Among such undertakings were the organization of Club 370 of Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija as well as the Banahaw Square and Compass Club in Lucena City, Quezon Province which he did when he was still the Commanding General of the Southern Luzon Command.
He was a member of the South Travellers Club in 1994 which paved the way for the institution of what is now Palanyag Lodge No. 323 of Paranaque City the following year of which he was among its charter members. In 2006, he ascended to the Oriental Chair of the lodge as its Worshipful Master.
Upon descending the oriental chair, the following year, he was assigned as Grand Lodge Inspector of Gen. Artemio Ricarte Lodge No. 322.
His sojourn as a mason and as a soldier led him to foreign shores where he joined the Scottish Rite of Alexandria, Virginia, the Loudon Royal Arch No. 55 of Virginia, Piedmont Commanders No. 26 of Manassas, Virginia, and Kena Temple of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Temple in Fairfax, Virginia.
In July 3, 2008, MW Voltaire Gazmin was invited and advanced to be a member of the Royal order of Scotland of the Provincial Grand Lodge of the Philippines which is located at the Scottish Rite Temple in Manila. Membership to this Order is only by invitation and there can only be a maximum of 50 members at any given time in the Provincial Lodge of the Philippines.
In April 2013, during the 97th Annual Communication held in Iloilo City, Iloilo, MW Voltaire Gazmin was elected by the brethren to the position of Junior Grand Warden.
As one of the Grand Lodge’s lights, MW Voltaire Gazmin has supported the various reform agenda of his predecessors as well as encouraging the brethren to uphold the noble principles of the Masonic institution in more than three decades of Masonic labor.
Past Grand Lodge Orator VW Teodoro “Teddy” Salud of Cavite has eloquently immortalized our Grand Master in the following words:
“Voltaire Gazmin has made himself an instrument of the Mason’s charity, fraternal, educational, social, and character-building society. A true Mason at heart, he has his own legacies: A plan for every battle that he won, offered a sacrifice for every good that he did, and paid a price for every dream he lived. He established a path of leadership that was blazed with excellence and he accomplished his missions with the welfare of his men close to his heart.”