Sunday, January 5, 2020

Duterte to AFP: Protect freedom, democratic values

After several days of not showing up in public, President Duterte presided over the change of command ceremonies at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City yesterday and gave marching orders to new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Filemon Santos Jr. to protect freedom and the people’s democratic values.

Away from the public eye for several days, Duterte read a prepared speech during the simple rites at the Tejeros Hall that was also attended by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Sens. Ronald dela Rosa and Christopher Go and Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari. Duterte also assured the military of his full support as he called for solidarity within the AFP.

The 74-year-old commander-in-chief also ordered the new AFP chief to continue its mandate to fight all forms of threats against the sovereignty of the country.

“Under the command of Gen. Santos, I am confident that the AFP will further achieve more milestones in the campaign to protect our freedom and democratic values,” the President said. “It is my hope that you will carry out programs that will elevate the competence, the probity and integrity of our uniformed personnel,” he added.

Duterte told Santos to uphold the integrity of his profession at all times while he leads the military in the fight against security threats to the nation.

“May this momentous occasion renew your commitment to defend our homeland from lingering and emerging security threats as you uphold the safety of our families and communities,” he said. At the start of his speech, Duterte also commended outgoing AFP chief Gen. Noel Clement for his successful tour of duty as chief of staff that lasted for about three months.

“Your stint at the helm of our military will be remembered for your principled and irreproachable leadership in fighting insurgency and securing our sovereignty,” the Chief Executive said. “I likewise laud your spirited efforts in spearheading the humanitarian assistance and disaster response of the AFP.”

Duterte also lauded Clement for his “faithful adherence to the military professional service (that) inspires your troops to continue serving with valor, heroism and selflessness.” “To all soldiers, I assure you that you will always have my full support and confidence as we build a more stable and peaceful nation for our people. Be assured that this administration will assist the men and women of the AFP as we overcome the challenges we face as a nation,” he said.

“I trust that you will work in unison with the incoming chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Filemon Santos Jr. as you remain steadfast in protecting our country against lawlessness and terrorism,” Duterte added. Duterte expressed confidence that the AFP will also be at the forefront in protecting democracy as well as in assisting the Philippine National Police in the maintenance of peace and order.

“Together, let us embody solidarity as we pursue a more peaceful future for all. Thank you for your service at mabuhay ang sundalong Pilipino!” the President said.

 Communist insurgency Santos declared that under his leadership the military will focus its resources on the remaining communist insurgents but admitted that the country’s communist insurgency problem is not likely to end under his term.

He said the military would continue to be proactive against local terrorist groups who pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Not within my term but within the term of the President, we are confident that we will end that (insurgency),” Santos said. Likewise, the AFP will continue to go hard against the Abu Sayyaf and the groups who pledge allegiance to ISIS.

“We shall effectively counter their narratives through good governance practices, build community trust and earn the people’s respect. Vigilance, support and cooperation from the local populace are needed in order to surpass and prevent any future terroristic plans from occurring and avoiding the unnecessary loss of lives,” Santos said.

Sen. Dela Rosa said Santos should focus on ending the country’s communist insurgency. Dela Rosa said though the AFP has been gaining momentum in the campaign against communism, Santos, who he described as a “silent worker,” should continue the efforts in addressing insurgency.

Dela Rosa also expressed doubts on the sincerity of the camp of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison in entering into another round of peace talks with the government since the communist rebels have violated previous ceasefire agreements with the government.

He also noted that the forces of the CPP and New People’s Army have already weakened, considering the number of their members who returned to the fold of the law. This developed as the Navy’s missile frigate passed the second phase of sea trials held off South Korea.

Despite hurdling grueling sea trial, Korean-made BRP Jose Rizal will still take two more sea trials before her scheduled delivery either in April or May this year.

The government procured BRP Jose Rizal and her sister ship BRP Antonio Luna that were launched in November by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

The ship’s propulsion console, fresh water generator and steering gear were tested while sailing in various speed and sea conditions.

BRP Jose Rizal’s radars were also tested along with the frigate’s fuel consumption. Designed with maximum top speed of 25 knots, the missile-firing frigate has a cruising speed of 15 knots and range of 4,500 nautical miles.

The first sea trials were held in the waters of Ulsan, Busan and Mokho in November last year.

For the third and fourth sea trials, which are still to be scheduled, the warship’s weapons systems’ effectiveness will be tested.