President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Thursday appealed to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stay neutral and not to allow themselves to be used by those with vested interests during the 2016 elections.
Speaking at the 79th anniversary of the AFP, Aquino reminded the troops to “do what is right and just” and “not allow yourselves to be tempted or led astray from the straight path.”
He said with the approach of 2016, when he steps down and elections for his successor will be held, “talagang may mga magpupumilit pa ring gamitin kayo para sa pansariling interes [there will be those who will insist on using your for their selfish interests].”
“Ang atas ng taumbayan: Tungkulin nating siguruhin ang katiwasayan pagdating ng halalan. Inaasahan ang inyong hanay na manatili sa panig ng taumbayan [The wish of the people: It is our duty to ensure peaceful election(s). You are expected to remain on the side of the people],” the President added.
Aquino told the troops to “promote an Armed Forces that is the cornerstone in defending democracy; an Armed Forces that is an example of resolve in the face of challenge, an Armed Forces that is a wellspring of inspiration for so many Filipinos.”
He gave assurances that the government would continue its commitment to modernize the country’s military to ensure peace and security.
Aside from ships, aircraft and other materiel, Aquino promised to improve the benefits and services available to soldiers and their families, especially housing and retirement programs.
He also pledged to sign a bill that would increase the subsistence allowance of all soldiers.
“Gagawin pa ng inyong gobyerno ang lahat ng makakaya nito upang maabot pa ninyo ang mas mataas na antas ng paglilingkod, mapalalim pa ang inyong kakayahan at tumibay pa ang propesyunalismo at integridad ng inyong institusyon [Your government will do everything in its power so you can achieve higher levels of service, deepen your capabilities and strengthen the professionalism and integrity of your organization],” the President said.
According to him, the days when soldiers risked their lives with substandard gear are over.
“Tapos na po ang panahon na kulang-kulang ang baril ng mga tagapagtanggol ng bayan, tapos na ang panahon na ultimo maayos at kinakailangang kasuotan ay hindi pa sa inyo maipagkaloob ng pamahalaan [The times when the defenders of the country lacked weapons are over; the times when government could not provide you even the most basic uniforms are over],” Aquino said.
“Tapos na ang panahon na ginagawang raket ang pagbili sa Kevlar helmets at isinasangkalan ang buhay ng ating mga kawal [The time when the purchase of Kevlar helmets were turned into a racket at the expense of our soldiers’ lives are over],” he added.
At the same time, Aquino warned corrupt AFP officials against standing in the way of reforms his administration is implementing in the military.
“Sa mga nagnanais pang ibalik ang inyong institusyon sa lumang kalakaran: Mahiya naman kayo, at matakot din [To those who wish to return your institution to the old ways: Be ashamed, and be afraid],” the President said.
“Hindi titigil ang reporma, at hindi titigil ang aming pagsisikap para masigurong mananagot ang mga tiwali [Reform will not stop, neither will our efforts to make the corrupt accountable],” he added.
Meanwhile, Aquino praised soldiers who served in notable missions, which he credited for the economic gains the country is enjoying.
Dahil napapangalagaan ninyo ang kapayapaan at stabilidad, nagagawa ng pamahalaan na magtanim ng higit na reporma, at mas naeengganyo ang mga mamumuhunan na magtaya sa ating bansa [Because you have preserved peace and stability, the administration has succeeded in planting the seeds of more reform, and lured more investors to put down stakes in our country],” the President said.
“Ang resulta nito ay ang paglago ng industriya at ang lalong pagganda ng ating ekonomiya, lumilikha naman ito ng mas maraming pagkakataon na naghahatid ng mas malawak na kaunlaran para sa ating mamamayan [The result of this is improved industries and economic progress that bring more opportunities to deliver broader improvement to our people],” he added.
“Bilang inyong Commander-in-Chief, talagang ipinagmamalaki kong pamunuan ang isang Sandatahang Lakas na sinasalamin ang mga mabuting katangian ng ating lahi, ang pagdadamayan, malasakit at pagiging tapat sa kapwa’t bandila [As your Commander-in-Chief, I am very proud of heading an Armed Forces that reflects the best traits of our race: the selflessness, compassion and loyalty to the people and our flag],” the President said.