SILANG, Cavite: President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday urged the graduates of Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) “Masidlak” Class of 2017 to remain strong as they begin their law enforcement careers.
In his speech, the President reminded them never to stray from established codes of conduct.
“I hope that you will take to heart the principles of the Philippine National Police Academy that has been imparted to you. In times when your resolve is being tested, always look back what drove you to become part of the police force,” he said.
Ninety-eight members of the graduating class will join the Philippine National Police, 15 will join the Bureau of Fire Protection, and 31 will be part the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The President called on the graduates to be mentally and physically prepared as they join the government in eradicating crime and corruption.
He also reminded them that losses and triumphs were “inevitable.”
“For the Masidlak Class of 2017, the arduous task of keeping our nation safe is just beginning. Never be discouraged, no matter how formidable the odds may be stacked against you,” Duterte said.
The Chief Executive assured the Masidlak Class that it has the vigorous backing of his administration. He also maintained that he would defend and protect them, as long as they “fight for the country [and]do it right.”
“Government will take care over your worries. Yours: fight for the country, do it right. You have been lectured on the rules on how to do it. Do it right,” he said.
The President also promised to establish a “trust fund” amounting to “billions” of pesos for the families of policemen killed in the line of duty.
Duterte told the graduates that the war on illegal drugs and crime has claimed the lives of some of their comrades, who “died so [we may]have peace and order and stability for our country today.”
“To ensure that their sacrifice will not be in vain… the government will assure our policemen that their families will be taken care of,” the President said, adding that it was also the reason for increasing the combat pay and incentives of policemen.
“That is why I will assure you now, I’ll make you the guarantee that I will leave a legislation that will put in trust so many billions… I hope it would be institutionalized and that is my dream. In about three to four years, it will be in place,” he added.
Under Duterte’s proposed fund for slain policemen, the President said the government would shoulder the tuition of the deceased policeman’s children while the spouse will be offered a job in government with the help of Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno.
“When it comes to the children, the Presidential [Management] Staff takes care of the expenses for education. The government will take care of the widows,” he said.
Duterte then told the incoming police, jail, and fire inspectors the inspiration for his plan – his experience as a hostage of the New People’s Army (NPA), whose members held him at gunpoint.
The President said he was nabbed by the NPA and tried in their “kangaroo court” because it could not accept that he, back then a prosecutor, “was doing the prosecution work against [their]comrades.”
“I could feel the cold steel [on my temples]. The first thing that came to my mind was my child, who was still inside my wife’s womb, Sebastian,” Duterte said, referring to his youngest son with his ex-wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman.
The President earlier called for the termination of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, after its armed wing, the NPA, ended its unilateral truce with the government in February.
The government’s back-channel efforts with communist leaders in early March, however, paved the way for the resumption of peace negotiations.
The highest-ranking cadet of PNPA’s Masidlak Class, Cadet Macdum Enca, drew inspiration from Duterte, who like the President, did not expect that he would be tapped for a leadership role.
“Sa likod ng paghihirap at mga pagsubok na pinagdaanan, ang ating President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ang aking tanging naging inspirasyon [Amid the hardships and challenges that I faced, it was President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that served as my inspiration],” Enca said in his valedictory address.
During his senior year, the 22-year-old Cotabato native served as the regimental commander of the PNP cadet corps.
“Tulad po ninyo, hindi ko po inaasahan na ako ay uupo bilang lider [Just like you, I did not expect to be placed in a leadership role],” he said, referring to the Duterte, who served for almost two decades as mayor of Davao City before he was elected President.
“Kayo po ang aming lider, naway gabayan po kayo ng Maykapal sa pakikibalikat tungo sa mas maunlad na Pilipinas [You are our leader; May God guide you in your mission to make the Philippines more progressive],” he added.
Duterte, Robredo share stage
Duterte, along with Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni”” Robredo, were guests of honor in the 38th PNPA commencement exercise.
For the first time since impeachment issues surfaced, the President and the vice president shared the same stage on Friday during the PNPA graduation rites.
The two highest officials were supposed to be seated a chair away from each other, with Sueno sandwiched between them.
Duterte and Robredo ended up sitting next to each other after Sueno moved to the chair for the vice president when the President went up on stage after being given arrival honors.
The President first approached Robredo and offered a handshake. The vice president, in return, greeted Duterte with a smile.
Before taking their seats, the President and the vice president also had a brief talk.
This is their third joint public appearance since Robredo left the Cabinet due to policy differences. They met during the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting in January and again during the Philippine Military Academy graduation earlier this month in Baguio City.
During the graduation rites, Duterte conferred the Presidential Kampilan award on Enca while Robredo granted the Vice Presidential Kampilan award to the No. 2 cadet, Midzfar Omar.
The PNPA Masidlak Class is composed of 144 cadets, 122 males and 22 females.