President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday turned over 3,000 pistols to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), fulfilling his promise to arm each soldier with a handgun.
Duterte handed over the new .45 caliber pistols to AFP chief Eduardo Año during a ceremony in Malacañang.
In his speech, the President said he wanted soldiers to have handguns on top of their service firearms while fulfilling their duty to secure the country from lawless elements, including the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The problem in military is that, first, though no fault of yours, you leave camps without guns, then you go to the town proper, maybe you drink and you enjoy. Pag-uwi ninyo, inaabangan kayo ng mga NPA [when you go home, the NPA is waiting to ambush you],” Duterte said.
“Ang ayaw ko doon, ‘yung patayin nila ang tao na walang armas. Walang kalaban-laban. So sabi ko, hindi pwede ito. Kailangan ko talaga [I don’t want soldiers to die without a fight. So I said this can’t be.] I have to place my soldiers on equal footing with them… So, I decided, to give all of you sidearms,” he added.
The President said he decided to show good faith by initiating talks with the communist group but they only wanted to “make demands.”
“With this kind of fight now when I became president, I decided to show the good faith of government. So I declared a ceasefire first to show then that we are sincere,” Duterte said.
“We cannot wage war against our own people but if they choose to, we cannot do anything about it. We have to protect the government because government is the agency through which the will of the people is expressed. That is the definition of the government,” he added.
The President then told soldiers to take their own lives instead of surrendering to enemies alive.
“I do not mind losing the gun to the enemy, but do not give it to them alive. Ibigay mo sa kanila ‘yan, patay. Huwag kayong pumayag na putulan kayo ng ulo [Give it to them when you are dead. Do not allow them to behead you]. Never allow yourself to be degraded,” the President added.
In a press release, Malacañang said the pistols were acquired through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management under the negotiated procurement mode with ARMSCOR Global Defence Inc.
Año said the initial 3,000 pistols will boost the morale of the soldiers and make them more competent in close-range fighting.
“We need a well-equipped force to defeat these adversaries of peace,” the AFP chief said in his speech.
Duterte has promised to provide pistols to the 120,000 soldiers.